Thursday, October 31, 2019

A Five Minute Explanation of How Google Search Works

Last week Google published a new video that explains how Google Search works. The video presents an explanation of the factors that contribute to why some pages rank higher in the results page than others. The video also explains the factors that can contribute to a change in the ranking of a webpage.


Applications for Education
Understanding the basics of how webpages are ranked by Google can be helpful to students in evaluating the relevance of a page to their own research of a topic.

Of course, this video is just scratches the surface of what students need to know when it comes to understanding search. To learn more about search check out the list of search strategies I included in the free Practical Ed Tech Handbook or watch my on-demand webinar Search Strategies Students Need to Know.

An Easier Way to Add Images to Blogger Posts

Over the last couple of weeks I've received a few emails from people who were having trouble with images not loading on Blogger blog posts. I've also had a couple of little issue with image uploads. The trouble appears to be that the default image uploader in Blogger doesn't fully load. The work-around for the problem is to simply drag and drop an image from your desktop into your blog post. In the following video I demonstrate how that works.


The downside to this method is that it doesn't give you an option to re-use an image that is already stored in your Blogger blog (other than uploading it again). The upside to this method is that it is a little faster.

How My Students Are Using Google Sheets With Their Arduino Projects

The students in one of my classes are starting to make some Arduino-powered gadgets. I let them choose what they wanted to build so I have some that are making cars, one making a Bluetooth-connected locks, and couple making a variation of this Hacking STEM project. In other words, there are a lot of things going on at once with 13 students working on different projects at the same time.

I am fortunate in that I have a fairly generous budget for buying supplies for my class. I have a lot of Arduino-compatible parts available to my students. My students can pick and choose the parts that they need to use. But I need a way to keep track of parts they're using. I set up a Google Form that they use to record the parts they take from the collection. That makes it easy to see who has which parts. 

When we started our exploration of Arduino I had students just writing in their notebooks or Google Docs to document what they were trying to accomplish. That was fine at first. Before too long that got a little messy when it came time for me to review what they were doing. That was partly my fault because I didn't give them a structure for recording their trials and observations. 

Keeping Track of Parts and Progress With Google Sheets
To satisfy the need to keep track of parts and the need for a clear way to review what students are working on, I set up a Google Sheets template that all of my students are now following. In the Google Sheet template there is a sheet for parts used and parts needed. There is a second sheet included on which students document problems they've encountered, solutions they've tried, and solutions that worked. You can view a copy of the template right here

Arduino Parts Suppliers
There are two suppliers that I've used for Arduino parts. Those are Elegoo and SparkFun. The Elegoo Mega 2560 (affiliate link) is a good place to start if you're looking to get started with some simple Arduino projects with your students. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Slides Randomizer - A Neat Google Slides Add-on


Slides Randomizer is a Google Slides add-on that will randomly shuffle a set of Google Slides. It's easy to use the Slides Randomizer add-on. Once you've installed the add-on simply select Slides Randomizer from the add-ons drop-down menu while viewing your slides then click on "randomize presentation." Right before the slides shuffle you'll be asked if you want to include the title slide in the shuffle or leave it at the beginning of the presentation. You can always undo the shuffling of your presentation by reverting to the previous version in the "version history" menu found in the "File" drop-down menu.

Applications for Education
I learned about Slides Randomizer from one of my students who was using it to shuffle his slides in a flashcard-like manner. That's one way of using it.

What I'm thinking about doing with it is to put together a set of slides that outlines a sequence (data transmission from one computer to another through a WLAN). Then I'll use the Slides Randomizer to shuffle the slides before I share them with my students through Google Classroom where they'll be given the assignment of putting the slides into the correct order.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

One Last Round-up of Educational Halloween Resources

Halloween is less than 48 hours away as I write this. My daughters are excited about their Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck costumes. Some of my high school students seemed pretty excited about Halloween too.

If you find yourself looking for some last-minute Halloween-themed activities here some items that I featured earlier this month.

Those of you who are looking for Halloween-themed stories to use in ELA lessons could do well to turn to this collection on ReadWorks. The bulk of the Halloween collection on ReadWorks features articles for a  K-8 audience with a few 9-12 articles mixed in.

ReadWorks is hosting a writing contest for students in fifth through eighth grade. The contest deadline is this Friday. Details are available here.

Speaking of Halloween-themed writing, TED-Ed has a lesson titled How to Make Your Writing Suspenseful.


TED-Ed has another Halloween-themed lesson. That lesson is Vampires: Folklore, Fantasy, and Fact.



Number Chase - Math vs. Zombies is a free iPad game with a Halloween theme. The game is has three virtual worlds each containing ten levels of basic math problems.

If you'd like to play some Halloween trivia games or Halloween safety tips review games with your students, Kahoot has hundreds of games on those topics. Here's my video tutorial on how to find and modify Halloween games on Kahoot.

The Practical Ed Tech Creativity Conference - Call for Proposals

In December I'm hosting a free online conference called the Practical Ed Tech Creativity Conference. The purpose of the conference is to give teachers an opportunity to share their creative classroom projects with other teachers. If you have an idea that you would like to present, please complete this short presentation proposal form. If you've never presented in a webinar format before, I'll give you some training in advance.


Register to Attend
  • It's Free! Register here and you’ll be registered for all live sessions (it will be recorded for those who cannot attend the live broadcasts).
    • December 10th at 2pm, 3pm, and 4pm ET.
    • December 11th at 8pm, 9pm, and 10pm ET.
    • December 12th at 2pm, 3pm, and 4pm ET.

Two Ways I'm Using Pictures in Formative Assessments This Fall

This fall I'm teaching a few computer science classes. The curriculum for one of those courses is heavy on hardware and hardware repair. This month my students and I have been using a lot of pictures and diagrams. There are two ways that I've been incorporating those pictures and diagrams into formative assessment.

Formative Assessment With Images on GoFormative
I've been using GoFormative about every week or two to have students answer questions based on a diagram that I upload to GoFormative.com. I like using GoFormative.com for this purpose because I can add multiple questions to the same diagram. Students know exactly which part of the diagram each question is referring to because the questions appears when they click the digram. In addition to wiring diagrams I've done this with a picture of a multimeter.

Students Documenting Processes With Pictures
One of the first hands-on activities that my students did this year was to disassemble and then reassemble some old desktop computers. Originally, I was going to have students draw diagrams throughout the disassembly process. That proved to be time-consuming and inaccurate (sloppy drawings, poor penmanship). So I switched it up and had them start taking pictures on their phones then labeling those images before sharing them with me via Google Classroom.

The act of photographing and labeling wasn't graded (other than done/ not done). I wanted to see which students could recall and document well and which still needed help with the process.

I'll be sharing more ideas about using images in the formative assessment process in my upcoming webinar, Five Fun Formative Assessment Methods

Monday, October 28, 2019

How to Adjust the Captions on YouTube Videos

This week's Practical Ed Tech newsletter featured a few things that we can do to improve the accessibility of the slides and videos that we use in our classrooms. One of those things is to turn on the captions when playing a YouTube video in class. Another is to create a transcript of the YouTube videos that you show in class.

Just turning on the captions is a good first step. It is possible to adjust the size and color scheme of the captions for students who needs that. In the following video I demonstrate how to adjust the size, style, and color scheme of the captions displayed on a YouTube video.



As I pointed out in the video above, it is possible to view an automatically generated transcript of some YouTube videos without the use of a third-party tool. Other videos will require a third-party tool to generate a transcript. If that's the case for a video that you need to create a transcript for, try using VidReader. My demonstration of VidReader is embedded below (note that when I made the video the service was going by a different name, the tool works the same way).

How Vocabulary Lists Help Students Conduct Better Searches

Can you identify this mushroom
found in the forest near my house
in Maine?
In chapter five of The Joy of Search Daniel Russell explains the process he used to determine whether or not a plant that he found was poisonous. When I read that chapter a couple of weeks ago I was struck with the reminder that more domain-specific knowledge one has, the deeper the search he or she can conduct. In other words, the greater your vocabulary about a topic, the more ways you have to search for more information about that topic.


One of the things that I often make my students do when they're conducting online research about a topic is to make a list of all of the terms and words they know that are associated with that topic. Google's old Wonder Wheel product was a helpful aid in that process as was the now defunct Wiki Mind Map. In any case, making lists of vocabulary terms can help students recall bits of information that then helps them in formulating and refining search queries.

I made this pre-search checklist a few years ago as a tool to help students think about what they know about a topic before they begin searching online. One of my ninth grade students computer science students used the third part of that checklist, "what are the words or phrases other people would use to describe your topic?" this morning when he was trying to come up with some ideas for a meditation app that he's designing and will eventually build with the MIT App Inventor. His answers and subsequent search took him in slightly new design direction.

So the next time your students seem to be floundering in their online search endeavors, consider having them stop and make a list of vocabulary they know about their central topic.

To learn more about search strategies your students can use, take a look at my on-demand webinar Search Strategies Students Need to Know. And for truly advanced methods, read Daniel Russell's The Joy of Search

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Robocompass - A Robotic Geometry Box

Robocompass is described by its developer as robotic geometry box on 3D. Not being a math teacher and not having taken a math course since the Clinton administration, I wasn't exactly sure what "robotic geometry box" meant at first. So I gave it try and quickly realized that it is an online tool for graphing and drawing just like I did with a pencil and compass when I was in high school. But Robocompass is neater (no pencil smudges) and has a function for playing back the steps of creating a graph or chart.

Robocompass lets students save their work directly into their Google Drive accounts. Students who don't use Google Drive can share their work by providing a direct link to their work or by embedding it into a blog post or web page.



Applications for Education
Robocompass could be a good alternative to using paper and pencil because it does provide an easy way for students to save their work online and share it with you. You can play their work back to see the steps they took.

Disclosure: Robocompass is currently an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

Creativity and Leaf Piles - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where the sun is shining and almost every leaf in my neighborhood seems to have landed in my backyard. The only good thing about leaf removal is making big piles for my kids to jump in. They sliding down their Little Tykes slide into the piles. Wherever you are this weekend, I hope that you're doing something fun too.

This week I announced the Practical Ed Tech Creativity Conference. This is a free online event that will happen December 10th through 12th. If you're interested in presenting, please fill out the short form found at the bottom of this page. If you want to register, you can do that in two seconds right here.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Kami - Annotate PDFs in Google Drive
2. Actively Learn - Find & Create Engaging Reading Assignments and More
3. A New, Free Online Conference for Teachers
4. A Halloween Writing Contest for Middle School Students
5. How to Use Loop to Gather Feedback from Students
6. A Couple of Fun and Simple Map Games for Students of All Ages
7. The Practical Ed Tech Podcast - Episode #15 Featuring Mike Tholfsen

I'll come to your school in 2020! 
I'm already booking my 2020 workshop and conference schedule. This will be my tenth year of speaking at schools and conferences. Send me an email at richard (at) freetech4teachers.com to learn more.

On-demand PD
On PracticalEdTech.com I have seven professional development webinars available to view whenever you like.

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, October 25, 2019

How to Create and Run Polls in Google Slides

Slido is a polling service that recently released a free Google Slides add-on and companion Chrome extension. The combination of the two tools makes it easy for anyone who uses Google Slides to quickly create and launch polls directly within the Google Slides editor. The thing that I like about Slido is that you can see your students' responses without having to toggle between presentation and editing modes in Google Slides. Your students' responses pop-up on the screen in realtime. Your students respond to your Slido poll or survey by simply going to Slido.com on their laptops or phones and then entering the code that appears on your polling slide.

Watch my short video below to see how easy it is to create, run, and respond to a poll made with Slido in Google Slides.

The Practical Ed Tech Podcast - Episode #16

It was a long week at school for me. I think you'll hear that in my voice in the latest episode of The Practical Ed Tech Podcast. In this episode I shared some news about the Practical Ed Tech Creativity Conference, shared my thoughts about Facebook's and Google's latest initiatives to deal with "fake" news, and answered a handful of questions from readers and listeners. The show notes with links to the resources mentioned in the episode can be found in this Google Doc.

Listen episode 16 of The Practical Ed Tech Podcast right here or on your favorite podcast network.



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

Thursday, October 24, 2019

How to Use Loop to Gather Feedback from Students

Loop is a relatively new tool for gathering feedback from your students. You can use it to gather feedback in the forms of text responses, multiple choice questions, and emojis. Loop includes tools for replying to a student's individual response to a group survey. In the following video I demonstrate how to use Loop to gather feedback from your students.


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.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Actively Learn - Find & Create Engaging Reading Assignments and More

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post that I wrote for a new supporter of FreeTech4Teachers.com. 

A few years ago I stumbled upon Actively Learn while walking through the ISTE conference. I was immediately impressed by what they were developing. At that time it was just getting started as a new platform through which teachers can create, distribute, and assess ELA activities. Since then Actively Learn has expanded to offer a catalog of thousands of free assignments with embedded media, standards-aligned questions, scaffolding notes, and teaching ideas for science, ELA, and social studies.

There are three key elements of Actively Learn that I really appreciate. First, it’s easy to locate interesting and engaging articles, videos, and simulations to share with your students. You can locate resources in the Actively Learn catalog by searching according to subject, topic, grade level, standard, or Lexile level. Second, unlike some other services, Actively Learn doesn’t limit you using their pre-made questions. You can easily add your own questions to the materials that you distribute to your students as assignments. Third, Actively Learn can save you time by automatically grading any multiple choice questions that you include in your assignments.

Here’s an example of how you could use Actively Learn in a science class. Open the Actively Learn catalog and find the Cells Topic page, which includes a variety of assignments related to cells. Some of the assignments are based on excerpts from textbooks, high-interest news or journal articles, videos, and PhET simulations. All of the assignments and articles have notes in the margins to describe concepts that may be challenging to students and standards-aligned embedded questions. Additionally, you can add your own notes into the margins for your students.

You can distribute an assignment to your students through Actively Learn’s classroom environment or distribute it through Google Classroom or Canvas. Throughout the assigned reading there are questions that your students should answer. You can edit or remove the pre-made questions. You can also add your own questions for students to answer. Take a look at the screenshot below to see the students’ view of an article. Watch this video for an overview of what a student sees in Actively Learn.

One of the options that I appreciate about Actively Learn’s online assignments is that students can flag sections of an article with "I don't understand" comments.

Actively Learn offers free and paid plans. The free plan includes all of the core features of Actively Learn including:

  • Locate materials according to subject, grade, standard, or Lexile level.
  • Customization of any of the instruction in Actively Learn (edit questions or notes).
  • Upload any Google doc, website, video, or PDF and turn it into an interactive assignment with your own embedded questions and notes.
  • Give feedback to students as they read and get real-time data on student reading progress.
  • Automatic grading of multiple choice questions.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

The Practical Ed Tech Podcast - Episode #15 Featuring Mike Tholfsen

This afternoon I had the opportunity to talk with Mike Tholfsen from Microsoft. Mike is a Product Manager on the Microsoft EDU team. In the podcast we talked about Immersive Reader, digital ink in OneNote, Microsoft Translator, and some of the ways that those tools can be used by teachers and students. You can find the podcast here on Anchor or on any major podcast platform including Apple Podcasts and Google Play.




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

A New, Free Online Conference for Teachers

I've decided to try something new to end 2019. That new thing is organizing a free online conference for teachers. I'm calling it the Practical Ed Tech Creativity Conference. It will be held over the course of three afternoons/ evenings in December (10-12). But I can't do it alone. So I'm looking for people who would like to share a creative classroom project.

Call for Proposals
If you have a creative project that you think other teachers would benefit from learning about in the course of a 30-45 webinar, please fill out the proposal form here. If you've never presented in a webinar format before, I'll give you some training in advance.

Presentation Ideas
A few examples of creative projects that would be great fits for this online conference include a digital storytelling project with third graders, a video production with seventh graders, and an app development project with tenth graders. But don’t overthink it, any project that ends in students producing something that they’re excited about could be a good fit for this conference.
  • Telling stories with digital comics.
  • Multimedia mapping.
  • Arduino or Raspberry Pi projects.
  • Interesting ways to use augmented reality.
  • Creative uses of virtual reality.
  • Student podcasts.
  • Hour of Code projects.
  • Something that I’m sure I haven’t thought about.
Register to Attend
  • It's Free! Register here and you’ll be registered for all live sessions (it will be recorded for those who cannot attend the live broadcasts).
    • December 10th at 2pm, 3pm, and 4pm ET.
    • December 11th at 8pm, 9pm, and 10pm ET.
    • December 12th at 2pm, 3pm, and 4pm ET.



Interested in sponsoring the event? Send me an email at richard (at) byrne.media and let's talk. 

Fall Back! - Lessons on the End of Daylight Saving Time

Fall is full of great things like colorful leaves, fresh apple pies, and Halloween candy! But there is one thing that I don't like about fall in Maine. That is the lack of sunlight in the morning. As I write this at 6:37am it is still dark outside and I have to leave for school in 20 minutes. I'm a morning person so at this time of year I look forward to turning the clocks back. That will happen in about 12 days from now.

You may have some students who, like me, like turning the clocks back. More likely you have students who complain about turning the clocks back (except for the extra hour of sleep on Sunday morning). Either way, here are a few videos about Daylight Saving Time and timezones.

The following videos offer concise explanations of Daylight Saving Time.





Although it's not about daylight saving time, this TED-Ed lesson about the standardization of timezones is worth watching.

A Halloween Writing Contest for Middle School Students

A couple of weeks ago I shared a selection of Halloween-themed ELA articles available through ReadWorks. As Halloween gets closer, it's only nine days away, consider having your students participate in a Halloween writing contest that ReadWorks is hosting in collaboration with Quill.

How the Run Should End is a writing contest for middle school students. The contest asks students to write their own endings to the zombie cliffhanger series The Run. The Run is comprised of seven connected short stories. Like all stories on ReadWorks, students can read or listen to The Run. A list of key vocabulary words and reading comprehension questions are included with the stories.

To enter the contest students need to write an alternate ending for The Run. The ending should be less than 800 words. The winning entry will be published on ReadWorks. The contest is open to students in fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth grades. Submissions are due by November 1st.

Quill and ReadWorks have published some helpful reading and writing tips along with the complete contest details right here.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Kami - Annotate PDFs in Google Drive

Thanks to an email from a reader named John I was alerted to a video missing from an older blog post that I published about Kami. So that prompted me to publish this updated post about Kami. Kami is a service that enables users to annotate and comment on PDFs. You can do this directly on the Kami website or in Google Drive with Kami's Chrome extension. Kami also works with Word and Pages files.

Here's a couple of updated videos about how Kami works.



Kami's core service for drawing, commenting, and annotating PDFs is free for all users. Kami does offer the option to upgrade to a premium account. The premium version includes options for adding voice comments and video comments to your PDFs. The premium version also supports conversion and use of Word documents.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

A Couple of Fun and Simple Map Games for Students of All Ages

Ian Fisher is a software engineer at Google. In addition to his work at Google he's developed a couple of fun map games. The games are How Many European Cities Can You Name? and How Many US Cities Can You Name?

Both of the games are played the same way. Simply open the game map and start typing the names of cities. When you enter a city it will appear on the map. The object is to name as many cities as you can without stopping. When you're done you'll see a list of the cities that you named and the populations of the five biggest cities and the five smallest cities that you named.


Applications for Education
What I like about these games is that there isn't a points system. It's simply a challenge for students to continue to recall the names of cities that they have learned about or at least heard about. For students who have heard of city but aren't sure where it is, the game shows them the location. And as a bonus, students don't need to register to play the games.

H/T to Maps Mania

Maps, Games, and SumoBots - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where it's cold outside and quiet in my house. In other words, I'm up early before anyone else. It's a perfect time to drink coffee (black, dark roast) and write.

This week some of computer science students worked on programming SumoBots to do battle. While SumoBot kits provide a lot of documentation and directions there is a still a lot for students to figure out on their own. It has been a fun challenge so far.

A couple of weeks ago a reader reached out to me asking if I had any plans for a webinar about Google Earth. So this week I hosted Google Earth & Maps - It's More Than Social Studies. The recorded version of that webinar is now available here.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. topoView - View and Download Thousands of Historical Maps
2. How to Create Vocabulary Games on Educandy
3. The Globe of Extremes - An Interactive Map
4. Slido - Create and Run Polls Within Your Google Slides
5. How to Add Folders to Wakelet Collections
6. Educandy - Quickly Create Educational Games from Word Lists
7. How to Share Videos Through OneDrive

I'll come to your school in 2020! 
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.

On-demand PD
On PracticalEdTech.com I have seven professional development webinars available to view whenever you like.

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, October 18, 2019

Google Arts & Culture Presents "From a Picture to 1000 Stories"

Google Books turned 15 this week. To mark the occasion Google released an interactive book titled From a Picture to 1000 Stories. The interactive book is a part of the Google Arts & Culture Institute.

In From a Picture to 1000 Stories readers learn some fun facts about famous authors and their works. On the pages that have the facts about authors and their works you will find a set of images. Each of those images leads to a page of book recommendations based. The book recommendations pages lead directly to Google Books where you will find options for downloading and or purchasing the book. Overall, it's an interesting way to discover new books.

Google Books has been one of my favorite research tools for years. The new version of Google Books appears to be rolling out to more users all the time. In the following video I provide an overview of how to use the latest version of Google Books. Below that video you'll find an overview of the classic version of Google Books.


Make Long Google Docs Easier to Navigate With a Hyperlinked Outline

One of the "hidden" or frequently overlooked features of Google Documents is the built-in outline tool. The outline tool lets you create an outline that is hyperlinked to sections of your document. Any section that begins with header text or bolded font can be automatically added to the hyperlinked outline in your document. Watch the following video to see how this process is done.


Applications for Education
Creating an outline in this manner can be useful in long reference documents that you create or that your students create. The outline makes it easy to jump into any section at any time. This could be particularly useful when students are working on a collaborative document and want to jump right back to the section(s) they're responsible for. 

The Practical Ed Tech Podcast - Episode #14

This afternoon I recorded the fourteenth episode of The Practical Ed Tech Podcast. The episode follows the same format as all of the other non-interview episodes. I shared some news and notes from the world of ed tech including a new Google Slides add-on and a fun game for physical education. The middle of the episode includes my thoughts and reflections from my classroom (spoiler, my students reminded me that I'm as old or older than their parents). The last part of the episode features my answers to questions from readers and listeners like you.

You can listen to episode 14 of The Practical Ed Tech Podcast right here or on your favorite podcast network.




The complete show notes can be found here.

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

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Slido - Create and Run Polls Within Your Google Slides

Slido is a polling tool that has recently launched a Google Slides add-on and a corresponding Chrome extension. With Slido installed you can create polls directly in the Google Slides editor. The poll will appear as a slide in your presentation. The poll slide includes your question and the directions for your audience to respond to your poll.

When your audience responds to your poll their responses will appear on the slide. By using Slido's Google Slides add-on you don't have to toggle between your presentation and a polling website in order to view poll responses.

Watch the following short video to see how Slido works.

What Causes a Recession?

The U.S. stock market has been on a historic bull run over the last decade. That has a lot of people asking and a lot of talking heads on CNBC speculating about when the next recession will hit. Fittingly, TED-Ed has a new lesson titled What Causes an Economic Recession?

By watching What Causes an Economic Recession? students can learn about the roles of interest rates, inflation, and employment rates in causing and easing economic recessions. The lesson also indirectly hits on the topic of monetary supply. You can view the video and lesson questions here or watch the video as embedded below.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

topoView - View and Download Thousands of Historical Maps

topoView is a free service that anyone can use to find and download historical topographic maps produced by the USGS since 1880. The process of finding maps through topoView is rather easy. Simply open the map viewer then click on a part of the United States. Once you've selected an area you can use the timeslider to find maps produced during a range of years. Maps that you find through topoView can be downloaded as JPG, KMZ, GeoPDF, and GeoTIFF files. Most students will utilize the JPG or KMZ formats. This video provides an overview of how to use topoView.


Applications for Education
The historical maps found through topoView could be useful in helping students see how the topography of an area has changed over the last 130 years. Students who use Google Earth Pro (the free desktop version of Google Earth) can layer the historical maps over the current view of an area.

topoView could also be useful to students who are writing historical fiction stories to get a better sense of the layout of a place that they might be writing about.

Learn more about Google Earth in my upcoming webinar, Google Earth & Maps - It's More Than Social Studies

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

How to Add Folders to Wakelet Collections

Over the weekend a reader emailed me asking about the possibility of creating folders in Wakelet collections. Wakelet doesn't have a native folders feature. However, it is possible to added folders to Wakelet collections through Google Drive and OneDrive. To add a folder to your Wakelet collection use the sharing option in Google Drive or OneDrive that provides you with a shareable link. Then place that link in your Wakelet collection. The process of sharing folders in Wakelet collections is outlined in my video below.


Watch my other videos about Wakelet to learn how to get started using it and how to create videos within a Wakelet collection.


Monday, October 14, 2019

The Globe of Extremes - An Interactive Map

The Globe of Extremes is an interesting interactive map of the extremes of the Earth. On the map you'll find things like the deepest spot on Earth, the point furthest from any ocean, and the highest permanent settlement in the world. When you open The Globe of Extremes it immediately starts to slowly spin to show you the extreme places of the world. Click on any of the placemarkers on the globe to see images and read about the extreme place.

Applications for Education
The Globe of Extremes is a nice little resource for students to explore to learn some fun geography trivia. More importantly, it's a model of what can be done with digital mapping tools. The Globe of Extremes was built using some advanced ArcGIS tools, but your students could create similar digital maps by using Google Earth.

On a related note, this Thursday afternoon I'm hosting a webinar all about using Google Earth and Google Maps in your classroom.

H/T to Maps Mania

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Explore and Download Thousands of National Parks Pictures and Videos

On my way home from the Oregon SHAPE conference I drove through Mt. Hood National Forest. If you ever get the chance to do the same, take it! On my drive I stopped at the Timberline Lodge to snap a few photographs and ponder coming back to ski Mt. Hood. Back at my hotel my research into backcountry permits reminded me that the U.S. National Park Service hosts thousands of videos and pictures about the various parks and forests under its care.

The majority of the pictures and videos in the National Park Service's gallery are in the public domain. You can search the collection according to media type, location, or keyword. The licensing and re-use information for each picture and video is clearly listed. In general, the videos that are in the public domain have a download link and the ones that aren't in the public domain don't have a download link. The same is true for the pictures in the gallery.
Looking down the valley from Timberline Lodge, Mt. Hood National Forest.

Applications for Education
The National Park Service's multimedia gallery can be a fantastic resource for students who are making slideshows, videos, or virtual tours based on their research about a National Park or National Forest.

How to Create Vocabulary Games on Educandy

Educandy is a new service for creating simple vocabulary games and multiple choice trivia games. A convenient aspect of the service is that once you've created a list of vocabulary words it will automatically be applied to multiple game formats for you. In other words, write one word list and you'll get three games that your students can play. Your students can play the games without needing to create an account on the Educandy site. In the following video I provide an overview of how you can create games on Educandy and how your students can access your games.

How to Share Videos Through OneDrive

A few days ago I shared directions for sharing videos through Google Drive. Microsoft's OneDrive has a similar capability that in some ways is actually better than using Google Drive. In OneDrive you can share videos via unique URLs that you can password protect. Additionally, in OneDrive you can set an expiration date on the URLs that you use to share videos with others. In the following video I demonstrate how to share videos through OneDrive.


Applications for Education
Sharing videos through OneDrive can be a good alternative to using YouTube to share videos with students and their parents.

Canadian vs. American Thanksgiving

Monday is Thanksgiving in Canada. If you're curious about the differences and similarities between American and Canadian Thanksgiving, watch the following videos. Both of the following humorous videos that explain the differences between Thanksgiving in Canada and Thanksgiving in the United States.



Just a reminder, you should always preview videos before showing them in your classroom. I know many high school teachers who will not have a problem sharing these, but teachers of younger students may want to proceed with caution.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Slides, Forms, and Mountains - The Week in Review

Good evening from Oregon where I had a great day traveling from Portland to Bend for the Oregon SHAPE conference. It was my first time presenting at a conference dedicated to health and physical education. It was great! And the views on the drive from Portland to Bend were extraordinary!



These were the week's most popular posts:
1. 5 Handy Google Slides Features You Might Be Overlooking
2. Using Google Slides to Design a Mobile App
3. Microsoft Forms Will Soon Have a Read Aloud Option
4. Learn Javascript Fundamentals and More With Google's Grasshopper
5. Educandy - Quickly Create Educational Games from Word Lists
6. How to Make the Home Button Appear in Chrome
7. How to Find and Edit Thousands of Halloween Games for Your Classroom

Live & On-demand PD
Next week on Practical Ed Tech I'm hosting a live webinar titled Google & Maps - It's More Than Social Studies. I also have six other PD webinars available on-demand.

I'll come 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, October 11, 2019

Educandy - Quickly Create Educational Games from Word Lists

Educandy is a near service that I recently learned about from Eric Curts. As I mentioned in this week's episode of The Practical Ed Tech Podcast, Educandy strikes me as a slightly more polished version of Flippity. On Educandy you can create a list of vocabulary words or a list of questions and have a set of games instantly created based on those lists. You can then share those games with your students through a dedicated link and game code.

To get started on Educandy you will have to create an account on the site. Once you've created your account sign in and select the option to create a list of vocabulary words, matching pairs of words, or a list of quiz questions. Once you've made your list Educandy will automatically generate a game or series of games that your students can play. If you make a list of vocabulary words or a list of paired words the game options will include memory, hangman, word search, and crosswords. If you write quiz questions, the game will be a simple quiz game.

Once your game is created on Educandy it will appear in your account under "my activities." From there you can select your game and find its code. Students can then use that code to play your game at Educandy.com without creating an account on the site. You'll also find an embed code that you can use to place your game on your own website.

Applications for Education
Educandy isn't providing anything revolutionary, but it does provide a convenient way to create some simple review games for your students to play on their own. If you're looking for a new way to make games for your students to play as review activities, Educandy might be for you.

The Practical Ed Tech Podcast Episode #13

Earlier today I recorded the thirteenth episode of The Practical Ed Tech Podcast. This episode, like the previous one, begins with an overview of some news and notes from the week in ed tech followed by my answers to a handful of questions from readers and listeners. The news and notes in this episode include a bunch of updates from Microsoft's accessibility product team. And a couple of the questions from readers center on troubleshooting problems with Google Forms and Sheets. Listen to the episode right here.





The complete show notes can be found here.

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

Thursday, October 10, 2019

An Update from the Archive - Three Good Ways to Use All Those Pictures Students Take

I originally published this post four years ago. I remembered this post while reflecting on a conversation that I had with my freshmen during homeroom this week about their picture-taking and video-recording habits.

Take a look at almost any student's cell phone and you're bound to find hundreds or thousands of pictures and videos that they taken. As teachers we should put our students' picture-taking and video-taking habits to good use. Here are three ways to utilize students' picture-taking habits in your classroom.

Create a b-roll gallery.
Rather than making students scour the web in a quest for public domain or Creative Commons media, let them search in a classroom gallery of media. Create a shared Google Drive, Dropbox, or Box folder to which students can upload images and videos that will allow other students use in slideshows and other multimedia projects.

Create digital portfolios of physical work. 
Have students snap pictures of work they have done on paper or another physical medium and upload them to a folder that is shared with you. Of course, students can also link to digital projects. SeeSaw is a great platform for projects like this.

Tell a story.
Did your class recently go on a field trip? If so, your students probably have a slew of photos from it. Have them use those to summarize the highlights of what they learned during the field trip.

Are you trying to get students to tell stories about themselves? In that case, let them use photos to tell that story.

Adobe Spark and Pic-Collage are good tools for telling stories with pictures.

A Good Collection of PowerPoint Presentations for AP US History and World History

Tom Richey produces great instructional videos for students taking AP US History, World History, and Government courses. More than 100,000 YouTube subscribers will attest to that. He also publishes many of the PowerPoint presentations that appear in his videos. From his PowerPoint page you can download presentations on US History, European History, or World History.

Google Chrome users who have the Google Slides app installed can quickly open all of Tom's PowerPoints directly in their browsers then save the slides in their Google Drive accounts. People who don't use Chrome or Google Drive can simply download the original PowerPoint files from Tom's website.

Applications for Education
Slides without a voice aren't nearly as helpful as slides with a voice. That said, reviewing these PowerPoint files might help students recall a point that you've made in a lesson. Likewise, viewing the slides might help students recall something from a related reading assignment.

How to Use Google Drive to Share Videos

One of the questions that I'm frequently asked in regards to student video projects is "how can they share them without using YouTube?" It's a good question as there are many reasons why you might not want your students to upload their videos to YouTube for classroom projects. My recommended solution is to upload the video to Google Drive or OneDrive for sharing with you, their classmates, or their parents.

In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to use Google Drive to store and share video files.



Applications for Education
I'm often asked about how to collect videos from students to then upload to one class YouTube account. Collecting videos from your students through Google Drive or OneDrive is a good way to do that. Then you can choose which ones to make public and you'll have all of the videos in one place instead of trying to keep track of each student's individual YouTube channel.