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Monday, September 30, 2019

Mind Maps, Rubrics, and Cats - The Month in Review

Good evening from Maine where the sun is setting on a busy month of September. Between webinars, working on a book, and taking over a computer science program the posting here was a little less frequent than usual. I still managed to publish more than 60 new posts. It will get back up to my usual 85-95 posts in October.

These were the most popular posts in September:
1. Ten Free Tools for Creating Mind Maps and Flowcharts - Updated for 2019-20
2. My Top Twelve Tools for Social Studies Teachers and Students
3. How to Avoid the Google Calendar Scheduling Mistake I Keep Making
4. Ten Google Product Updates for Teachers to Note
5. Ten Sites & Apps to Help Students Learn New Vocabulary Words - Updated for 2019-20
6. My Top 5 Google Tools for Social Studies Teachers and Students
7. How to Use Rubrics in Google Classroom
8. 15 Digital Citizenship Resources for K-12
9. Fraidy Cats' Book of Courage - An eBook of Writing Prompts
10. 5 Features of Google's Advanced Search Menu

Bring me to your school or conference. 
I'm already booking my 2020 workshop and conference schedule. This will be my tenth year of speaking at schools and conferences. Click here to learn how to bring me to your school or conference.

Thank You for Your Support!
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. 

What's in Pumpkin Spice?

Walk into a Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts, or Tim Horton's at this time of year and you're bombarded with offerings for pumpkin spice this and pumpkin spice that! According to this CNBC report pumpkin spice is a $600 million flavor.

What's in the pumpkin spice that so many people love? That question is in this SciShow Kids video. Before answering that question the video explains what spices and herbs are and how they are combined to create flavors. Click here to watch the video or watch it as embedded below.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good morning from Maine where the the air is cool and crisp, the leaves are colorful, and everyone is dressed in their favorite flannel. These are the days that everyone pictures when they think about New England in the fall. I can't wait to get outside! I hope that wherever you are this weekend that you can get outside too.

This week was my first full week back in the classroom on a full-time basis. That's my reason for having fewer blog posts that usual. But I'll get back up to speed after I get my classroom on track. I took over a computer science program that had an instructor quit in the first week of school so I'm trying to fill in a lot of gaps right now.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. 15 Digital Citizenship Resources for K-12
2. Fraidy Cats' Book of Courage - An eBook of Writing Prompts
3. 7 Styles of Classroom Video Projects - Tools and Tips for Making Them
4. How to Find and Create Primary Source Lessons With DocsTeach
5. Loop - A Nice System for Gathering Feedback from Students
6. How to Create a Transcript of Any YouTube Video
7. The Practical Ed Tech Podcast Episode #10 Featuring Adam Bellow

Bring me to your school or conference. 
I'm already booking my 2020 workshop and conference schedule. This will be my tenth year of speaking at schools and conferences. Click here to learn how to bring me to your school or conference.

Thank You for Your Support!
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. 

The Practical Ed Tech Podcast - Episode #11 - Reflections, News & Notes, Q&A

Last night I released the eleventh episode of The Practical Ed Tech Podcast. In this episode I shared some reflections on my first full week of teaching computer science in a full-time role, shared some news and notes from the world of education, and answered a handful of questions from readers and listeners. The complete show notes with links to all of the resources that I mentioned can be found in this Google Doc.



You can listen to all episodes of the podcast here or find them on the following podcast networks:

Friday, September 27, 2019

Get Your Copy of the Free Practical Ed Tech Handbook

Last Sunday I published the updated 2019-20 version of my popular Practical Ed Tech Handbook. I started publishing one every school year in the fall of 2015. Each fall since then I've published an updated version. All together they've been downloaded more than 100,000 times. If you haven't gotten your copy yet, you can download it right here from Box.com. Or if you want to view it before downloading it, take look at it as embedded below.

This year's Practical Ed Tech Handbook has nine sections:

  1. Communication with students and parents.
  2. Backchannels & informal assessment
  3. Learning to Program
  4. Augmented and Virtual Reality
  5. Digital portfolios
  6. Audio recording and publishing
  7. Video creation and flipped lessons
  8. Digital citizenship
  9. Web search strategies



Common Craft Explains Incognito or Private Browser Windows

Common Craft has been producing unique explanatory videos for more than a decade. I've been using them in my classroom and workshops for nearly as long. Common Craft videos provide clear and concise explanations of nuanced topics ranging from the Electoral College to copyright to digital citizenship. Their latest video explains incognito or "private" mode in your web browser.

Private or Incognito Browsing Explained by Common Craft teaches viewers what the incognito or private browser function does, what it doesn't do, and the legitimate reasons for using it.


Applications for Education
This video does a good job of dispelling the mistaken belief that some students have that using incognito or private browser windows hide all of their online activities. The video also does a good job providing examples of legitimate uses for incognito windows. In fact, I often tell teachers to use incognito windows when they want to see the student view of an assignment or website without signing out of their teacher accounts.

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

Thursday, September 26, 2019

How to Create Whiteboard Videos in Wakelet Collections

A couple of months ago Flipgrid introduced a new feature that enables you to create whiteboard-style instructional videos to share with your students. That feature is called Flipgrid Shorts. Wakelet has integrated the Flipgrid camera into their service so that now you can create whiteboard-style instructional videos directly within your Wakelet collections. Watch my video below to see how that process works.


If you're not familiar with Wakelet, it's a free service that lets you create and share visual collections of notes, bookmarks, pictures, videos, and documents. In the video that is embedded below I provide a demonstration of how to get started with Wakelet.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

15 Digital Citizenship Resources for K-12

Within the latest edition of The Practical Ed Tech Handbook I included a section about digital citizenship. In that section I highlighted fifteen resources for teaching digital citizenship lessons to students of all ages. A few of the highlights from that section are the new digital citizenship curriculum develop by Common Sense, a collection of animated videos from Planet Nutshell, and a game designed to help students understand how social media can be manipulated. All of those resources and a dozen more are detailed in the PDF that is embedded below.


The Box.com frame that is around the PDF includes an option to download the PDF. Otherwise use this link to access PDF as it is hosted on Box.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Loop - A Nice System for Gathering Feedback from Students

There is no shortage of online tools for gathering feedback from students. I featured a selection of them in the latest version of The Practical Ed Tech Handbook. Loop is the latest one to come across my desk. 

Loop lets you create an online classroom to post questions for your students to respond to with emojis, with words, or by selecting an answer choice. You can let your students respond anonymously or require them to identify themselves. Those features alone don't make Loop different from lots of similar services. What Loop offers that is somewhat unique is the option to respond directly to individual students even when they were responding to a group survey. The purpose of that feature is to make it easy to ask follow-up questions or to give encouragement to students based on their responses to a question posed to the whole group.

Loop can be used in the web browser on your laptop or you can use their free Android or iPhone apps.

Applications for Education
Loop fits in a gap between tools like Kahoot and Google Classroom. For that reason it could be a good tool for engaging students in discussions about assignments, course topics, or the general feeling of the class.

5 Video Projects for Almost Every Classroom - Webinar on Thursday

Every month I host at least one Practical Ed Tech professional development webinar. This month's webinar is an updated version of my popular 5 Video Projects for Almost Every Classroom.

5 Video Projects for Almost Every Classroom will be held this Thursday at 4pm Eastern Time. In the webinar you'll learn how you and your students can create animated videos, green screen videos, documentary-style videos, stop-motion videos, and instructional videos. The webinar will also address concerns about privacy and copyright.


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

Register here!

Ruff Ruffman Presents Lessons on Search and Advertising for K-2 Students

Ruff Ruffman is the "star" of a PBS Kids series. Yesterday, one of my high school students asked me if my kids watch the show. My daughters are still a little too young for it. But the question did remind me of a couple of little PBS Kids lessons about web search and online advertising that feature Ruff Ruffman "Humble Media Genius."

Ruff Ruffman's Find What You Want features a short video about the basic concepts of web search and a short video about the basics of online advertising. After each of the three minute videos kids can take a self-paced quiz. If you would rather not show the videos, PBS Kids does provide storyboard of both Find What You Want videos that you can show to your students.

Applications for Education
Ruff Ruffman's Find What You Want videos and quizzes aren't going to be a replacement for comprehensive lessons on how to conduct internet searches. That said, the videos and quizzes could make for engaging introduction to the concepts for K-2 students.

Monday, September 23, 2019

How to Create a Transcript of Any YouTube Video

Last week I published a short blog post about a neat tool called SnackVids. That post has proven to be quite popular so I decided to make a little video about it. In the following video you can see how to use SnackVids to create a searchable transcript of videos that you find on YouTube. As you'll see in the video, the transcript is not only searchable but all of the keywords are hyperlinked to timestamps in the video.

7 Styles of Classroom Video Projects - Tools and Tips for Making Them

In the 2019-20 Practical Ed Tech Handbook I included a section all about student video projects. In that section I outlined seven styles of classroom video projects along with tools and tips for making each style of video in your classroom. That section is excerpted and embedded below as a PDF that you can view here or download via the Box.com widget that is embedded below.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

The Practical Ed Tech Podcast Episode #10 Featuring Adam Bellow

Last week I had the chance to catch up with my old friend, Adam Bellow. Adam Bellow is the co-founder of the massively popular Breakout EDU game platform. Prior to Breakout EDU he started EduClipper and EduTecher. He's also been a keynote speaker at ISTE and many other conferences around the world.

In this episode of The Practical Ed Tech Podcast Adam and I talked about Breakout EDU, the challenges and lessons from creating and bringing a product to market, and changes in the educational technology landscape over the last decade.

You can listen to the episode here or on your favorite podcasting platform.


You can listen to all episodes of the podcast here or find them one of the following podcast networks:

Saturday, September 21, 2019

How to Find and Create Primary Source Lessons With DocsTeach

DocsTeach has been one of my go-to tools for social studies teachers for many years. Despite that recommendation I've never made a video on how it works, until now. DocsTeach is a free service offered by the National Archives through which you can find primary source lesson activities and create your own activities by using one of thirteen online templates. In the following video I demonstrate how you can use DocsTeach to find primary source lesson activities and or create your own primary source lesson activities. All activities can be completed online even if your students don't have email addresses.

The Practical Ed Tech Podcast Episode #9

On Friday afternoon I recorded the latest episode of The Practical Ed Tech Podcast. In the episode I shared some news about the future of Free Technology for Teachers, gave a shout-out to Dr. Scott McLeod for this thought-provoking blog post about mobile devices in schools, shared a neat tool for distributing and collecting permission slips, and answered a bunch of questions from readers like you. You can listen to the episode here or on your favorite podcasting platform. The complete show notes are available in this Google Doc.



You can listen to all episodes of the podcast here or find them one of the following podcast networks:

The Week in Review - Social Studies, Search, and Computer Science

Good morning from Maine where summer is having one last hurrah! After temperatures in the 30's (Fahrenheit) earlier this week it's going to be sunny and 80 degrees today. I plan to get my kids outside to play and soak up the last rays of summer today. I hope that you also have time to get outside and play this weekend.

In the last episode of The Practical Ed Tech Podcast I shared the news that I have taken a job teaching computer science at a local high school. While I get my feet under me with the new courses the posting here will probably be a little slower than normal. But don't worry, I'll be back to full speed here before too long.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. My Top Twelve Tools for Social Studies Teachers and Students
2. My Approach to Creating Search Practice Activities for Students
3. 5 Features of Google's Advanced Search Menu
4. Another Approach to Creating Search Challenges for Students
5. Ten Free Tools for Creating Mind Maps and Flowcharts - Updated for 2019-20
6. Practical Ed Tech Podcast #8 Featuring Dr. Beth Holland
7. SnackVids - Automatic Creation of Searchable Video Transcripts

Bring me to your school or conference. 
I'm already booking my 2020 workshop and conference schedule. This will be my tenth year of speaking at schools and conferences. Click here to learn how to bring me to your school or conference.

Thank You for Your Support!
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. 

Friday, September 20, 2019

SnackVids - Automatic Creation of Searchable Video Transcripts

SnackVids is a new service that will generate a searchable transcript for any YouTube video of your choosing. To use the service simply copy the URL of a video, paste it into SnackVids, and then let SnackVids generate a transcript. When the transcript is completed it is displayed directly below the video. You can search the transcript for any keyword of your choosing. The keyword will be highlighted on the transcript. Click on the keyword highlighted in the transcript to jump to the corresponding section of the video.

Applications for Education
SnackVids could be a good tool to use when you come across a long tutorial video and want to see if the video will cover a topic or keyword that you're interested in. It's also convenient for jumping directly to specific sections within a video.

As with any automatic transcription tools, the quality of the transcript is dependent on the quality of the audio and the clarity of the narrator.

Fraidy Cats' Book of Courage - An eBook of Writing Prompts

Make Beliefs Comix is a creative writing platform that I have recommended for years. The core of Make Beliefs Comix is a free set of tools that students can use to create their own comics in multiple languages. Here's a video overview of how it works. In addition to the comic strip creation tools, Make Beliefs Comix hosts free ebooks that you can use online or download for free. All of ebooks are designed as fillable PDFs that your students can write in.

The latest ebook published by Make Beliefs Comix is titled Fraidy Cats' Book of Courage. The first half of the book contains comics featuring the title character talking about situations that make him scared and ideas for dealing with those feelings. The second half of Fraidy Cats' Book of Courage contains pages for students to write on in response to prompts like "people who inspire me and courage me to be braver..."

Applications for Education
Comics can make reading and writing seem less intimidating to some students. Free ebooks like Fraidy Cats' Book of Courage can be useful in generating approachable writing prompts for elementary school students.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

5 Features of Google's Advanced Search Menu

My last two blog posts (here and here) have been about creating search practice activities for students. One of the Google search tools that students often overlook or have never been taught to use is the advanced search menu found on the search results page. Using the tools within the advanced search menu can help students find web pages that they might not otherwise find. In the following video I provide an overview of five features of the Google's advanced search menu and why students might use those tools.

Another Approach to Creating Search Challenges for Students

Yesterday afternoon I shared one of my approaches to creating search practice activities for students. That strategy involves using pictures to tell as story and have students answer some questions based on the story and picture. Another approach that I use is to have students ask the questions that they want to know the answers to. To that end I keep a Google Slides presentation that contains some interesting pictures intended to get students to ask questions that they’ll answer by using a variety of search strategies.

The pictures below are ones that I’ve used for many years to prompt students to ask questions that they then have to search to find the answers to.


Some of the questions that students often ask about these pictures include:

  • How big is it?
  • What is it used for?
  • Can I drive it?
  • How big is the wheel?
  • What’s the gas mileage?

All of these questions can be answered once students determine where the truck is located (fairly obvious if they look at the second picture). Once the location is determined students can use Google Maps or Earth to view the truck in Street View and see its make and model. With the make and model information is obtained the answers to the other questions should fall into place.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

My Approach to Creating Search Practice Activities for Students

This week's Practical Ed Tech Tip of the Week Newsletter featured ten Google search tips for students. It's all well and good to give those tips to students and show them how to use them, but for the tips to really sink in students should get some practice using them. To that end, you can use some the free lesson plans available through Google's Search Education page. But I've always been a bit of a DIYer so I like to create my own search challenges. Here's an overview of the process that I use.

The process that I use is heavily influenced by following the work of Dan Russell. His title is Senior Research Scientist for Search Quality and User Happiness at Google. What that means for you, for me, and for students is that he spends a lot of time studying how people search and using that information to help people conduct better searches. His blog Search ReSearch offers lots of explanations of detailed search methods. Many of his examples include images and mine do too.

Here’s the process that I use to create my own image-based search challenges for students.

  1. Select an interesting picture that you can build a little story around. Incorporate into that story some clues that students can use to answer the questions that you will ask students to answer about the image.
  2. Create a few questions based on the image. I like to arrange the questions in an order such that the correct answer to the first one provides clues toward answering the subsequent questions.
  3. Take a test run of answering your own questions to detect any possible confusion or pain points for students.


Here’s a sample image-based search challenge that I developed and frequently use.

  • The story: The picture in this blog post is one that I took while walking through a historic neighborhood in Maine. I was told that the house was once owned by a Vice President of the United States but I couldn’t find any signs around the house that confirmed that rumor. With the use of a couple of Google search tools I was able to confirm that it was, in fact, owned by a former Vice President. Furthermore, it’s now the site of a historical collection that contains the last Duesenberg produced.


  • Questions:
    • Which former Vice President owned this house?
      • How did you find that?
    • What is the address of the house?
    • Will the sunset be on the front or back of the house?
      • What Google tools did you use to find that answer?
    • Who owns the last Duesenberg?


Here’s the outline of the possible steps students might take to get the answers to the search challenge questions.

  • Find a list of all former Vice Presidents of the United States. (Wikipedia provides an accurate list). Work through the list to find the Vice Presidents who either resided in Maine and or owned property in Maine.
    • Alternatively, conduct a search along the lines of “vice presidents owning property in Maine.”
    • Through both methods students may come up with answers that include George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, Hannibal Hamlin, and Nelson Rockefeller.
    • After creating the list of possible owners of the home, students turn to Google Images to search for pictures of the properties of respective VPs.
  • Another method that students can use to get to the answer to the first question is to take a copy of the picture presented to them and upload it to Google Images. This will create a list of possible matches for the original picture. (Note, by the time you read this students might come across one of my blog posts describing this search challenge).


  • Through one of the methods outlined above students should determine that the house was owned by Hannibal Hamlin. It is at this point that some students will mistakenly think that the home in Bangor, Maine when it is actually in Paris, Maine (sometimes listed as South Paris or Paris Hill). From here students can turn to Google Maps or Google Earth to find the address for the home. The use of Google Maps or Google Earth will let students see the orientation of the house to determine if the sun will set on the front or back of the house.


  • Now that students know where the house is (Paris, Maine) and who owned it (Hannibal Hamlin) students can add Duesenberg to a search for Paris Maine or Hannibal Hamlin House in a manner like this “Paris Maine Duesenberg.” Those search results will lead to many articles are about the car collection of Bob Bahre, the current owner of the home and car collection.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Practical Ed Tech Podcast #8 Featuring Dr. Beth Holland

At the end of the last episode of the Practical Ed Tech Podcast I mentioned that I had recently recorded a great conversation that I had with Dr. Beth Holland. That recording is now available as episode #8 of the Practical Ed Tech Podcast.

In the episode Beth and I talked about her work at COSN around issues of digital equity and what digital equity means in schools. Because I want listeners to know a bit more about my guests than just their professional work, Beth and I also talked about stand-up paddleboarding and her burgeoning stand-up paddleboard racing career. It was a fun conversation and I hope that you enjoy it as much as we did.


You can listen to episode 8 here on Anchor.fm or find it on one of the following podcast networks:

Sunday, September 15, 2019

My Top Twelve Tools for Social Studies Teachers and Students

Last week I published a list of my top five Google tools for social studies teachers and my top five non-Google tools for social studies teachers. If you missed either of those lists or you want all of them in one place, I've put together the following combined list and added two more items to make it an even dozen tools for social studies teachers and students.

Timeline JS
Timeline projects as as old as history classes themselves. It used to be that timelines were only made on paper. Today, students can build timelines that include videos, audio recordings, pictures, and interactive maps. Timeline JS is the best tool for making multimedia timelines today.

StoryMap JS
StoryMap JS is produced by the same people that make Timeline JS. StoryMap JS enables students to tell stories through the combination of maps and timelines. On StoryMap JS you create slides that are matched to locations on your map. Each slide in your story can include images or videos along with text.


VR Tour Creator
This is Google's free service for creating virtual reality tours. In a social studies classroom students can use it to record virtual reality tours of historical landmarks, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, or unique geographic features that spurred the development of civilizations. A playlist of VR Tour Creator tutorials is available here.

Google Earth
Google Earth is available in two versions. The Pro version is the version that you can install on your desktop. That's the version that I prefer if given a choice because it includes more features that the web browser version. Google Earth Pro can be used by students and teachers to record narrated tours and to layer historical imagery on top of current map views. You can find a playlist of Google Earth tutorials here.

Google Books
This is an often overlooked search tool. Google Books provides students with access to millions of free books and periodicals. Google Books really shines when you start looking for work that was published in the 19th Century and early 20th Century. One of the best features of Google Books is the ability to search within a book for a phrase or keyword. Learn how to use Google Books by watching these tutorial videos.

Google Expeditions
This is Google's free virtual reality service. Students can use it to go on more than 800 virtual reality tours. You can either guide students through the tours or let them guide themselves. Take a look at these videos to learn how to start using Google Expeditions.

Google Keep
Google Keep is a bookmarking and note-taking tool that students can use as part of their G Suite for Education accounts. It's a convenient tool to use to save bookmarks with notes. Students can add labels to their bookmarks to make them easy to organize. The best feature is that students can access their Google Keep bookmarks and notes from Google Docs to insert their bookmarks and notes directly into the papers they're writing. Here's a set of Google Keep tutorial videos.


DocsTeach
DocsTeach is a free service provided by the U.S. National Archives. Through DocsTeach you can create online activities based upon primary source artifacts from the National Archives. Your students can complete the activities online. Don't let the fact that the service is provided by the National Archives fool you into thinking that it can only be used for U.S. History lessons. You can upload any primary source artifact that you like to your DocsTeach account to develop an online history activity. DocsTeach offers more than a dozen activity templates that you can follow to develop your primary source-based lessons.

EDpuzzle
When I taught social studies I liked to use video clips as part of current events lessons. I also liked to use excerpts from documentary videos. If you use videos in the same way, EDpuzzle is a tool that you need to try. EDpuzzle lets you add questions directly into the timeline of the video.



Synth
Conversations about historical events and current events is an important aspect of teaching social studies. Sometimes the constraints of the classroom setting (time, attendance, student dynamics) limit the amount of constructive conversation that takes place. Synth is a free platform that you can use to have students record short podcasts and then reply to each other's podcasts with audio comments of their own. Watch this video to see how it works.



WeVideo
If you want your students to make short documentary-style videos, WeVideo is hard to beat. It works on Chromebooks, Windows, Android, iOS, and Mac (though if you have a Mac, iMovie is just as good). Those who have upgraded WeVideo accounts can even use it to make green screen videos.



RWT Timeline & Sutori
Elementary school teachers who are looking for an easy way for students to create timelines that include pictures should take a look at Read Write Think's Timeline Creator. Students can use it without creating any kind of online account and it's simple to use. Watch this video to see how it works.

Middle school and high school teachers who are looking for ways for their students to create multimedia timelines would do well to try Sutori. Sutori offers a collaborative multimedia timeline tool for students. Students can work together to add pictures, text, and video to timelines that they build in Sutori. Teachers who use Clever or Google Classroom can use those rosters to add students to Sutori.

The Practical Ed Tech Podcast Episode #7

On Friday I recorded the seventh episode of the Practical Ed Tech podcast. In the episode I shared some news about a change in my career, some highlights from the week in educational technology, and answered a handful of questions from readers. I broadcast live on my YouTube channel when I record. Join me for the next live edition later this week. Notes from the episode are available in this Google Doc.


You can listen to episode 7 here on Anchor.fm or find it on one of the following podcast networks:




Saturday, September 14, 2019

Rubrics, Mind Maps, and Foliage - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where it is a perfect early autumn morning. It's ideal for going fishing with my loyal dog, Mason. We did that on Thursday afternoon and it was perfect. I'm looking forward to doing that again this weekend. I hope that you also have something fun that you're looking forward to doing this weekend.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. How to Use Rubrics in Google Classroom
2. My Top 5 Google Tools for Social Studies Teachers and Students
3. Ten Free Tools for Creating Mind Maps and Flowcharts - Updated for 2019-20
4. 2019 Fall Foliage Map - And Why Leaves Change Color
5. Glide Now Lets You Publish App Templates
6. One of My Favorite Tools for Quickly Creating Audio Slideshows
7. Ten Sites & Apps to Help Students Learn New Vocabulary Words - Updated for 2019-20

A New On-demand Professional Development Course
Last week I launched a new on-demand version of my popular Getting Going With G Suite course. You can sign-up now and complete it at your pace.

Thank You for Your Support!
  • More than 400 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. 

Friday, September 13, 2019

My Top 5 Tools for Social Studies Teachers and Students (Non-Google Edition)

Earlier this week I published my top five Google tools for social studies teachers and students. Recognizing that not everyone wants to use or has access to G Suite for Education accounts, here are my top five non-Google tools for social studies teachers and students. I didn't include my all-time favorite timeline tool, Timeline JS because I wanted to keep this completely free of a need for a Google account.

DocsTeach
DocsTeach is a free service provided by the U.S. National Archives. Through DocsTeach you can create online activities based upon primary source artifacts from the National Archives. Your students can complete the activities online. Don't let the fact that the service is provided by the National Archives fool you into thinking that it can only be used for U.S. History lessons. You can upload any primary source artifact that you like to your DocsTeach account to develop an online history activity. DocsTeach offers more than a dozen activity templates that you can follow to develop your primary source-based lessons.

EDpuzzle
When I taught social studies I liked to use video clips as part of current events lessons. I also liked to use excerpts from documentary videos. If you use videos in the same way, EDpuzzle is a tool that you need to try. EDpuzzle lets you add questions directly into the timeline of the video.



Synth
Conversations about historical events and current events is an important aspect of teaching social studies. Sometimes the constraints of the classroom setting (time, attendance, student dynamics) limit the amount of constructive conversation that takes place. Synth is a free platform that you can use to have students record short podcasts and then reply to each other's podcasts with audio comments of their own. Watch this video to see how it works.



WeVideo
If you want your students to make short documentary-style videos, WeVideo is hard to beat. It works on Chromebooks, Windows, Android, iOS, and Mac (though if you have a Mac, iMovie is just as good). Those who have upgraded WeVideo accounts can even use it to make green screen videos.


RWT Timeline & Sutori
Elementary school teachers who are looking for an easy way for students to create timelines that include pictures should take a look at Read Write Think's Timeline Creator. Students can use it without creating any kind of online account and it's simple to use. Watch this video to see how it works.

Middle school and high school teachers who are looking for ways for their students to create multimedia timelines would do well to try Sutori. Sutori offers a collaborative multimedia timeline tool for students. Students can work together to add pictures, text, and video to timelines that they build in Sutori. Teachers who use Clever or Google Classroom can use those rosters to add students to Sutori.

Now You Can Share a Link to Jump to a Scene in Google Expeditions

In a Tweet yesterday afternoon Google announced a neat little addition to Google Expeditions. You can now share a link to a specific scene within an Expedition.

Previously if you wanted to get all of your students onto the same scene at the same time you had to guide them through the whole Expedition. Now you can just give them a link (posting it in Google Classroom would be a convenient option) and they can click it to jump to the scene. And just like any other URL, you could share it via QR code. My tool of choice for making QR codes is QR Droid, but any QR code generator should work for you.

If you're looking for some help getting started with Google Expeditions, I have a collection of tutorial videos here.



How to Apply Custom Sizing Including Portrait Mode to Google Slides

A couple of days ago someone sent me a Tweet asking if it was possible to arrange Google Slides presentations in portrait mode instead of the default landscape mode. It is possible to do that even though Google Slides doesn't contain a standard "portrait layout" option in any of the editing menus. To put Google Slides into portrait mode you have to apply custom sizing. That option is found when you open the File drop-down menu and select Page Setup. In Page Setup you can apply any size and aspect ratio of your choosing. Watch my short video below to learn how to apply custom sizing to Google Slides.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

One of My Favorite Tools for Quickly Creating Audio Slideshows

Whether it's for an open house night, an awards night, or another school event I'm often asked for a recommendation on a quick and easy way to create an audio slideshow. When the requirement doesn't call for spoken words, my usual recommendation is to try Sharalike.

Making an audio slideshow video on Sharalike is an easy three step process. First, import some pictures into your account. Second, put the pictures into the order in which you want them to appear. Third, select a sound track. Sharalike will do the rest of the video production process for you. When your video is ready you can view it on Sharalike, post it to the social media sites of your choosing, and embed it into a blog post or web page.

Sharalike can be used in your web browser or you can use their free Android app or free iOS app to make a video.

Watch my video that is embedded below to learn how easy it is to create a video with Sharalike.

How to Use Rubrics in Google Classroom

Earlier this year Google announced a beta test of rubrics feature in Google Classroom. Schools that applied to participate in that program have now started to see the rubrics feature appear. If your domain doesn't have it, watch my video below to see how it works.


As I point out in the video there are a couple of things that could be improved to make Google Classroom rubrics better. First, Google needs to add a way to re-use rubrics from assignment to assignment. Currently, you have to create a new rubric for every assignment. Second, I'd like to see an option to have rubric scores automatically tallied and averaged into the assignment score.

Reminder - Google is Closing Fusion Tables

When it was launched almost a decade ago Google's Fusion Tables was an amazing service for creating data visualizations. Over the years other, better tools emerged for creating data visualizations including Google's own Explore features in Google Sheets. That's why at the end of last year Google announced that Fusion Tables would be shuttered at the end of this year. Google just sent out an email to all Fusion Tables users reminding them that the end is near and that they should use Google Takeout to download any data that they want to save.

One of the things that you could do with Fusion Tables was create maps that were representative of data sets. You can also do that by importing a Google Sheet into Google's My Maps tool. Watch this video to learn how to do that.

My Top 5 Google Tools for Social Studies Teachers and Students

As longtime readers of this blog know, my background is largely in social studies with a smattering of special education and corporate training thrown in for good measure. It's teaching social studies that will always be my first professional love. That's why I always get excited when readers send me questions like the one I got on Monday from a teacher who was looking for ideas about using G Suite and Google products in his classroom. That question inspired me to make a video and send him the following ideas.


VR Tour Creator
This is Google's free service for creating virtual reality tours. In a social studies classroom students can use it to record virtual reality tours of historical landmarks, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, or unique geographic features that spurred the development of civilizations. A playlist of VR Tour Creator tutorials is available here.

Google Earth
Google Earth is available in two versions. The Pro version is the version that you can install on your desktop. That's the version that I prefer if given a choice because it includes more features that the web browser version. Google Earth Pro can be used by students and teachers to record narrated tours and to layer historical imagery on top of current map views. You can find a playlist of Google Earth tutorials here.

Google Books
This is an often overlooked search tool. Google Books provides students with access to millions of free books and periodicals. Google Books really shines when you start looking for work that was published in the 19th Century and early 20th Century. One of the best features of Google Books is the ability to search within a book for a phrase or keyword. Learn how to use Google Books by watching these tutorial videos.

Google Expeditions
This is Google's free virtual reality service. Students can use it to go on more than 800 virtual reality tours. You can either guide students through the tours or let them guide themselves. Take a look at these videos to learn how to start using Google Expeditions.

Google Keep
Google Keep is a bookmarking and note-taking tool that students can use as part of their G Suite for Education accounts. It's a convenient tool to use to save bookmarks with notes. Students can add labels to their bookmarks to make them easy to organize. The best feature is that students can access their Google Keep bookmarks and notes from Google Docs to insert their bookmarks and notes directly into the papers they're writing. Here's a set of Google Keep tutorial videos.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Glide Now Lets You Publish App Templates

Glide is probably my favorite new tool of 2019. The free service lets you take a Google Sheet and quickly turn it into a mobile app. It can be used to create all kinds of apps including staff directories, study guides, scavenger hunts, and local tourism guides. My tutorial on how to use Glide can be seen here.

This week Glide introduced a new feature that lets you share your app as a template. This means that once you've created an app that you like you can share it and let others make a copy of it to modify for their own needs.


Applications for Education
This new feature of Glide could be useful in providing students with a template for an app that they can modify and build upon. Of course, the nature of Glide's basis on Google Sheets makes it possible to students to collaborate on the content displayed within their apps.