Friday, September 6, 2019

Email 101 - And Some Time-saving Tips

We're all busy. And the new school year can feel exceptionally busy. That's not an excuse to ignore basic email etiquette like addressing a person by name when sending him or her a message for the first time or for the first time in a while. Here are a few videos that offer good advice and guidelines for using email in a polite manner.

Emailing Your Teacher, With Captain Communicator is one of my favorite videos about email etiquette. The short video features two students demonstrating how to write an email to a teacher. It's cute and well worth 90 seconds of your time.

The following video was made by a teacher for the purpose of sharing email etiquette tips with students. It's a bit more serious that the Captain Communicator video.

Watch Clear Email Communication by Common Craft to learn how to get a recipient's attention and how to get a response from that recipient.

I was reminded of these lessons this morning when I opened my inbox to three emails from people that I don't know asking me for help with their tech problems. As a teacher it's in my nature to help people. But I'm going to put a lot more effort into helping when I know the other person can at least take the time to type my name.

Time-saving Email Tips
In the following video I highlighted five features of Gmail that teachers should know how to use. A few of these can be big time-savers for you.

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

Ten Sites & Apps to Help Students Learn New Vocabulary Words - Updated for 2019-20

There was a time when I regularly published longer lists of helpful sites and apps. Over the last few years I got away from doing that with any regularity because I wasn't sure that anyone really benefited from them. But in the last month I've been asked a handful of questions that could have been answered by having a current list. All that is to say that I'm going to start publishing some lists with regularity. First up is the following list of good sites and apps for helping students learn new vocabulary words.

This is a game that has been around for nearly a decade. It continues to evolve with the times. The latest version of Knoword has three levels for students to play. The game is played the same way across all three levels. To play the game simply pick a level and then hit "Begin." Once you begin you have 90 seconds to correctly spell as many words as possible. The catch is that you have guess what words to spell based on the definitions that are provided. It's a bit like Jeopardy in that way. You can earn more time to keep the game going by getting streaks of five correct words in row.

Math Vocabulary Cards
Understanding the vocabulary of mathematics is often the first step that students need to take in order to be able to solve math problems. Math Vocabulary Cards can help students overcome that challenge. Math Vocabulary Cards is a free tool designed for elementary school students. The app (available for iOS and for Chrome) offers exactly what its name implies, a series of flashcards of mathematics vocabulary terms. Each card contains a term, a diagram, and a definition. By default the term is hidden and students have to guess the term based on the definition and diagram. Students can also use the cards with the definitions hidden and the terms revealed.

World's Worst Pet
This is an app that has been around for five or six years. While it hasn't had a significant update recently, it still works well on iPads running the latest version of iOS. In the app players have to help bring home Snargg, the world’s worst pet, who has run away. To get Snargg back players have to fill his food dish by learning new vocabulary words. Each of the six levels in the game contain ten dishes (each dish represents a new set of words) that can be filled. Four games are available for each dish. The games are fill-in-the-blank, synonym identification, antonym identification, and definition identification. The app contains a total of 1,000 vocabulary words. is an excellent vocabulary study service offering thousands of vocabulary practice lists and activities for students in elementary school through graduate school. In addition to lists of SAT, GRE, and other test prep words, you can find vocabulary lists that are attached to novels, historical documents, famous speeches, and current news articles. When you sign up for you will be given an assessment quiz in order to give you suggested lists with which to start your practice. After completing the assessment you can use the practice lists suggested by or choose your own lists from the huge gallery of vocabulary lists.

Flippity Flashcards
Flippity is a great service that offers templates for creating all kinds of things in Google Sheets including multimedia flashcards. You or your students can use Flippity's flashcard template to create flashcards for any words or phrases that you choose. The flashcards created through the template are displayed on their own stand-alone webpages. Watch my video below to see how it works.

Winning Words
Winning Words is a series of seven iPad apps that feature matching / “memory” style vocabulary games. There are six apps in the series. Each app is played in the same manner of flipping a card and trying to find a match for it. The six apps are synonym match, antonym match, homophone match, compound match, double letter match, verb match, and singular/plural match. Each app supports up to four players and has three levels of difficulty.

PrepFactory is a free service that offers students a great selection of free SAT and ACT preparation activities. PrepFactory focuses on helping students develop good test-taking strategies while also not boring them with dozens of continuous rote exercises. But before students even dive into the practice activities they can work through in-depth strategy review activities. To help students know what strategy to review or which practice assessment to take, PrepFactory has students complete diagnostics activities.

This is a site that was developed by a high school student (who is now a Harvard student). Vocabulist enables students to upload a document and have it extract words and definitions from it. Each word in the document is matched to a definition. If the definition rendered isn't exactly right, students can modify it within Vocabulist. Once the list of words and definitions is set students can download the list as a PDF or export the list to Quizlet where it will then be turned into a set of digital flashcards. (Students must have a Quizlet account).

New Tab Quizlet
New Tab Quizlet is a Chrome extension that will display a flashcard from your Quizlet sets whenever you open a new tab. If you have questions on your cards, you'll see the question and answer. If you have vocabulary words on your cards, you'll see the word and definition.

VocabAhead offers videos and flashcards that are designed to help students learn new vocabulary words. The website hosts animated videos that explain what words mean in context. Next to each video there is a set of corresponding flashcards.

Disclosure: PrepFactory is currently an advertiser on

Workshops I Can Run for Your Next PD Day

Over the last ten years I've had the good fortune to run workshops and give presentations at hundreds of schools and conferences. I'm frequently asked what I cover in my workshops and keynotes. Some of the outlines and slides from those presentations have appeared in blog posts in the past. But my list of workshops and keynote topics is always evolving with the times and technologies available to schools. That said, here are the ten most popular workshops that I'm currently offering to schools for your next professional development day.

  • A combination of any of the following can be done. Just fill out the form below and I'll be in touch ASAP.
  • Teaching History With Technology
  • Getting Going With G Suite
  • AR, VR, and Mixed Reality in Education 
  • DIY App Creation  
  • Teaching Search Strategies Students Need to Know 
  • Fast & Fun Formative Assessments  
  • Making & Teaching With Video 
  • To Geography and Beyond With Google Earth & Maps 
  • Blending Technology Into Outdoor Learning 
  • Keeping Track With Google Keep, Calendar, and Classroom
All of these workshops can be modified according to grade level (elementary, middle, high), the technology available to teachers and students, and to time allotted for professional development. 

If you're interested in having me run a professional development workshop at your school, please get in touch with me at richardbyrne (at) or complete the short form below. 

Throughout the year I host live professional development webinars over on Join the Practical Ed Tech newsletter to be notified when those webinars are scheduled.

Mindful Internet Use - A Chrome Extension to Make You Think About Your Habits

On Thursday morning I shared a TED Talk given by Dr. Judson Brewer. The talk was about using mindfulness practices to break a bad habit. This morning I came across a Chrome extension that employs that same concept to help people break or curtail the habit of wasting time mindlessly browsing the Internet.

Mindful Internet Use is a Chrome extension that instead of blocking you from viewing time-wasting websites it reminds of the time you're wasting viewing those websites. You can set Mindful Internet Use to display a motivational quote, a reminder, or a question at preset time intervals. For example, I set it to display the question, "are you doing something meaningful or are you wasting your time?" every fifteen minutes across all of the social media sites on which I have accounts. You can also set the extension to display quotes or questions on every site that you visit.

Applications for Education
Mindful Internet Use could be a great extension for any high school or college student who is prone to wasting time when he or she should be working on a research project or studying. I find that it's while working on a research task that students are prone to falling into the trap of saying "I'll just check this social media site for a minute" and before they know it they've wasted twenty minutes.

The Practical Ed Tech Podcast - Episode #5

Yesterday afternoon I hosted the latest broadcast of Practical Ed Tech Live. If you missed it, you can now watch the video or listen to it as a podcast.

All episodes of the Practical Ed Tech Podcast are available on this page. All episodes are also available on Spotify, Google Podcasts, Radio Public, Pocket Casts, and Breaker. Just search for my name or Practical Ed Tech to find the podcast on any of those platforms.

The show notes including the questions that I answered from readers can be found in this Google Document.