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Tuesday, December 31, 2019

How to Make an Interactive Graphic With Canva

One of the many neat things that you can do with Canva is create interactive infographics. In fact, you can use nearly any design template in Canva to create interactive graphics. In the following video I demonstrate how you can make interactive graphics in Canva and then publish those graphics on your blog.


Applications for Education
Adding some hyperlinked elements to an infographic could be a good way for students to make the sources of their information readily accessible to viewers. Using the linking tool could also be a good way for students to provide additional information about the key points that they emphasize in their graphics.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Ten Blogging Activities for Kindergarten Through High School Classrooms

Whether your students are just learning how to type or they’re aspiring journalists, there are lots of ways to use blogging as a classroom activity. Edublogs offers a nice directory of active classroom blogs. Take a look through that directory to find some good examples of how teachers are using blogs in all grade levels from Kindergarten through twelfth grade. Some of my favorite examples are outlined below.

A Blogging Activity for Almost Every Classroom
Blogs started as a way for anyone to write and share his/ her thoughts with the world. A simple activity to promote that process with students is to have them write short summaries at the end of the week. Depending upon the age and ability of your students you can require more or less depth and detail in their summaries. The important thing is that students spend time thinking about what they've learned and pondering questions. 

Blogging Activities for K-2
One of the best ways to use blogging with students of this age is to have students write a sentence or two about a picture. You could start the process by uploading a picture then having students write one comment about what they see or what they think about the picture. One of my favorite examples of this activity came from Jennifer Lefebvre who had her students write about their class mascot which was a stuffed animal. Her students wrote about what the mascot did and what they did with the mascot.

In the fall of 2018 I worked with a second grade class that invited parents to participate in a modified blogging activity. The blog was established through Seesaw. Parents used the video recording function in Seesaw to record themselves reading books. Those recordings were then posted on the classroom blog for students to watch.

Blogging Activities for 3-5
I don’t think you’ll find a better example of using blogging with students of this age group than Linda Yollis’ Classroom Blog. The blog has the tagline, “Third graders learning and sharing together.” On the blog you’ll find lots of examples of students blogging including “Family Blogging Month.” During Family Blogging Month Mrs. Yollis invites parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, and uncles to comment on the blog. The blog post announcing Family Blogging Month even includes a video from students about how to write quality blog comments.

It is at this age that many students are introduced to reading news and current events. A site like DOGO News is a good place to find age-appropriate articles for students to read. You can post links to these stories on your classroom blog then have students respond to the stories with comments of their own. Depending upon your students, you may need to include some discussion prompts with the articles that you post for your students to read.

Blogging Activities for 6-8
This is a great time to start letting students have a larger role in communicating information about their schools. Creating a student council blog is one way that you can give students that increased communication responsibility. Let them post daily or weekly announcements in text or video form. Have them write about the decisions that were made in student council and how the decisions were made.

A blogging activity that I did with eleventh grade students that could easily be modified for middle school students is blogging as historical characters. Students in my U.S. History class wrote a series of blog posts in which they attempted to use the voices of delegates to the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention. After writing their blog posts they then had to respond in character to classmates’ blog posts.

Blogging Activities for 9-12
By the time students reach high school they are capable of managing and maintaining their own blogs. In doing that students are creating portfolios of their thoughts and their work. You could have students create their own blogs that will serve as portfolios of their work done in your classroom or for the work they’ve done in all of their classes. What’s important in doing this is that students should be writing a more than just simple “I did X.” They should write about the process and what they learned through the process.

My current (2019-20) computer science students use Google Sites to write updates about the projects they’re working on. This process forces them to stop and look at what they’ve done and what they still need to do. Having them blog about their projects in progress also gives me the opportunity to see where I might need to interject into their project processes.

When I taught a current events course for eleventh and twelfth grade students I made them all editors on a group blog created with Blogger. Every week each student was responsible for posting a news article or video of interest to them along with their own commentary about their chosen article or video. All students were also responsible for commenting on their classmates’ posts.

One more example of using blogs with high school students comes from my old colleague Pam Chodosh who used blogging as a publishing outlet for students in her high school journalism class. Obviously, anyone visiting the blog could read the students’ stories. But Pam was able to give her students’ work a bigger audience by getting a local newspaper to link to some of the stories. Those links provided students’ with a far bigger audience than any printed school newspaper could have.

This was an excerpt from a book that I've been working on forever and will, hopefully, publish in 2020. 

My Ten Most Watched Ed Tech Tutorial Videos in 2019

In 2019 I created and added more than one hundred new ed tech tools tutorial videos to my YouTube channel. That brought the total for my channel to more 1,000 videos. This morning I sat down and looked at the analytics for my channel. According to the YouTube analytics these were the ten most watched tutorial videos on my channel. As you look at the list you'll notice that some of them were uploaded prior to 2019 yet were still among the most watched of the year.

How to Create a QR Code for a Google Form


How to Add a Timer to PowerPoint Slides


How to Share Videos Through Google Drive


How to Use the Citation Tool in Google Docs


How to Add Your Voice to Google Slides.
Important Note: This method is no longer necessary as Google Slides now has a native feature for using audio in Google Slides.


How to Use Google's VR Tour Creator


The Basics of Creating a Quiz in Google Forms


How to Record Audio in Google Slides


How to Find and Use the Embed Code for YouTube Videos


How to Quickly Show or Hide Your Chrome Bookmarks Bar


Bonus Item: This is how to add audio to Google Slides with the new native audio tool.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good morning from Maine where it's cold and dark at the moment. Fortunately, sunshine is in the forecast and we're going to play outside in some fresh air after a day of being stuck inside because of sleet and rain. There's nothing worse than a sleeting, raining day during school vacation week. But I probably shouldn't complain as we did have a beautiful day for Christmas. Overall, it has been a good vacation week. If you're on school vacation this week, I hope that you're having a good one too.

This week I announced that I'm offering a new section of Teaching History With Technology starting in January. I've updated the course for 2020 to include a section on making your own history apps. The course starts on January 8th. You can get more information about it here.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. My Favorite New & Updated Tools in 2019
2. Burning Vocabulary - A Chrome Extension for Expanding Your Vocabulary
3. How to Add Alt Text to Images in Google Documents
4. How to Add & Edit Google Sites Image Carousels
5. Word Game - A Simple Game Vocabulary Game
6. Boclips - Millions of Ad-free Educational Videos
7. Two Easy Ways to Share Google Forms Without Google Classroom

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, December 27, 2019

Practical Ed Tech Podcast Episode 25 - The Last Podcast of the Decade!

This afternoon I recorded my last podcast of the decade! I resisted the urge to use REM's End of the World as bumper music for the episode. Instead, I just went with the usual bumper music then jumped into some news and notes from the week followed by answers to questions from readers and listeners. I also threw in a little rant about someone getting upset with me for not answering his help request on Christmas Eve. (Note to self, don't check email on holidays).

Listen to episode 25 of the Practical Ed Tech Podcast right here or on your favorite podcasting network.



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

Teaching History With Technology 2020

The primary means through which I'm able to keep this site running is through revenue from speaking engagements and sales of my Practical Ed Tech professional development courses like Teaching History With Technology. For 2020 I've updated the course to include new things like making your own history apps, creating green screen videos, and using the latest features of Google Earth in your history lessons.

The next session of Teaching History With Technology will begin on January 8th at 4pm ET. You can save $30 on the registration when you fill out the form on this page then register by midnight (ET) on January 6th.

A Few Course Highlights
  • Search strategies history students need to know.
  • How to make your own history review apps!
  • Creating virtual reality history activities.
Dates & Times for Teaching History With Technology
  • This course is comprised of five live webinars. The webinars will be held at 4pm Eastern Time on January 8, 15, 22, 29, and February 5th. The sessions will be recorded for those who cannot attend the live broadcasts.
  • You can receive a certificate for five professional development hours for completing the course. 


Register Here!

How to Find, View, and Download Thousands of Historical Maps

There are some good historical map collections available in Google Earth. But you can also import your own historical maps into Google Earth. topoView is a good place to find historical maps that you can import into Google Earth. topoView is a USGS website that provides historical maps dating back to 1880. You can download the maps in variety of file formats including JPG and KMZ. In the following video I demonstrate how to find and download historical maps on the topoView website.



Applications for Education
One of my favorite uses of Google Earth in history classes is overlaying historical maps on current map views. Doing that can provide students with context for places they read about in history lessons. Doing that also provides a good way to see how places change over time.

You can learn more about using Google Earth in history lessons in my upcoming course, Teaching History With Technology. Register by January 6th!

Thursday, December 26, 2019

My Favorite New & Updated Tools in 2019

The end of the year is just five days away so I've put together a short list of my favorite new and updated tools in 2019. You can watch my video overview of these tools, take a look at the slides, or read more about them below. This is a highly subjective list not subject to any scientific or editorial review process and no company mentioned on this list paid to appear on it.






You can learn more about all of these tools and find tutorials on how to use them on my YouTube channel.

Anchor.fm is the platform that I'm using to produce the Practical Ed Tech Podcast. It makes it super easy to distribute my podcast to all of the major podcasting networks including Google Play and Apple Podcasts.

Slido is a new service that makes it easy to insert interactive quiz and poll questions into your Google Slides presentations.

VidReader will create a transcript of any YouTube video that contains spoken English. Transcripts are both printable and hyperlinked with timestamps.

Canva released a slew of updates to close out 2019. Included in those updates is a new video editor and a new tool for removing the background from any image. Best of all, teachers can get all of the pro features of Canva for free at canva.com/education.

Padlet has been a staple in my menu of tools throughout the decade! This year Padlet added a new multimedia mapping tool.

The web version of Google Earth received from much-needed updates this year including the addition of new geography games. The best update though was the addition of a tool for making multimedia placemarks and tours. The web version of Google Earth still lags behind the desktop version, but it's improving.

In 2019 Google Slides finally got a native audio feature! Now you can add audio to your slides without having to use any third-party add-ons or weird workarounds.

Canned responses was one of the new features that was added to all Gmail / G Suite email accounts this year. I use this feature a lot when answering questions from students and parents.

Glide Apps just might be my favorite new tool of 2019! With Glide Apps anyone who can make a Google Sheet can make a working mobile app. It has been a hit everywhere that I've demonstrated it this year. Glide Apps is one of the tools that I'm featuring in my updated Teaching History With Technology course starting in January.

ClassTools has been on my go-to list of resources throughout the last decade. In 2019 ClassTools added some new game templates and an interactive image generator template.

Educandy is a new game creation service that appeared on my radar this year. My blog post about it proved to be one of the most popular of the year.

BoClips is an educational video service that I discovered back in January. It offers millions of educational videos without all of the distractions typically associated with YouTube yet contains content licensed from some of the most popular educational channels on YouTube.

Last, but not least, Microsoft's Immersive Reader tool is making more tools and resources accessible to more students than ever before. Immersive Reader has been integrated into dozens of tools from Microsoft and third-party services. Immersive Reader provides read-aloud functions as well as other reading supports like font spacing and enlargement, line focus, and syllable highlighting.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Burning Vocabulary - A Chrome Extension for Expanding Your Vocabulary

Burning Vocabulary is a new Chrome extension that is designed to help users learn new words while browsing the web. Users of the Burning Vocabulary Chrome extension can mark and save any words on a page that are new to them. Definitions of saved words are provided by Burning Vocabulary too. Whenever a word saved in a user's Burning Vocabulary list appears on subsequent pages the saved words will be highlighted on the page. The idea is that users will learn the meanings of their saved words by seeing them in a variety of natural contexts.

Burning Vocabulary offers some additional features in a paid version. The paid version includes the option to print word lists and an option for a vocabulary review calendar.

Applications for Education
Burning Vocabulary could be a good tool for students to use to identify words that are new to them and then learn how those words are used in context. Burning Vocabulary would be a little better if it provided an option to export words to a flashcard or quiz service like Quizlet.

Now You Can Customize Anchor Podcast Pages

Anchor is the service that I am using and have been recommending to anyone who wants to quickly start a podcast. Anchor does all of the work of submitting your podcast's feed to all of the major podcast distribution networks including Google Play and Apple Podcasts. My simple method of producing a podcast with Anchor is outlined here.

One of my few complaints about Anchor was addressed last week when Anchor added the option to customize the landing page for your podcast. Previously, you were stuck with whatever color scheme Anchor gave you for your podcast's landing page. Now you can customize that color scheme. You can use any color hex code you like on your page.

Applications for Education
This doesn't change how Anchor works when it comes to producing a podcast. It's just a nice little improvement that students who use Anchor might appreciate as it gives them a bit of control over how their podcast landing pages appear to visitors.

Monday, December 23, 2019

How to Add Alt Text to Images in Google Documents

In this week's Practical Ed Tech newsletter I included a seven page handout containing tips and tutorials for improving the accessibility of documents, slides, websites, and videos. In that handout was a note about adding alt text to images in Google Documents. It's an easy thing to do that can make your documents more accessible to those who use screen readers. In the following video I demonstrate how to add alt text to the images that you include in Google Documents.

Two Easy Ways to Share Google Forms Without Google Classroom

The school that I am teaching in this year draws students from multiple school districts who come to us for technical/ vocational classes, but take their traditional academic classes in their home school districts. It is because of that arrangement that I have one class in which I can't use Google Classroom because not all of the students have the same email domain and I can't force them all to get a consumer Gmail address. Therefore, when I want to share something like a Google Form with them I will either use a QR code generated with QR Droid or share a shortened URL generated by Yellkey. In the following video I demonstrate how both of those tools work with Google Forms.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

How to Add & Edit Google Sites Image Carousels

One of the better features added to Google Sites in 2019 is the image carousel option. Image carousels let you display a large collection of images in a gallery that site visitors can scroll through. As you'll see in the video that is embedded below, your image carousel can occupy as much or as little of page as you like.


Applications for Education
Image carousels are great for displaying a set of pictures from a school event like a holiday concert or a field trip. Image carousels can also be great for students to use on their own sites to share pictures to document the process of building something for a class project. Student can caption in the images to help explain the significance of each picture. Google Sites includes an option for easily captioning the images in the carousel. That caption option is demonstrated in the video above.

Word Game - A Simple Game Vocabulary Game

Word Game is a simply named simple vocabulary and trivia game that you can play in your web browser. To play the game simply go to wordgame.betafactory.tech and you're into the game. The game consists of single questions that test your vocabulary and trivia knowledge. Only one question appears on the screen at a time. You do have to create an account if you want to save your scores and track your progress. Otherwise, it's completely free to play.

Word Game also offers a Chrome Extension that will display a new word and its definition whenever you open a new tab.

In the following video I provide a demonstration of Word Game and its corresponding Chrome extension.



Applications for Education
Word Game is the type of site that is nice to keep in a list on your classroom website or Google Classroom page under the heading of "things to do with extra time" or "things to do while waiting for classmates." 

Saturday, December 21, 2019

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

My vacation reading list.
Good morning from Maine where the ground is covered with snow and it's going to be a great vacation week for those of us who like to ski. Vacation is also a great time to do some reading. I have a few books that I'll be trying to read or re-read during vacation. What about you? I hope that you have some fun plans for winter (or summer) vacation.

If your plans include reading some blog posts or watching some tutorial videos, take a look at this week's most popular posts. For more in-depth materials take a look at the on-demand webinars I have available on Practical Ed Tech.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. How to Add a Countdown Timer to Google Slides
2. How to Disable and Remove Chrome Extensions - And Why You Should
3. My Primary Tools for Making Tutorial Videos
4. Dozens of Outline Maps You Can Print for Free
5. Need Some Classroom Blog Ideas? Try These Edublogs Resources
6. How to Create a Video With Canva
7. White Christmas Probability Map

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.

An Overview of Google Docs Accessibility Options

A couple of weeks ago I published an overview of tools to improve the accessibility of websites, videos, and slides. I thought that I should expand on that article by creating an overview of accessibility options available in Google Documents. To that end, I made the following video overview of Google Docs accessibility options.


In the video I demonstrated how to enable voice typing, how to select fonts designed to improve accessibility, and where to enable third-party accessibility tools like screen readers. I also demonstrated how to run the Grackle add-on to evaluate the accessibility of your documents as well as how to add alt-text to images in Google Docs.

Friday, December 20, 2019

The Practical Ed Tech Podcast - Episode 24 - Vacation!

I've just published the 24th episode of The Practical Ed Tech Podcast. People are still listening to it so I keep recording it. In this week's episode I shared a new augmented reality app that I've been testing, shared some updates from Canva, and shared a new word game that you can play whenever you open a new Chrome tab. As usual I also answered a handful of questions from readers and listeners. I hope that you enjoy this episode as you head into winter break (or summer break).

Get the show notes here. Listen to the new episode here or on your favorite podcast network.




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

Four Interesting Lessons About Winter Weather

When I got up to let my dogs out yesterday morning it was a brisk -10f with the windchill. When I got in my car an hour later the thermometer had reached a balmy 4f. The chill in the air prompted me to look back at some of my favorite videos for learning about winter weather. Here they are...

How windchill is calculated:
The windchill was -20F last night at my house. The following video explains how windchill is calculated. The video comes from Presh Talwalkar.



The psychology of extreme weather:
Television news reporters like to use the word "extreme" whenever we have a lot of rain or snow in a short amount of time. Is the weather really "extreme" or is that just our impression of it? The following Minute Earth video takes on the topic of how extreme weather affects our thinking about weather patterns in general. I found the video to be interesting from a psychology perspective. The video is embedded below.



How snowflakes are created:
The following episode of Bytesize Science embedded below explains how snowflakes are created.



Thundersnow!
Thundersnow is a video from UNC-TV that explains how thunder sometimes, though rarely, coincides with snowstorms. PBS Learning Media has a set of corresponding lesson materials that you can use with this video.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

How to Embed Books Into Your Blog

Google Books is one of my favorite tools for research. It's also a great place to find all kinds of free books that you can read online and or download to read offline. Google Books also provides tools for embedding free books into your blog posts and webpages. These tools are available in both the classic version of Google Books and the new version of Google Books. In the following video I demonstrate how to find free books on Google Books and how to embed those free books into your blog posts or any other place that accepts iframes.


How to Remove Backgrounds from Images With Just One Click

In the past I've shown you how to remove the background from an image using Remove.bg and Photo Scissors. Both of those tools are great, but they only do one thing and that is remove backgrounds. Canva now has a tool that lets you remove the background from an image and then use that image in any of the thousands of graphic design templates that they offer.

In Canva there is now an effects menu that you can utilize whenever you click on an image in the Canva design editor. The effects menu includes a background remover. Just click the option to remove the background and Canva does the rest for you. The background removal tool works with pictures of people, animals, and inanimate objects.

After the background has been removed from your image by Canva's automatic removal tool, you can then download the new image with a transparent background so that you can insert it into any design that like in Canva's huge gallery of design templates.

Watch my new video to learn how you can use Canva's image background removal tool and use your new images in Canva's design tool.


Applications for Education
Canva's new background removal tool could be a great one for students to use to remove the background from images of themselves and then use the new image on a background image of a famous landmark like Mount Rushmore or Buckingham Palace. I might have students create a whole series of images like that by using the presentation template in Canva. Students could write short blurbs about each landmark on each of the slides. Then when the set of slides is complete, students can use Canva's tool for quickly turning the slides into a video.

Spend July in Washington DC as a C-SPAN Fellow

Every year C-SPAN hosts an educators' conference and hosts a summer fellowship program. A friend of mine was selected for the conference a couple of years ago and he said it was an amazing experience! Both the fellowship program and the conference are held at C-SPAN's headquarters in Washington D.C.

C-SPAN's Summer Fellowship program is now open for applications. Those who are accepted into the program will spend four weeks in July in Washington D.C. working with C-SPAN's education team. Participants receive a $7,000 stipend for their participation in the program. More details about the summer fellowship program are available here. Applications are due by March 13, 2020.

C-SPAN's Summer Educators' Conference is held July 27th and 28th for middle school teachers and July 30th and 31st for high school teachers. Those who are accepted to participate will have travel and meal expenses paid for by C-SPAN. Applications for the summer conferences will be available in January. Bookmark this page and check it in January to get the application.


Wednesday, December 18, 2019

How to Create a Video With Canva

In last week's episode of The Practical Ed Tech Podcast I mentioned that Canva has planned lots of new features. One of those new features is the option to turn your graphic designs into videos. For example, you can take a set of slides design in Canva and turn them into a video with just one click. In the following video I demonstrate how that works.


Canva also recently announced that teachers can get Canva Pro for free with their school-issued email accounts. At the end of the video I explain how to get Canva Pro for free for you and your students.

Dozens of Outline Maps You Can Print for Free

Even with tools like Google Earth and Google Map there is still a need for students to learn some basics of where things are in the world lest they think that Portland, Maine and Portland, Oregon are near each other. To that end, a classic geography activity has kids labeling blank outline maps. You could make these maps yourself by using the Google Slides method that Tony Vincent demonstrated last week or you could just visit PrintableWorldMap.net to find what you need.

On Printable World Map you'll find dozens of maps that you can download as PDFs for free. Included in that collection are blank world maps, continent maps, region maps, and country maps. There are also some county maps for the United States.

To download PDFs from Printable World Map you will have to click through two screens to get the map that you want. On those screens you'll see advertising for purchasing all of the maps in one bundle rather than downloading them individually.

By the way, I chose the example of Portland, Maine versus Portland, Oregon because a friend who is a commercial pilot says that you'd be surprised how many people turn up in Portland, Maine thinking they were going to Portland, Oregon.  

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

How to Disable and Remove Chrome Extensions - And Why You Should

I try a ton of Chrome extensions every year. In fact, I try so many that I sometimes look in my Chrome settings and wonder, "why do I still have that extension?" That's not a good habit because I really should be uninstalling the ones that I don't need. You should do the same.

The reason that we should uninstall the Chrome extensions that we don't need is that doing so removes the opportunity for a long forgotten extension to either slow the browser or have a security vulnerability or both.

In the following video I demonstrate how to disable and remove Chrome extensions.

The History of Comic Art

The Library of Congress currently has an exhibit on display called Comic Art - 120 Years of Panels and Pages. The exhibit is both a physical exhibit and an online exhibit.

Comic Art - 120 Years of Panels and Pages has five sections. Those sections are Early Years, Mid-Twentieth Century, Late Twentieth Century, Web Comics, and Comic Books and Beyond! Each section has a small collection of comics on display. Each item on display is accompanied by short explanations of what is displayed and why it is noteworthy.

Applications for Education
What I find interesting about this exhibit is the evolution of comics from the late 19th Century through the early 21st Century. The evolution of comics could make for an interesting investigation into changes in the art form as well as changes in audience perception of comics.

Perhaps it's the history teacher in me, but I actually enjoyed the early comics more than the modern examples. Speaking of history, last fall the National Archives hosted a webinar about teaching with political cartoons. That webinar recording is available here.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Need Some Classroom Blog Ideas? Try These Edublogs Resources

For years Edublogs has hosted a list of active classroom blogs. The purpose of the list to offer a place for teachers to find examples of classroom blogs and potentially find blogging buddies for their students. Anyone who has an active classroom blog can add their blog to the list regardless of whether or not the blog is on the Edublogs platform. Edublogs recently published the updated version of the list so take a look and see if anything inspires you to blog with your students.

Edublogs also offers a list of fifty blog post ideas for students. Saying that the list has 50 prompts is a bit misleading, but misleading in a good way. Buried within the list of prompts are links to additional sources of writing prompts including this New York Times list of more than 1,000 writing prompts. Between the 50 prompts that Edublogs provides and the additional links, you will have plenty of things for your students to blog about for the rest of the year. Click here to view Edublogs' 50 Blog Post Ideas for Students. You can even download the list as a PDF right here.

And here's my list of five things that you can do to enhance your blog.

White Christmas Probability Map

My daughters are excited about Christmas being just nine days away. They were also a little sad that all of the snow melted over the weekend. Fortunately, the odds are in our favor that we will have snow on the ground again before Christmas. I know that from experience and from consulting NOAA's Probability of a White Christmas map.

NOAA's Probability of a White Christmas map is one of many maps that NOAA offers in their public ERSI map gallery. The White Christmas map depicts the probability of snow being on the ground in the continental United States on Christmas day. The map is covered in small tiles that you can click on to see what the chances are of having a white Christmas in any location in the continental U.S. The map is based on historical snowfall data for each place depicted on the map.

Applications for Education
This map is just one of dozens that you can find in NOAA's public map gallery. Many of the maps that are based on historical data could be good to reference as studies in recognizing patterns.

H/T to Maps Mania.



How to Find and Install Google Slides Add-ons

Google Slides on its own has some great features in it. For some examples see Tony Vincent's recent webinar on how to use the drawing tools that are built into Google Slides. You can add even more features to Google Slides when you install Google Slides add-ons. Five of my favorite add-ons are featured here. But before you can use any add-ons you have to know how to install them and manage them once they are installed. Fortunately, the process of finding add-ons and adding them to your Google Slides account is quick and easy.

In the following video I demonstrate how to find, install, and manage Google Slides add-ons.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

How to Add a Countdown Timer to Google Slides

In the latest episode of The Practical Ed Tech Podcast I shared an idea for adding a countdown timer to Google Slides. To my knowledge there isn't an add-on that has a countdown timer. My solution is to insert into a slide a video that displays a countdown timer. In the following video I demonstrate how to add a countdown timer to Google Slides.

My Primary Tools for Making Tutorial Videos

I'm often asked what I use for making the tutorial videos that I publish on my YouTube channel. With the exception of a handful that I published a few years ago, all of the tutorial videos on my YouTube channel are recorded in the same way using two primary tools. Those tools are Screencast-o-matic and a Blue Snowball microphone (I like them so much that I own two).

Screencast-o-matic is available in a free version and in a paid version. The free version is more than adequate for most classroom settings as long as you're willing to accept a Screencast-o-matic watermark on your videos. The paid version ($18/year) grants you access to Screencast-o-matic's desktop tool which is what I use. The desktop version lets you record and edit on your desktop instead of in your web browser. The desktop version also lets you edit videos that you recorded with other tools. And the desktop version has many other features including green screen editing, video annotation, and lighting adjustments. But you really don't need those features for the type of tutorial videos that I make. Therefore, give the free version a try if you need a quick and easy way to create a tutorial video.

I've been using Blue Snowball microphones since two of my early podcast hero, Jeff and Dan at Wicked Decent Learning, recommended them. Blue Snowball microphones represent an inexpensive way to drastically improve the quality of audio that you record. As mentioned above, I own two of these microphones. One of which is the one that goes on the road with me and has taken more drops than I care to admit. (Travel tip, take the microphone out of your bag before going through a TSA scanner or you'll spend lots of time with a TSA agent swabbing it down for traces of explosives).


Saturday, December 14, 2019

The Practical Ed Tech Podcast - Episode 23 - Not Pink Eye!

In this episode of the Practical Ed Tech Podcast I shared some highlights from the Creativity Conference, shared some neat new ed tech tools, and answered a handful of questions from viewers, readers, and listeners. Oh, and I don't have pink eye, I just have an irritation from scratching my eyelid.

Listen to the episode here or on your favorite podcast network. The complete show notes can be found here.



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

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Found on the vending machine
in the teachers' room at my school.
Good morning from rainy Maine. Rain in December in Maine is always a bummer because it washes away the know which means we can't ski, sled, or make a snowman. But we'll find something else fun to do today. I hope that you get to do something fun this weekend too.

This week I hosted the Practical Ed Tech Creativity Conference. If you missed one of the presentations, you can watch it on my YouTube channel. All of the presentations are available there.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Tools to Improve the Accessibility of Websites, Videos, and Slides
2. Add Interactive Annotations to Images With a New Classtools Tool
3. Lesson Plan, Meal Plan, and Fitness Plan Templates
4. Easy Ways to Make Your Own Apps - Webinar Recording
5. Coding + Drones = 100% Engagement - Webinar Recording
6. How to Create Interactive Images With Classtools
7. ScriptSlide - A Google Slides Add-on for Pacing Presentations

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, December 13, 2019

Why Should You Read Lord of the Flies - A New TED-Ed Lesson

Why You Should Read Lord of the Flies is the latest video added to TED-Ed's "why should you read..." series. There are now more than thirty videos in that series. Why You Should Read Lord of the Flies follows the same pattern as the other videos in the series. The video covers the major plot points of the story and provides a bit of background on the author and the writing of the story. Those who are looking for discussion questions to use with the video will find them here.


Applications for Education
Why Should You Read Lord of the Flies doesn't reveal anything new or particularly insightful about the story or William Golding. That said, if you're having students read the book, this video provides a nice little introduction to the story.

Using Video as a Reflective, Collaborative, and Data Collecting Tool

The last presentation of the Practical Ed Tech Creativity Conference was given by Brian Heyward who shared Using Video as a Reflective, Collaborative, and Data Collecting Tool. In his presentation Brian shared how video can be used to reflect on process/progress, collect data for informal/formal research, and to collaborate synchronously or asynchronously on the same tasks. Brian included some great tips for those wondering about how to manage and assess students' videos. The video of his presentation is now available to view here.

Using Makey Makey to Creative Assistive Technology - Webinar Recording

Yesterday afternoon Art Spencer gave an engaging presentation about some interesting Makey Makey projects that he's done with elementary school and middle school students. In the presentation Art does a great job of explaining what Makey Makey is and how his students have used it to create assistive technology devices for other students who have special needs. Watch Art's presentation here.



On a related note, Amazon has Makey Makey Invention Kits on sale right now at 29% off the regular price.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Taking Shape: Drawing Your Own Icons - Webinar Recording

This afternoon Tony Vincent gave a great presentation as part of the Practical Ed Tech Creativity Conference. His presentation was all about creating your own icons. In his presentation Tony explained why teachers might want to make their own icons, the benefits of making their own icons, and how the process fits into classrooms. Of course, he also showed us how we can create our own icons by using the tools that are available in Google Slides. If you missed his presentation, it's now available to view here.

Here's how Tony described his presentation:
Icons are an extremely effective form of communication. They are simple pictures that are immediately recognizable and universally understood. Icons tend to be simple drawings and are typically one color, making them easy to design if you break them down into shapes. Sure, there are millions of icons you can download, but there are advantages to making them yourself. When you draw your own, you can fill it with any color. And, you can customize your icon—you can change it to exactly meet your needs. Plus, it feels good to be creative with your visuals!

ScriptSlide - A Google Slides Add-on for Pacing Presentations

ScriptSlide is an interesting Google Slides add-on that takes the speaker notes in your Google Slides and displays them in a teleprompter-like screen that you can control with your phone. That might sound complicated, but it's not.

Here's how ScriptSlide works. First, write your presentation with speaker notes as you normally would. Second, enable the ScriptSlide add-on and click the "open ScriptSlide" button that appears in the sidebar. Third, scan the QR code provided by ScriptSlide to control the flow of the script as it appears on your computer's screen. Here's a little video that demonstrates how those three parts work together.


Applications for Education
At first I thought of ScriptSlide as being a tool for typical teleprompter settings like making a video in which you're speaking into a camera. Then I tried the remote control aspect and realized that it could be great for pacing the delivery of notes that you display in your classroom. Just tap the "next" button on your phone when using ScriptSlide to advance the notes that you're displaying in class.