Saturday, November 30, 2019

The Practical Ed Tech Podcast - Episode 21 - 12 Years of Reflections and Questions

This afternoon I recorded the twenty-first episode of The Practical Ed Tech Podcast. In this episode I share some reflections on 12 years of blogging about educational technology, share some news from the world of ed tech, and answer a few questions from readers and viewers like you. Get the full show notes in this Google Doc. Information on the PD webinars mentioned in the podcast can be found here.

You can listen to the episode here or on your favorite podcast network.




Listen to all episodes of the podcast here or find them on the following podcast networks:

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good morning from Maine where it feels like winter! It's 4F outside, a lot of snow is in the forecast, and we're going to get our Christmas tree later today. I hope that all of you had a great week. I spent a lot of the week in Connecticut visiting family and friends for Thanksgiving. It was a nice treat for me to take my daughters to what was one of my favorite restaurants when I was a kid, Shady Glen. That place was a throwback 30 years ago and still hasn't changed a bit (cash only, grab a seat when you see it, menu on the wall). If you celebrated Thanksgiving this week, I hope that it was a great holiday for you too.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Transno - Quickly Turn Outlines and Notes into Mind Maps
2. 5 Google Product Updates for Teachers to Note This Weekend
3. How to Create a Multimedia Map on Padlet
4. Twelve Good Tools for Creating Mind Maps & Flowcharts - Updated
5. Three Easy Ways to Create Forms That Accept File Uploads
6. Open eBooks - Thousands of Free eBooks for Students and Teachers
7. Three Ways to Collaboratively Create Multimedia Maps

Sale!
Through Tuesday you can get eight of my Practical Ed Tech webinars in one bundle at more than 50% off. Or save 20% on any individual webinar.

I'll come to your school in 2020! 
2020 will be my tenth year of speaking at schools and conferences. Send me an email at richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com to learn more about how we can work together.

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 16,000 are subscribed to my YouTube channel for my regular series of tutorial videos including more than 300 Google tools tutorials. 
  • The Practical Ed Tech Podcast is where I answer questions from readers, share news and notes, and occasionally talk to interesting people in education. 
  • 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, November 29, 2019

7 Google Product Updates to Note from November

The end of November is here. During the last month Google announced a bunch of updates to many of the products frequently used by teachers and students. I covered many of them during the month, but there were a few that I missed. And there are few updates to the original updates from earlier this month. Here are seven Google product updates to note from November.

Add Audio to Google Slides
This was probably the biggest update that Google announced in November. After years of waiting Google Slides finally has native support for adding audio to your presentations. You no longer need to use any third-party add-ons of suspect quality or other wacky work-arounds to add audio to your slides. Watch my video to see how you can add audio to Google Slides.


Smart Compose in Google Docs
Much like Smart Compose in Gmail, Smart Compose in Google Docs will try to predict what you want to write in a sentence. If the prediction is correct you can hit the tab key to complete the sentence. To use this feature you will have to register to be a part of the beta test. To register for the beta you must be a domain administrator. Read more information here.

Different Page Numbers for Different Sections of Google Docs
This is a small, but welcome update for Google Docs users. You can now specify the page numbers that apply to a section of a Google Doc instead of being stuck with the default sequence of page numbers. More details here.

Create Tours in the Web Version of Google Earth
This is a feature that we've been waiting two years to see add to the web version of Google Earth. Now you can add your own sequence of multimedia placemarks to Google Earth. Read more or watch my demo to see how it works.



A New Way to Gather Feedback in Google Sites
This was announced on November 19th but an update six days later said that this feature is on hold for most users. When it does fully roll-out Google Sites users have a new option for getting feedback through their sites. Instead of creating then embedding a Google Form, you can use a native feedback form in the footer of Google Sites. Learn more about how that works by reading this announcement from Google.

Add Collapsible Text Boxes to Google Sites
At first I didn't think too much of this update. Then I saw how much it improved the layout of some of my students' portfolios that are built in Google Sites. This has proven to be a great option for my students to use on the pages on which they're writing long blocks of text about their app development projects.

Reuse Rubrics in Google Classroom
Earlier this fall Google introduced a beta test of a rubrics feature in Google Classroom. My feedback, as well as that of many others, was that an option to reuse rubrics was needed. Google listened and added that option this week.

12 Quick Thoughts After 12 Years of Free Technology for Teachers

Yesterday marked twelve years since I started this blog. I didn't have much of clue about what I was doing. I chose the name Free Technology for Teachers because it was the height of the Web 2.0 boom and everything new seemed to be free. I wanted to try it all out. Writing blog posts about what I was finding and trying seemed like a natural thing to do. Little did I know that so many people would be interested in what I was writing. I also didn't foresee doing it for twelve years and nearly 15,000 posts. So if you'll indulge me for a moment, here are twelve quick thoughts after twelve years of blogging about educational technology.

1. I started this in my twenties and I'm still doing it in my forties.

2. Windows XP, Vista, 7, and 8 have come and gone.

3. iPads came along and were supposed to revolutionize educational technology, they didn't.

4. Chromebooks came along and were supposed to revolutionize educational technology, they didn't.

5. Podcasting became popular, then lost popularity, now it's back.

6. I taught social studies, was an independent consultant, was briefly a marketing guy, and now I teach computer science.

7. My feelings about social media have gone from love to love-hate.

8. If you don't know how a company is making money, it either isn't or it's making money from your data.

9. RSS was the way that everyone was going to read blogs and websites. It turns out that email, social media, and direct visits is how most people consume media now.

10. The title "Free Technology for Teachers" has been a blessing and a curse.

11. The longer I do this, the harder I have to work to try new things that really excite me.

12. The positive comments out number the negative ones, but the negative ones are usually the ones that stay with me the longest.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

The History of Corn - A TED-Ed Lesson

Pictures of corn like the one in this blog post have become symbols of fall harvest and Thanksgiving. Corn and many products made with it are a staple of the diets of many of us today. How did corn become a staple of our diets? What has enabled it to become one of the most cultivated crops in the world? And what are the consequences of cultivating so much corn? Those questions and many others are addressed in a new TED-Ed lesson titled How Corn Conquered the World.


Applications for Education
This TED-Ed lesson could be the jumping-off point for more or deeper lessons about how agriculture affects many parts of our lives whether we realize it or not. For example the graphs at toward the end of the lesson illustrate how increased corn production contributed to increased meat production and both of those things create environmental impacts. The increase in cheap corn production also increases the amount of cheap junk food which in turn can lead to obesity.

Twelve Good Tools for Creating Mind Maps & Flowcharts - Updated

Earlier this week I published a video about a neat new service called Transo that lets you turn your notes into a mind map with just one click. Creating that video and writing the corresponding blog post got me to revisit a list of mind mapping tools that I published a couple of months ago. Here's my updated list of mind mapping and flowchart creation tools.

Transno
Transno is a service that lets you write notes and outlines that can then be turned into mind maps and flowcharts with just one click. It reminds me a lot of the old Text2MindMap service that I used to use. Transno is better because it offers a variety of mind map and flowchart styles while Text2MindMap only offered one. Transno also supports collaboration by letting you invite others to edit and add to your notes. In the following video I demonstrate how Transno works.



Canvas by Google
Canvas is a new drawing tool from Google. Canvas is a great alternative to Google Drawings for iPad and Android tablet users. Canvas lets anyone create a drawing in his or her web browser by simply going to Canvas.apps.chrome. Once there you can start drawing on a blank canvas. There are four drawing tools that you can use to draw in a wide array of colors. Watch my video that is embedded below to see Canvas in action.


Google Slides & PowerPoint
If your students have a computer in front of them, they probably have access to either Google Slides or PowerPoint or both. Google Slides and PowerPoint have built-in tools that students can use to create flowcharts. The following videos demonstrate how students can use Google Slides and PowerPoint to create flowcharts. As you'll see in the videos, you can make the flowcharts interactive through the use of linking in PowerPoint and Google Slides.





Bubbl.us
Bubbl.us is a mind mapping and flowchart tool that I've been recommending for more than a decade. It has evolved overtime to keep up with the needs of students, teachers, and other users. Creating mind maps on Bubbl.us is an easy process of simply clicking on the center of your screen then entering the central topic of your mind map. The next step is to add "child" topics or bubbles that are connected to the central topic. Those are added by clicking the "+" that appears while holding your cursor over an existing bubble.




Padlet
Padlet offers templates for creating flowcharts and know, want, learn charts. Unfortunately, you can only make three Padlet walls before you have to either delete one to make a new one or upgrade to a paid plan. The upside to using Padlet is that it's designed for collaboration.



Text2MindMap
This is a mind mapping tool that was a commercial project for a few years before going out of business then coming back as an open-source project supported by Tobias Lรธfgren. The way that it works is that you type a linear outline and Text2MindMap will automatically generate a corresponding mind map. To use it simply go here, clear the existing text and replace it with your own text. Every line that you type in your outline becomes a node in the mind map. You can create a branch from a node by simply indenting a line in your outline.

Post-it App for Android and iOS
The Post-it mobile apps for Android and iOS let you take a picture of physical sticky notes and then sort them on a digital canvas.



MindMup
MindMup is a free mind mapping tool that can be used online, with Google Drive, and on your desktop. MindMup works like most mind mapping tools in that you can create a central idea and add child and sibling nodes all over a blank canvas. MindMup nodes can contain text and links. When you're ready to save your MindMup mind map you can save it to Google Drive, save it to your desktop, or publish it online. If you publish it online, you can grab an embed code for it to post it in a blog post or webpage.

Coggle
Coggle is a collaborative mind-mapping service that is very easy to use. To create a Coggle mind map just sign-in with your Google account and click the "+" icon to start your mind map. After entering the main idea of your mind map you can add branches by clicking the "+" icons that appear next to everything you type. To re-arrange elements just click on them and drag them around your screen. Coggle is a collaborative tool. You can invite others to view and edit your mind maps.



Google Drawings and Google Jamboard
Both of these free Google tools can be used to create mind maps and flowcharts. Drawings has more features than Jamboard. The upside of Jamboard is that it's probably a more intuitive tool for new users. Demonstrations of how to use both tools are embedded below.



SpiderScribe
Spider Scribe is an online mind map creation service. Spider Scribe can be used individually or be used collaboratively. What jumps out about Spider Scribe is that users can add images, maps, calendars, text notes, and uploaded text files to their mind maps. Users can connect the elements on their mind maps or let them each stand on their own. You can embed your interactive SpiderScribe mind map into your blog or website.

Happy Thanksgiving!

It's Thanksgiving Day in the United States. Somehow over the last 50 years it became a tradition that classic rock stations play Alice's Restaurant Massacree at noon on Thanksgiving Day. And it has become a tradition for the last ten years that I post a video of Alice's Restaurant Massacree here on Free Technology for Teachers. If you search for the song on Wolfram Alpha you will find a chart of Wikipedia traffic for the search term "Alice's Restaurant." So the question/ cultural history lesson for students is "why do people search for that term around Thanksgiving?"

Happy listening! Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Three Ways to Collaboratively Create Multimedia Maps

With Padlet's new multimedia mapping tool and the recent update to the web version of Google Earth there are more ways than ever for students to collaborate on creating multimedia maps. The three collaborative multimedia mapping tools that I'm going to recommend to most people for the foreseeable future are Google's My Maps, Padlet, and the web version of Google Earth. Tutorials for all three of those services are embedded below.

How to Create a Multimedia Map on Padlet


How to Use Google's My Maps


How to Create Tours in the Web Version of Google Earth

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Transno - Quickly Turn Outlines and Notes into Mind Maps

Transno is a new service that lets you write notes and outlines that can then be turned into mind maps and flowcharts with just one click. It reminds me a lot of the old Text2MindMap service that I used to use. Transno is better because it offers a variety of mind map and flowchart styles while Text2MindMap only offered one. Transno also supports collaboration by letting you invite others to edit and add to your notes. In the following video I demonstrate how Transno works.


Thanks to Larry Ferlazzo for sharing Transno in his weekly Ed Tech Digest

Applications for Education
What I like about Transno it that it can be used by students who like to look at their notes as outlines as well as by students who prefer to see their notes in mind maps to see the connections between topics. Transno's option to quickly change the style of the mind map displayed could also prove to helpful in getting students to see connections between topics. And for students who need a little help taking notes, Transno offers some templates to follow.

Thanksgiving Bundle of Practical Ed Tech Webinars

Throughout the year on Practical Ed Tech I host live professional development webinars. The sale of those webinars helps to keep this blog running. The timing of the live webinars doesn't work for everyone so I offer replays on-demand. For the next week all of the Practical Ed Tech on-demand webinars are on sale at 20-50% off! The biggest savings is in the Thanksgiving bundle of eight webinars in one package. The details of that package are highlighted in the video below.




You can also get individual Practical Ed Tech webinars at 20% off right now. The list of webinars available includes 5 Video Projects for Almost Every Classroom, 5 Fun Formative Assessment Methods, Ten Search Strategies Students Need to Know, and Intro to AR & VR in Education.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Three Easy Ways to Create Forms That Accept File Uploads

Last week Microsoft announced that a new file collection option has been added to Microsoft Forms. That feature is the option to accept file uploads in response to questions. The file upload option is already available to some users and is rolling out to others over the next few weeks.

Microsoft Forms isn't the only tool that you can use to collect files through an online form that you create. Google Forms has had that feature for a couple of years now. Watch this video to see how it works.



JotForm is another good tool for creating online forms that accept file uploads. JotForm also lets you create forms that people can fill and sign online. Watch this video for an overview of some of JotForm's key features.


Applications for Education
Creating questions that students can respond to by uploading files can be a great way to collect examples of students' work in one convenient place. The file upload option can also be useful for collecting paperwork like permission slips from students and their parents.

Three Videos for Thanksgiving Lessons

Thanksgiving is just a few days away. If you find yourself looking for a quick, Thanksgiving-themed video lesson to use this week, take a look at the following three options.

The Chemistry of Thanksgiving
The Thanksgiving Turkey Compilation from the Reactions YouTube channel explains two concepts related to the traditional Thanksgiving turkey. First, it explains how the deep-frying process works and how it helps to make a turkey more flavorful. Second, the video explains why turkey isn't the primary culprit in making you drowsy after devouring your Thanksgiving meal.



The Origins of Thanksgiving Foods
The Surprising Origins of Thanksgiving Foods is an educational video from It's Okay to Be Smart. Through the video students can learn how the most common, traditional Thanksgiving foods originated and evolved to what they are today. This lesson includes an explanation of how archaeologists and scientists determined that turkeys were one of the first animals to be domesticated in North America. We also learn why the turkeys we find in the grocery store today are so much bigger than those of just a few generations ago.



Canadian vs. American Thanksgiving
I've shared this one a few times over the years. The following, entertaining video that explains 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 this video, but teachers of younger students may want to proceed with caution.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

How to Create a Multimedia Map on Padlet

Last week I shared the news that Padlet now includes multimedia map creation options. Like all other Padlet layouts, the map option includes the capability to collaborate. The maps that you create on Padlet can have placemarkers that include pictures, videos, links, text, and audio files. You can even record audio and video within the map. In the following video I demonstrate how to create a multimedia map on Padlet.


Applications for Education
Some of the things that students can do with Padlet's mapping tool include making maps of landmarks they've researched, creating maps of the locations of historically significant events, and developing maps based on some of their favorite stories.

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good morning from Maine where the sun is still below the horizon and the wind is making it feel colder than the thermometer's reading of 22F. Before the sun comes up and my kids wake up, I have this week's list of the most popular posts of the week to share with you.

Thanksgiving is next week. On Monday I'll have one more roundup of last-minute Thanksgiving lesson activities. Later in the week, like everyone who sells things online, I'll have a sale on my Practical Ed Tech PD webinars.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Collaboratively Create Maps on Padlet
2. Three Thanksgiving Lessons You Can Do in the Next Week
3. A New Way to Collect Feedback Through Google Sites
4. 7 Great Places to Make and Find Story Starters
5. Microsoft Forms Now Supports File Collection
6. Now You Can Reuse Google Classroom Rubrics
7. 5 Google Product Updates for Teachers to Note This Weekend

I'll come to your school in 2020! 
2020 will be my tenth year of speaking at schools and conferences. Send me an email at richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com to learn more about how we can work together.

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 16,000 are subscribed to my YouTube channel for my regular series of tutorial videos including more than 300 Google tools tutorials. 
  • The Practical Ed Tech Podcast is where I answer questions from readers, share news and notes, and occasionally talk to interesting people in education. 
  • 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, November 22, 2019

5 Google Product Updates for Teachers to Note This Weekend

As I mentioned in this week's episode of The Practical Ed Tech Podcast, Google released a handful of updates to products that teachers and students frequently use. A few of those I reported on earlier in the week and a couple I haven't mentioned except on the podcast. If you missed the podcast or the posts earlier this week, here's a rundown of the things that Google announced this week that could impact you.

Smart Compose in Google Docs
Much like Smart Compose in Gmail, Smart Compose in Google Docs will try to predict what you want to write in a sentence. If the prediction is correct you can hit the tab key to complete the sentence. To use this feature you will have to register to be a part of the beta test. To register for the beta you must be a domain administrator. Read more information here.

Different Page Numbers for Different Sections of Google Docs
This is a small, but welcome update for Google Docs users. You can now specify the page numbers that apply to a section of a Google Doc instead of being stuck with the default sequence of page numbers. More details here.

Create Tours in the Web Version of Google Earth
This is a feature that we've been waiting two years to see add to the web version of Google Earth. Now you can add your own sequence of multimedia placemarks to Google Earth. Read more or watch my demo to see how it works.



A New Way to Gather Feedback in Google Sites
Google Sites users now have a new option for getting feedback through their sites. Instead of creating then embedding a Google Form, you can use a native feedback form in the footer of Google Sites. Learn more about how that works by reading this announcement from Google.

Reuse Rubrics in Google Classroom
Earlier this fall Google introduced a beta test of a rubrics feature in Google Classroom. My feedback, as well as that of many others, was that an option to reuse rubrics was needed. Google listened and added that option this week.

The Practical Ed Tech Podcast - Episode 20 - Cool Updates and Q&A

This afternoon I recorded the twentieth episode of The Practical Ed Tech Podcast. In this podcast I shared five Google product updates teachers should note, a Microsoft Forms update that should prove to be super handy, and a new way to use Padlet. As always, the episode concludes with me answering a handful of questions from readers, listeners, and viewers like you.

You can listen to the episode here or on your favorite podcast network.



The complete show notes are available here.

Listen to all episodes of the podcast here or find them on the following podcast networks:

Thursday, November 21, 2019

A Quick & Easy Way to Combine Audio Tracks

Last week I published a video that outlines how I produce my podcast. Within that video I included some tips about using Garage Band to extract audio from a video and how to combine audio clips in Anchor.fm. This morning I had an email from a reader who wanted to know what her students could on their Chromebooks to combine audio files because Garage Band is a Mac-only product. My suggestion was to try Audio Joiner from 123APPS.

Audio Joiner is a free tool that anyone can use to combine audio clips. Audio Joiner works entirely in your web browser. No registration is required to use the free tool. To use Audio Joiner simply go to the site, upload the MP3s that you want to combine, then click the "join" button. When the clips are joined you'll have a new MP3 to download. Watch my short video to see how easy it is to use Audio Joiner.

A New Way to Collect Feedback Through Google Sites

Google Sites has always made it easy to insert Google Forms into the pages of your Google Sites websites. Embedding a Google Form into a page can be a good way to gather feedback from students, parents, and other website visitors. This week Google announced that there will soon be another way to collect feedback through Google Sites.

Soon you'll be able to add a feedback form to the footer of all pages of your Google Sites website. When you add the feedback form it will be distributed across all pages of your site. To add the feedback form you'll enable it in the site info menu in the Google Sites editor. Viewers of your site will then be able to click a small feedback icon to open a dialogue box that they can enter their messages into.

The new Google Sites feedback tool will be available only in sites created within G Suite domains and not those created with generic Gmail addresses.

If you're new to using Google Sites, take a look at my tutorial below to learn how to get started.

How to Create a Google Earth Tour - Updated Web Version

The web version of Google Earth has been available for more than two years now. Over those two years it has lagged behind the desktop version in terms of feature availability. That is starting to change now that Google has finally added the option to create tours in the web version of Google Earth. This new option lets you create a series of multimedia placemarks in projects in the web version of Google Earth. Projects are automatically saved in your Google account. Like most Google products, project collaboration is available in Google Earth. Watch my new video to learn how to make your first project in the web version of Google Earth.



The web version of Google Earth is catching up to the desktop version but it still doesn't have the option for students to narrate their tours as they can do in the desktop version of Google Earth. That's one of the things that I cover in my Google Earth & Maps - It's More Than Just Social Studies.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Three Thanksgiving Lessons You Can Do in the Next Week

Thanksgiving is just over a week away here in the U.S. Should you find yourself looking for some Thanksgiving-themed lessons to do, consider giving one of the following options a try.

Create a Thanksgiving Story Map
Where Does Your Thanksgiving Dinner Come From? is an interactive storymap that displays where eight popular Thanksgiving foods are grown and harvested in the United States. Students can create their own storymaps about Thanksgiving. An easy way to do it is to use StoryMap JS. In the following video I demonstrate how to create a storymap with StoryMap JS.



Create a Thanksgiving Traditions Flipgrid, Wakelet, or Padlet
Flipgrid makes it easy to have students record and share quick video responses to a teacher's prompts. Create a Flipgrid and ask your students to share their favorite Thanksgiving traditions. If you work quickly, you could use Flipgrid's Flipgrid Pals tool to find other classrooms to connect with to share stories of Thanksgiving traditions. Both Wakelet and Padlet will let you create a digital sticky note board to which students can add notes about their favorite Thanksgiving traditions. Their notes can include pictures, text, and videos.

Contribute to the 2019 Great Thanksgiving Listen
For the fifth year in a row StoryCorps is hosting The Great Thanksgiving Listen. This annual event is an effort to get families to talk and record their stories around the Thanksgiving table. The project was originally developed to get high school students to record the stories of their parents, grandparents, and other older family members. It has expanded over the years to be open to anyone who wants to participate. Students can their stories to a national collection or keep them private for just their families to enjoy.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Now You Can Reuse Google Classroom Rubrics

A few months ago Google started rolling-out a rubrics tool for some Google Classroom users. To get access to the rubrics tool your domain has to be enrolled in the Google Classroom Beta Program. I was fortunate to get access to the beta a couple of months ago to test Google Classroom rubrics. At that time it didn't offer the option to reuse rubrics so you had to create a new rubric for every assignment that you gave. Fortunately, that is changing as Google has announced that those who have access to Google Classroom rubrics can now reuse rubrics.


Here's my video on how to create rubrics to use in Google Classroom.

Create a Sorting Game With a Free ClassTools Template

In last week's episode of The Practical Ed Tech Podcast I answered a question about tools for creating sorting games. The Dust Bin game template from ClassTools was one of the tools that I suggested using for creating a sorting game. The template lets you create a review game in which students sort answer choices into four categories. It's a template that is easy to follow to quickly make a review game for your students to play. In the following video I demonstrate how to use the Dust Bin game template from ClassTools.

7 Great Places to Make and Find Story Starters

For many people the hardest of starting a writing assignment is choosing thinking of things to write about. This is particularly true when it comes to starting creative writing assignments. Fortunately, there are many good tools and websites that teachers can use to generate writing prompts. Likewise, there are lots of good websites that offer creative writing prompts for students. Here are some of my favorite tools for creating story starters and favorite sites for finding story starters.

500 Prompts on The Most Dangerous Writing App
The Most Dangerous Writing App is a website that provides a blank canvas to write on for a minimum time of your choosing. The catch is that if you stop writing before the time is up, you lose your work. 500 writing prompts are provided for those who need a little inspiration to get started. In the following video I demonstrate how to use The Most Dangerous Writing App.



Create Story Starters in Google Sheets
Flippity offers a few templates that can be used to create random story starters. One of those is a mix & match template that can be used to combine words or phrases from up to ten categories. Click the shuffle button in the mix & match template to generate a story starter. This video provides a demonstration of how that template works.



Flippity also offers a random name picker Google Sheets template. While it was designed to randomly select a student's name from a list, you could list story prompts instead of names in the sheet and have it display a random story prompt every time the picker is shuffled. Here's a video about how it works.



Flippity MadLibs is another Google Sheets template that can be used to create story prompts. As the name implies, it can be used to create MadLibs-style fill-in-the-blank stories. Watch the following video to see how it works.


Emojis as Writing Prompts
Emoji Prompts uses emojis as writing prompts. To generate a prompt just go to the Emoji Prompts site and click the blue "and then" button to add emojis to the screen. Students can write stories inspired by the combinations of emojis that are displayed.

Writing Sparks
Writing Sparks offers timed writing prompts to share with your elementary school students. Students can respond to the prompts by writing on paper, in a word processing document like MS Word, or by writing on the Writing Sparks website. The Writing Sparks website provides students with templates to complete as they respond to each writing prompt. In the video that is embedded below I provide a demonstration of how to use the free Writing Sparks service.



Scholastic Story Starters
Scholastic Story Starters is a great tool that students will enjoy using to create short, creative fiction stories. Scholastic Story Starters offers four story themes; fantasy, adventure, sci-fi, and scrambler. To create a story on Story Starters a students picks a theme, enter his or her name, chooses his or her grade, and spins the big wheels of prompts. The student can spin the wheels until he or she finds a prompt he or she likes. After the prompt is selected the student can write his or her story using the letter, postcard, notebook, or newspaper format provided by Scholastic Story Starters. When the story is finished it can be printed.

Microsoft Forms Now Supports File Collection

Microsoft Forms offers a good way for teachers to create online quizzes and surveys. Over the last couple of years Microsoft has steadily added more and more features to it. File collection is the latest feature to be added to Microsoft Forms.

File collection in Microsoft Forms lets you create questions that students or parents respond to by uploading a file. Microsoft Forms supports the collection of audio, video, image, PPT, Excel, PDF, and Word files. You can specify the file type that you will accept as a response. You can also specify a maximum file size that you will accept through your form. I learned about this new feature through a Tweet from Mike Tholfsen. His Tweet including the demo video that is embedded below.


File upload is a new feature and is being rolled-out to Microsoft Forms users over the next few weeks.

Applications for Education
The file upload option could be a great way to collect samples of your students' work in one place. This could be a great way to have students turn-in things like spoken responses to questions. Have them record with a simple tool like Vocaroo then upload their audio recordings to your Microsoft Form.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Collaboratively Create Maps on Padlet

Padlet has been in my list of top collaboration tools for nearly a decade. I started using it with my students back when it was still known as Wallwisher. There are many ways to use Padlet from simply providing a place to share text notes to using it as a place to collect video samples from students. Late last week Padlet added another way that teachers and students can use Padlet. That way is to collaboratively create maps.

Padlet's new mapping tool is rather easy to use. To access it simply open your Padlet account and create click "make a Padlet." You'll then be taken to a list of template options including the new map option. Select the map option and you're ready to start building your custom map.

After selecting the map template you're ready to start adding multimedia markers to your map. To add a marker you can either drag one onto the map or use the search tool to have a marker added to a specific location.

The markers that you add to your map can include all of the types of media that you can add to any other Padlet wall. That means you can add pictures, videos, text, links, audio, and even documents to the markers on your map. Padlet even has built-in tools for recording video and audio. Students could use those options to record themselves talking about the places that they're adding to their maps.

Finally, like all other Padlet walls, the maps you choose to make in Padlet can be made collaboratively. There are a handful of ways that you can invite students to collaborate on a map. Those invitation options include sharing a public or private link, using a password-protected map, invitation via email, embedding the map into other websites, and sharing via QR code.

If you have never tried Padlet, watch my short video tutorial to learn how to get started.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good morning from Nebraska where I'm visiting my good friends Kris and Beth Still. Some of you may recall that Beth and met more than a decade ago when she organized the NECC Newbie Project and chose me to be the "newbie." Since then our friendship has grown and our families have become friends too. Every fall I come out for a visit. My school's director is kind enough to let me go (thanks, Paul).

This week all of the presentations for the Practical Ed Tech Creativity Conference were chosen and the final schedule will be out soon. If you haven't registered for this free event, you can do so right here.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. How to Add Audio to Google Slides - Updated
2. More Than 30,000 Historical Maps for Student Projects
3. Fling the Teacher! - A Fun Review Game from Classtools
4. A Classic Geography Tool - Overlap Maps
5. Get Instant Feedback on Your Presentations With Presenter Coach
6. How to Create Image Overlays in Google Earth
7. How to Create a Multimedia Timeline Through Google Sheets

I'll come to your school in 2020! 
2020 will be my tenth year of speaking at schools and conferences. Send me an email at richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com to learn more about how we can work together.

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 16,000 are subscribed to my YouTube channel for my regular series of tutorial videos including more than 300 Google tools tutorials. 
  • The Practical Ed Tech Podcast is where I answer questions from readers, share news and notes, and occasionally talk to interesting people in education. 
  • 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. 

5 Wakelet Tutorial Videos

Over the last year and a half or so Wakelet has become quite popular with teachers. Part of that popularity is due to the versatility of Wakelet which continues to increase every time a new feature is added. Some of the things that teachers, myself included, are doing with Wakelet include using to for collaborative bookmarking, gathering feedback from students, and making simple digital portfolios. Over the last year, I have created a series of tutorials on how to use Wakelet. Until now I haven't put them together in one place. What follows are my five Wakelet tutorial videos.

How to Get Started Using Wakelet

Watch my video below to learn how to get started using Wakelet.



How to Add Google Drive & One Drive Folders to Wakelet Collections



How to Make an Instructional Video in Wakelet



How to Embed Wakelet Collections in Google Sites & Edublogs



How to Use Wakelet to Collaborate and Gather Feedback


Friday, November 15, 2019

How to Create a Great Presentation With Canva

Canva is a great design tool that I have been using for years to design social media graphics, posters, infographics, business cards, greeting cards, and tee shirts. Recently, I've started using Canva to create presentations too. There are a few things that I really like about using Canva to create presentations. First, Canva has great templates that are perfect for folks like me who don't have a great eye for design. Second, when I embed the presentation into a webpage or blog post the presentation automatically resizes for the space available. Third, Canva presentations can quickly be published as a nice stand-alone webpage. In the following video I demonstrate all of those features and more found in Canva's presentation creation tools.


Applications for Education
As I mentioned in the video above, Canva's presentation tool includes the option to publish your presentation as a simple stand-alone webpage. Using that option could be a great way for students to assemble a simple portfolio of their work for parents and others to see.

The Practical Ed Tech Podcast - Episode #19 - Great Google Slides Update and More

This morning I published the latest episode of The Practical Ed Tech Podcast. In this episode I shared the exciting, for some, news about Google Slides and some not-so-exciting news about how Google is using health data. The episode also features a handful of other updates from the world of educational technology that is worth considering. In the second half of the episode I answered a handful of questions from readers, listeners, and viewers like you. My favorite question, and the one I rambled about for a while, was about crafting conference proposals. Find the complete show notes here.

Listen to episode #19 of The Practical Ed Tech Podcast right here or on your favorite podcast app.



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

How to Make & Play "Fling the Teacher" Games

Earlier this week I wrote a post about a new game template from Classtools called Fling the Teacher. The game lets students slingshot or "fling" an image of their teachers after they answer fifteen multiple choice questions. In the following video I demonstrate how the game is played and how you can create your own Fling the Teacher game.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

How to Use Wakelet to Gather Feedback from Students

Wakelet is a great tool for creating collections of bookmarks, pictures, documents, videos, and more. It is free, easy to use, and offers privacy settings that you can easily control. It also offers a couple of easy ways to have students collaborate on creating collections. Because of the collaboration option I have been suggesting to some people that Wakelet can be a good way to collect feedback from your students in the forms of videos and pictures. In the following video I demonstrate how you can use Wakelet to post a prompt for your students then have them respond to it with pictures or videos.

My Three Step Method for Producing a Podcast

One of my new projects for this school year is producing The Practical Ed Tech Podcast every week. I'm now up to nineteen published episode (not twenty-one as I thought earlier this week). I've had a handful of people ask me about the process and the tools that I'm using to record and publish the podcast. It's actually a really simple process that only involves three tools that anyone can learn rather quickly. Those tools are Screencast-o-matic, Garage Band, and Anchor.fm. Those tools and my process for using them are demonstrated in the following video.


Step 1: Record a video in Screencast-o-matic. 

  • I use the desktop version of Screencast-o-matic which costs $18/year. But you could use the free online version if you stay under 15 minutes per recording. 
  • I record a video because I like to post it on my YouTube channel for those who prefer the YouTube option over using a podcast player app. 
Step 2: Import video into Garage Band. 
  • I import the video into Garage Band where I then extract the audio to create an MP3.
Step 3: Upload audio to Anchor.fm
  • I use Anchor to host my podcast because they make it super easy to have the podcast distributed to all major podcast platforms including Apple Podcasts and Google Play. 
Applications for Education
Is this the fanciest podcast on the web? No. Is it a quick and simple way to produce a podcast? Yes. If you're looking for a way to start a podcast yourself or with your students, my method could be a good way to start to see if you like doing it. Then after you make that decision you could expand your editing and production skills. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

How to Create Image Overlays in Google Earth

Google Earth is one of my favorite tools to use in history and geography lessons. Google Earth enables students to see and explore places in ways that printed maps and images never could. One of the features of Google Earth that I love to use in history lessons is the image overlay function.

In the following video I demonstrate how to create image overlays in Google Earth.


Applications for Education
Image overlays in Google Earth let students make comparisons of historical maps with current maps. Image overlays can also be used to overlay different map types on top of the default Google Earth imagery.

The Library of Congress has a great collection of nearly 40,000 historical maps that students can download and reuse for free. That's where I got the image for this blog post as well as the image overlaid in the video above.

Google Earth can be used for a lot more than just social studies lessons. In fact, I have a Practical Ed Tech on-demand webinar about that topic.

Update About the Practical Ed Tech Creativity Conference

Last month I announced the free Practical Ed Tech Creativity Conference that I'm hosting in December. The presenters have been chosen and in the next few days the final schedule of presentations will be announced. There are going to be presentations that are appropriate for teachers of students of all ages. Some of the topics to be covered include coding, drones, 3D printing, video reflections, and assistive technology.

The Practical Ed Tech Creativity Conference is a free, online event that will happen on December 10th, 11th, and 12th. You can register for the conference right here.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Submit Questions for The Practical Ed Tech Podcast

Later this week I'll publish the nineteenth episode of The Practical Ed Tech Podcast. That's beaten the law averages when it comes to podfading. Except for the episodes that have guests, every episode follows the same pattern. That pattern is an opening with news and notes from the week in ed tech, followed by some thoughts from classroom, and the episodes conclude with me answering a handful of questions from readers and listeners like you. If you have a question that you would like me to answer on the podcast (I usually answer them in direct email too), please put it in the short form that is embedded below.