Monday, July 13, 2020

Anonymous Users Blocked from Google Meet in G Suite EDU

A couple of weeks ago Google announced that seven new features would be added to Google Meet over the coming months. According to an announcement on the G Suite Updates Blog the first of those started to roll out today.

Starting today anonymous users will automatically be prevented from joining or asking to join Google Meet meetings hosted within a G Suite for Education domain. This will be the default setting for G Suite for Edu and can only be changed by a G Suite for Edu domain administrator who requests an exception from Google.

This is definitely a positive step for Google Meet. This is the feature that I've been looking forward to the most along with the ability to remotely mute all participants at once.

Canva Introduces Real-time Collaboration Options

This year Canva has become my preferred tool for designing audio slideshow presentations. Now, thanks to a tip from Larry Ferlazzo, it's now one of my favorite tools for collaborative brainstorming sessions.

Canva recently started rolling-out real-time collaboration options similar to what you might experience with Google Docs or Drawings. Your collaborators can work on the same Canva design as you and you'll see their names displayed on the design element they're working on. For example, in my screenshot below you'll see the name of my collaborator, Mason appears on the yellow sticky note that he's added to the brainstorming template we're working on.

Applications for Education
Canva has a large collection of brainstorming and mind-mapping templates that students can use to collaboratively plan research papers, develop a presentation, or generate fiction story starters. There are also great templates for KWL charts and story analysis.

Canva has an education version that is completely free for teachers and students. Head to the Canva for Education page to learn more and sign up.

Updated and Easier Way to Schedule Events in Google Calendar

This morning Google announced a small but helpful change to Google Calendar. The web browser version of Google Calendar will now present you with more options when you initially schedule an event on your calendar. Over next couple of weeks you'll see more options appear when you click on your calendar to schedule an event.

Google Calendar will now let you add attachments, change guest access, and edit calendar notifications without having to click the "more options" menu in the scheduling pop-up.

This update should make it faster and easier to set meeting schedules in Google Calendar. I particularly like that I'll be able to invite guests and set a Google Meet link on the same screen that I set reminder notifications.

The new user interface for the Google Calendar scheduling pop-up will be rolling out over the next couple of weeks and should be available to all users by the end of the month.

On a related note, here's how to create appointment slots in Google Calendar.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

How to Collaborate on Word Documents Online

Earlier this week I received an email from a reader who wanted to know how her students could see and comment on Google Docs if they only had Microsoft 365 accounts. While that could be done with a couple of clever workarounds, the simpler solution is to just use Word online.

Just like with Google Docs, with Word online you can share documents, comment on documents, and make editing suggestions. And a bonus feature is being able to set passwords and expiration dates on shared Word documents. In the following short video I demonstrate how to collaborate on Word documents online.


On a related note, I'm working on developing a playlist of new Microsoft product tutorials to complement the extensive playlist of more than 400 Google product tutorials on my YouTube channel.

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good morning from Maine where it is pouring rain. It was a busy week here as I hosted the second session of the Practical Ed Tech Virtual Summer Camp. Today, I'm going to relax a bit by splashing in puddles and doing some arts and crafts with my daughters. I hope that you're also planning to something fun and relaxing this weekend.

Before I jump to the list of this week's most popular posts I want to remind you that in addition to the daily email newsletter from Free Technology for Teachers, I also offer a weekly Practical Ed Tech newsletter. That newsletter comes out on Sunday evening. It features my favorite tip of the week and the list of the week's most popular posts. Sign up here.

These were the most popular posts of the week:
1. How to Use Kahoot With Google Classroom
2. How to Create Your Own Online Board Game
3. Three Alternatives to Smore
4. Three New Flippity Templates to Try
5. 7 New Google Meet Features for Teachers
6. Three Interesting Resources for Students to Learn About Career Fields
7. How to Selectively Copy Google Slides

Two PD Opportunities in July
The Practical Ed Tech Virtual Summer Camp will be held one more time this summer. Register here for the session starting on July 20th.

Starting on Monday I'll be hosting Teaching History With Technology. This is a five part course designed to help you develop new ways to create engaging history lessons and projects. Register now and use the discount code THWT2020.

This summer I'm working with a handful of schools and organizations to develop online professional development for teachers. If you'd like to work with me, please send me a note 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 it includes my tip of the week and a summary of the week's most popular posts from FreeTech4Teachers.com.
  • My YouTube Channel - more than 25,000 people subscribe to my YouTube channel for my regular series of tutorial videos including more than 350 Google tools tutorials.  
  • Facebook - The FreeTech4Teachers.com Facebook page has more than 450,000 followers. 
  • Twitter - I've been Tweeting away for the last thirteen years at twitter.com/rmbyrne
  • Instagram - this is mostly pictures of my kids, my dogs, my bikes, my skis, and fly fishing.

Friday, July 10, 2020

How to Annotate PDFs in OneNote

This past spring I published a video about using PDFs in Google Classroom and a video about converting PDFs into Google Docs. One of the things that I'm working on before the next school year starts is to produce some more videos about using Microsoft products. To that end, this morning I made the following short video on how to annotate PDFs by using the online version of Microsoft OneNote. The video also covers how to share the notebook in which you annotated your PDF.


Applications for Education
Annotating PDFs in OneNote could be a good way to have students highlight parts of speech in a document that they share with you. It could also be a good way to draw attention to a particular passage in a text or make suggestions or improvement.

How to Embed Padlet Walls Into Google Sites

This morning I responded to a Tweet from a follower who was having a little trouble embedding Padlet walls into her Google Site. To help her out I recorded a short screencast video. This is an update to a video that I made on the same topic a few years ago.

The key thing to remember when embedding Padlet walls into Google Sites or any other website is that your Padlet wall can't be private if you want it to properly display when embedded.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

A Dozen Lessons About Inventions That "Changed the World"

It was a hot and humid afternoon here in Maine. In fact, the weather app on my phone said that it was "oppressively humid." I'd say that was right. The only good thing about the heat and humidity is that it provides the perfect reason to enjoy a popsicle with my toddlers. Having that popsicle reminded of a TED-Ed lesson that I came across a few years ago.

How the Popsicle Was Invented is one of twelve lessons in a TED-Ed series titled Moments of Vision. The videos in the series teach short lessons about inventions that have "changed the world" in serious and not-so-serious ways. For example, the invention of the stethoscope did change health care. The invention of the Popsicle, however, just makes summer days a little more enjoyable.


Ask your students to look around their homes or around your school for everyday items that many of us use. Then send them off to research and present the origins of those everyday items. An item that come to mind as I look at my desk is the tab on soda pop cans.

How to Selectively Copy Google Slides

I'm fortunate to get lots of emails from readers who ask all kinds of questions. One of the questions that I recently answered came from a reader who wanted to know if there was an easy way to copy chunks of sections of a long Google Slides presentation into a new one without having to manually copy and paste. Fortunately, my answer was "yes, you can do that." And like a lot of the questions that I answer, a screencast video offers a better explanation than what I can write. That's why I made the following short video to demonstrate how to selectively copy slides from one Google Slides presentation to another.


By the way, you can find more than 300 other G Suite tutorials on my YouTube channel.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Three Interesting Resources for Students to Learn About Career Fields

One of the benefits of working and living in a small community is that I get to see what many of my former students do after high school and college. Some of my former students have joined the teaching profession themselves. Some bounce around from job-to-job or career path until they find what they really like. The point being that often we don't understand what a particular profession is really like unless we hear from people who are in it themselves. That's why resources like iCould, Next Vista, and What People Don't Get About My Job are excellent to share and discuss with students.

iCould is a UK-based website that features videos of people sharing their career stories. The stories cover people in all types of careers and at all phases of their working careers. One of the the main purposes of iCould is to expose viewers to what different types of jobs really entail. Visitors to iCould can search for stories by job type, life theme, or keyword tags. The teaching resources section of iCould includes some classroom activities that your students can complete to help them learn more about a particular career path, discover their own interests, and learn about what makes people successful in their careers.

What People Don't Get About My Job is an older piece from The Atlantic, but is still worth sharing and discussing with your students. The article is comprised of 26 contributions from readers explaining what most people don't understand about their jobs. There is one job for every letter of the alphabet. In the article you will find jobs like Kindergarten Teacher, IRS employee, zookeeper, and even unemployed.

Next Vista for Learning offers more than one hundred short videos of people talking about their careers. Some of the careers in the video library include librarian, nurse, engineer, musician, and chemist.

Three New Flippity Templates to Try


Flippity is one of my go-to recommendations for anyone looking to make interesting things with Google Sheets. A couple of days ago I published a video about Flippity's new board game template. That's not the only new template recently added to Flippity's catalog of offerings. The other new templates on Flippity are an updated progress tracker, a self assessment quiz template, and a renamed spelling game template. 

Flippity's updated progress tracker template is simply called Leader Board. It replaces the old progress tracker template that Flippity offered. The Leader Board displays names, avatars, and points. You input the progress or scores into your Google Sheet and Flippity will generate the leader board on a stand-alone webpage that you can share.

The self assessment quiz template from Flippity lets you create an online game in which players answer multiple choice questions and are then told something about themselves based on those answers. The example that Flippity provides is a quiz that tells you what kind of Lord of the Rings character you are.

The third new template on Flippity isn't really new. It's actually a rename and slight redesign of their old hangman template. The hangman template is gone and is replaced by a melting snowman template. Players guess the letters in a mystery word. If they answer incorrectly, the snowman melts a little bit. The goal is to spell the mystery word before the snowman completely melts. Try it here.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Three Alternatives to Smore

Over the weekend I answered an email from a reader who was looking for an alternative to using Smore to create online posters and newsletters to share with teachers and parents. Smore is great for some people, but it can get a little too pricey for some people. Here are a few alternatives to using Smore to create online posters and newsletters.

ConvertKit is the service that I use for my Practical Ed Tech Newsletter. ConvertKit offers some nice templates for formatting your emails. I don't use those templates because I prefer to send plain text email, but it's nice to know that I could use those templates. The real reason that I use Convert Kit is because I can easily create different segments within my mailing list to send personalized emails to different groups within my mailing list. That function could be useful to schools who want to send different personalized emails to parents based on the grade that their children are in. ConvertKit has a free plan that allows you to have up to 1,000 people on your mailing list, use all of the templates, and send as many emails as you like.

Canva doesn't offer a mailing list component, but it does offer lots of templates for making online posters and simple webpages to announce events. Once you've published your poster or page, you can email the link to it or post it on your LMS. Here's a video about how to use Canva to create and publish a multimedia poster.


Adobe Spark, like Canva, offers an easy way to design and publish simple webpages to use for announcements and updates to share with your school community. One of the things that I like about Adobe Spark is that you can share your designs directly into Google Classroom. Here's my short video on how to use Adobe Spark to create simple webpages.

How to Create Your Own Online Board Game

Those of you who have followed my blog for a while probably know that Flippity is one of my go-to recommendations for anyone looking to make games, flashcards, and timelines with Google Sheets. Recently, Flippity introduced a new template for making your own online board game through Google Sheets.

With Flippity's new board game template you can create a game that includes up to eight players, has up to three dice to roll, and interactive game squares. You game can also include videos, pictures, Google Drawings, and graphs. And your students can play your game without an email address or having to create any kind of online account. Take a look at my short video below to see how you can create and play your own online board game.


Key points from the video:

  • You can customize the player markers and use pictures instead of the default markers. 
  • You can include pictures in each game square. 
  • You can use up to three dice in your game. 
  • You can have each square on the board give a different direction or prompt. 
  • Your deck of cards can include videos, pictures, links, and graphs. 
Applications for Education
Flippity's new board game template could be great for developing a fun review activity for your students to play in your online or in-person classroom. If you were to have students use it remotely, I might have one student screenshare it via Google Meet or Zoom and then move the pieces for each player. Since you can link to just about anything in the game cards, I'd put links to digital flashcards where students have to answer a question correctly in order to advance on the game board. 

Saturday, July 4, 2020

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good morning from Maine where it is a cool and overcast start to the Fourth of July. It has rained almost all week and that's okay because we needed the rain. I also didn't mind the rain because I was inside all week working on a big project. Now that the weekend is here, I plan to relax a bit and I hope that you do too.

Next week I'm hosting the second session of the Practical Ed Tech Virtual Summer Camp. If you'd like to join us, there is still time to register.

These were the most popular posts of the week:
1. 7 New Google Meet Features for Teachers
2. 5 Google Classroom Features You Might Have Overlooked or Forgotten
3. How to Work With PDFs in Google Classroom
4. How to Turn PowerPoint and Google Slides Into Narrated Videos
5. How to Record a Screencast With Flipgrid
6. An Easy Way to Overlay Historical Maps on Google Earth
7. Use Whiteboards in Google Meet Without Screensharing

Two PD Opportunities in July
The Practical Ed Tech Virtual Summer Camp will be held two more times this summer. Register here for the July session of your choice.

In two weeks I'll be hosting Teaching History With Technology. This is a five part course designed to help you develop new ways to create engaging history lessons and projects. Register now and use the discount code THWT2020.

This summer I'm working with a handful of schools and organizations to develop online professional development for teachers. If you'd like to work with me, please send me a note 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 it includes my tip of the week and a summary of the week's most popular posts from FreeTech4Teachers.com.
  • My YouTube Channel - more than 25,000 people subscribe to my YouTube channel for my regular series of tutorial videos including more than 350 Google tools tutorials.  
  • Facebook - The FreeTech4Teachers.com Facebook page has more than 450,000 followers. 
  • Twitter - I've been Tweeting away for the last thirteen years at twitter.com/rmbyrne
  • Instagram - this is mostly pictures of my kids, my dogs, my bikes, my skis, and fly fishing.

Friday, July 3, 2020

How to Use Kahoot With Google Classroom

We're halfway through 2020. This week I'm taking some time off from the blog to work on some other projects. The rest of this week I'm going to re-run some of the most popular posts and videos of the year so far.

May is a time when many of us are looking for fun ways to conduct end-of-year review sessions with our students. That's why in May of this year I published a video about how to use Kahoot in Google Classroom. Playing Kahoot quiz games is one of the most popular means of doing that. Kahoot games are fun to play in a classroom and you can also use them for remote learning activities by using the "challenge" mode.

The challenge mode in Kahoot enables you to assign games to your students to play at home on their schedule. There are many ways that you can distribute the challenges to your students. If you're a Google Classroom user, you can distribute your challenges through your Classroom just like you would any other announcement or assignment. Your students then just click on the link to your Kahoot game to start playing it.

In the following video I demonstrate how to distribute Kahoot games through Google Classroom and how students can play those games right from the Announcements stream in Google Classroom.

How to Encourage the Use of Complete Sentences in Google Forms Responses

We're halfway through 2020. This week I'm taking some time off from the blog to work on some other projects. The rest of this week I'm going to re-run some of the most popular posts and videos of the year so far.

In early May I held an informal webinar for a small group of people who were interested in learning some G Suite tips and tricks. Response validation in Google Forms was one of the things that I demonstrated toward the end of that webinar. Response validation in Google Forms lets you specify a minimum number of characters that students have to enter in order for their responses to be accepted by your Google Form.

By using response validation in Google Forms you can encourage students to keep writing if they don't write a complete sentence in response to one or more of your questions. Response validation can't enforce a particular sentence structure but it can enforce a minimum sentence length.

In the following video I demonstrate how you can use response validation in Google Forms to encourage students to write complete sentences.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Easy Ways to Improve Your Videos

We're halfway through 2020. This week I'm taking some time off from the blog to work on some other projects. The rest of this week I'm going to re-run some of the most popular posts and videos of the year so far. 

Many of us are making more videos than ever before as a way to deliver instruction and or to simply keep our students updated about school. With time and practice you might become adept at using the editing functions in your favorite video software. You can also improve your videos without having to learn a bunch of editing tricks. Here are some simple things that we can do to improve our videos without having to learn a whole bunch of editing techniques.

1. Look at the camera, not the screen. 
It's natural to look at the screen on your phone or laptop while recording. When you do that, you're not looking at the camera and not making eye contact with your virtual audience. Practice looking at the camera.

2. Elevate your camera.
Put your camera at eye level or slightly higher. Doing that accomplishes a few things. First, people aren't looking up your nose. Second, it makes you look a little thinner and can improve your lighting. Third, I've found that elevating the camera makes it easier for me to remember to look at my camera instead of the screen.

3. Adjust Your Lighting
If you can, try to use relatively bright and even lighting around yourself. Doing this can eliminate shadows being cast on your face and can improve the overall visual clarity of your video. A ring light can be helpful in casting an even light but even just adjusting the position of a lamp on your desk can improve your lighting.

4. Pay attention to your background. 
Try to make your background interesting but not distracting. A large bookcase can make a nice background that is interesting but not distracting. An outdoor setting also makes a nice background, outdoor backgrounds can make lighting tricky. Try to record at a time and place that doesn't cast a lot of shadows. If you want to attempt making a green screen video, here's how you can do it with Zoom.

5. Adjust your sound. 
If possible, try to use an external microphone instead of the microphone built into your laptop or mobile phone. even a simple 3.5mm microphone can reduce background and echo sounds. Often the wired earbuds that come with some smartphones include a microphone that can be used for recording. If an external microphone isn't an option for you, just turning off audio playback (muting your speakers) while recording can improve the quality of your audio recording.

How to Create a Timed Quiz in Google Classroom

We're halfway through 2020. This week I'm taking some time off from the blog to work on some other projects. The rest of this week I'm going to re-run some of the most popular posts and videos of the year so far. 

As the spring went on and it became clear that school was going to be entirely online for an extended, indefinite period of time I started to get a lot of questions about how to deliver timed assessments online. In particular, a lot of people wanted to know if it was possible to do that through Google Classroom and Google Forms. In this video I demonstrate how to create and distribute a timed quiz in Google Classroom.




Step-by-step directions:
1. Create a new quiz assignment in Classwork in Google Classroom.
2. Create your quiz in the Google Form that was created by step 1 above.
3. Install the FormLimiter add-on for Google Forms.
4. Enable a date and time limit in the FormLimiter add-on.
5. Use the scheduling tool in Google Classroom to make your quiz live at a specific time.

5 Things You Should Never Do In Virtual Staff Meetings

We're halfway through 2020. This week I'm taking some time off from the blog to work on some other projects. The rest of this week I'm going to re-run some of the most popular posts and videos of the year so far.

This was a post that I wrote for fun and to vent a little after having my umpteenth Zoom meeting of the week. I didn't think it would be as popular as it became.

At this point we've all had our fill of virtual staff meetings. Hopefully, all of yours are going as well as possible. But even the best virtual staff meetings still have "that one person" who doesn't quite understand the norms of a virtual staff meeting. That's what inspired my list of 5 Things You Should Never Do In a Virtual Staff Meeting.

(This is meant to be fun. Please don't take it too seriously).

5 Things You Should Never Do In a Virtual Staff Meeting by richardbyrne

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

How to Turn PowerPoint and Google Slides Into Narrated Videos

We're halfway through 2020. This week I'm taking some time off from the blog to work on some other projects. The rest of this week I'm going to re-run some of the most popular posts and videos of the year so far. 

Video Puppet is a new service that launched in late March. It turns your PowerPoint slides into narrated videos. If you're a Google Slides user you can download your slides as a PowerPoint file to then use in Video Puppet.

You can use Video Puppet for free without registering on the site. The limitation on the free plan is that your slideshow can have a maximum of twenty slides. That should be more than adequate for most classroom applications. Anything longer than that and students will probably tune out anyway. You're probably better off making two videos that have ten slides than one video that has twenty slides.

In the following video I demonstrate how you can use Video Puppet to quickly create a video from your PowerPoint slides.

How to Use Zoom and Adobe Spark to Make Green Screen Videos

We're halfway through 2020. This week I'm taking some time off from the blog to work on some other projects. The rest of this week I'm going to re-run some of the most popular posts and videos of the year so far.

This year more of us used Zoom than ever before. As is the case with many tools, the more that I used Zoom and answered questions about Zoom, the more I developed new ways to use it. One of those ways was to take advantage of the custom backgrounds option to make green screen videos. In the following video I demonstrate how you can use Zoom and Adobe Spark together to create a green screen video.

Zoom's desktop client has an option to replace your background with any picture that you want to upload to your Zoom account. Host a Zoom meeting without any participants in it, replace the background, and start talking. When you end the meeting you'll have an MP4 that you can import in Adobe Spark for further editing and or combine with other video clips.

Watch my video embedded below to see how you can create a green screen video with Zoom and Adobe Spark.



The Basics of Creating a Quiz in Google Forms

We're halfway through 2020. This week I'm taking some time off from the blog to work on some other projects. The rest of this week I'm going to re-run some of the most popular posts and videos of the year so far. 

The Basics of Creating a Quiz in Google Forms has been the most watched video on my YouTube channel in 2020 so far. The video is almost two years old, but it only became popular when teachers found themselves quickly transitioning to online instruction. That said, as you plan for the fall, please remember that online instruction is about much more than just giving quizzes to see if kids have been reading or watching your assignments.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

How to Record a Screencast With Flipgrid

We're halfway through 2020. This week I'm taking some time off from the blog to work on some other projects. The rest of this week I'm going to re-run some of the most popular posts and videos of the year so far. 

Flipgrid continues to evolve with new features seemingly appearing every quarter. Screencast recording was one of the new features added to Flipgrid this spring. This feature can pair nicely with the whiteboard feature that Flipgrid added in the fall of 2019. Watch my short video below to see how you can record a screencast with Flipgrid.

10 Fun & Challenging Geography Games for Students of All Ages

We're halfway through 2020. This week I'm taking some time off from the blog to work on some other projects. The rest of this week I'm going to re-run some of the most popular posts and videos of the year so far. 

Making lists like this isn't my favorite thing to do nor is it my favorite thing to post. However, lists like this always prove to be popular so I write them. Here's a list of geography games that I published earlier this year.

Ten Fun and Challenging Geography Games
WikiWhere is a neat map-based trivia game. The goal of the game is to identify cities based on their descriptions. The descriptions come from Wikipedia entries. You can get up to three clues before you have to answer by clicking on the map to identify the city that you think is described by the excerpts. When you click on the map you'll be shown the correct answer and how far away you were from the correct answer.

The browser-based version of Google Earth has a bunch of geography games for students to play including a few versions of Where In the World is Carmen San Diego? If you go into the Voyager mode in Google Earth you will find other games and quizzes to try. The quizzes are neat because when you answer a question correctly you automatically zoom to the Street View imagery of the location. Check it out in my video below.


GameOn World is a multiplayer geography game developed by a high school teacher and his student in Portland, Maine. The game is similar in structure to that of Kahoot. In GameOn World the teacher selects a game category (cities, places, and timeline are three of the nine categories) and starts the game. The students join the game by going to GameOn.World and entering a game pin. In the location and timeline games, students answer the questions by moving a placemark on a map or selecting a date on a timeline. In some of the other games students answer by choosing a number on a sliding scale.


GeoGuessr shows you a Google Street View image and a clue to try to guess where in the world the imagery was captured. Playing GeoGuessr is a fun way to get students to look at all of the visual and text clues they have in order to form a good guess as to where in the world they think the imagery came from. This used to be completely free, but it moved to a freemium model in 2020 which limits how many games you can play for free.

Quizzity is an online geography game that uses a familiar concept. Quizzity presents you with the name of a city and you have to click on the map where you think that city is in the world. Quizzity quizzes you on cities all over the world. To increase the accuracy of your guesses you should zoom-in on a region before clicking the map. Each round of Quizzity presents you with six city names. Points are awarded for accuracy and speed.


City-Guesser is a challenging map-based game. The game shows you a section of a map centered over a city. The labels are removed from the map so you have to guess the city's name based on other clues like bodies of water and orientation. City-Guesser gives you four answer choices to choose from. If you choose correctly, you move to the next level. If you choose incorrectly, the game is over and you have to start again from the beginning.

Capital Toss is a free geography game from ABCya. The game has a state capitals mode and a country capitals mode. In both modes of the game works the same way. The name of a state or country appears at the bottom of the screen and three rows of capital names scroll across the top. When the correct capital name appears players virtually toss a ball at it. After ten correct answers players can choose a new ball. Three consecutive incorrect answers ends the game.

Spacehopper is a game based on Google Maps Street View imagery. Spacehopper shows you a Street View image and you have to guess where in the world the image was captured. You can click the clue button to have the country identified before making a guess. After three incorrect guesses the correct answer will be revealed to you. You can play Spacehopper on a global level or you can specify that you only want to see images from a particular continent.

How Many European Cities Can You Name? and How Many US Cities Can You Name? are game developed by Ian Fisher who is a software engineer at Google. Both of the games are played the same way. Simply open the game map and start typing the names of cities. When you enter a city it will appear on the map. The object is to name as many cities as you can without stopping. When you're done you'll see a list of the cities that you named and the populations of the five biggest cities and the five smallest cities that you named.

Bonus: Make Your Own Game!
Mission Map Quest is a free tool for creating geography games. The concept is simple, you create a series of clues that your students need to follow to identify places around the world. You can add as few or as many clues to your Map Quest as you like. When you're ready to have students try your Quest just give them the web address of the challenge or have them scan the QR code assigned to your Quest. Watch my video below to see how to make your own Mission Map Quest game.

What Google Classroom Looks Like to Students

We're halfway through 2020. This week I'm taking some time off from the blog to work on some other projects. The rest of this week I'm going to re-run some of the most popular posts and videos of the year so far. 

Whether we're talking about technology or content area, understanding a student's perspective goes a long way toward helping us improve the student's learning experience. To that end, a lot people seemed to appreciate the video that I published in March to show teachers what a student sees when viewing assignments in Google Classroom. Here's that video again.

Monday, June 29, 2020

5 Google Classroom Features You Might Have Overlooked or Forgotten

We're halfway through 2020. This week I'm taking some time off from the blog to work on some other projects. The rest of this week I'm going to re-run some of the most popular posts and videos of the year so far. 

When my school and thousands of others closed in early March, I found myself answering more questions about Google Classroom than ever before. While I already had a bunch of tutorials on my YouTube channel, I still went ahead and made a little slideshow of handy Google Classroom features for teachers. The slideshow wasn't intended to be an all-inclusive tutorial about Google Classroom (see my YouTube channel for that) but rather a set of reminders about functions within Google Classroom.

Featured in the slideshow:
  • Posting announcements to multiple classrooms at the same time. 
  • Scheduling announcements to appear at a later date.
  • Creating topics to organize assignments.
  • Scheduling assignments.
  • Using Google Classroom to send bulk email to students and parents.

5 Helpful Google Classroom Tips for Teachers by richardbyrne

Cincinnati Zoo Offers Daily Virtual Zoo Visits

We're halfway through 2020. This week I'm taking some time off from the blog to work on some other projects. The rest of this week I'm going to re-run some of the most popular posts and videos of the year so far. 

Back in March I my sister, who lives near Cincinnati, shared a Facebook post with me about the Cincinnati Zoo's daily virtual zoo visits. I thought it was a neat thing that my kids would like too. I wrote a short blog post about it to share with those of you who have kids at home. I didn't expect it to be a popular post. It has turned out to be the single most popular post I've written all year. Here it is for those who missed it the first time around.

Yes, the zoo is still holding these virtual visits. I get Facebook notifications about them everyday. 

The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is closed to the public right now and thousands (millions?) of kids are home from school right now too. That's why the zoo has announced that they're hosting daily "Home Safaris" beginning today at 3pm ET. These Home Safaris will be broadcast live on Facebook. Each Home Safari will feature a different animal and a related at-home activity. Be sure to follow the zoo's Facebook page to be notified when the Home Safaris begin.

How to Work With PDFs in Google Classroom

We're halfway through 2020. This week I'm taking some time off from the blog to work on some other projects. The rest of this week I'm going to re-run some of the most popular posts and videos of the year so far.

In March I fielded a ton of questions from people who suddenly found themselves using Google Classroom and all other aspects of G Suite for Education a lot more than they ever had before. One of the most common questions I received revolved around the idea of using PDFs in Google Classroom. I recorded this short video demonstration of how to use PDFs in Google Classroom and it became one of my most-watched videos of 2020 so far.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

An Easy Way to Overlay Historical Maps on Google Earth

Last fall I published a video about how to find historical maps and overlay them on Google Earth. That method works for any historical map that you have the rights to re-use whether because it's in the public domain or because of Creative Commons licensing. There is another method that you can use. That method is built into the Rumsey Historical Maps layer in Google Earth.

In Google Earth Pro (the free desktop version of Google Earth) you will find the Rumsey Historical Maps collection listed in the gallery of layers on the left hand side of your screen. When you turn on that layer you'll see map icons appear all over the map. Zoom-in and click on those icons to view the historical maps and see them layered over current Google Earth imagery. Watch my short video below to see how this process works.


Applications for Education
Layering historical maps over current imagery is one of my favorite uses of Google Earth. Doing this gives students a better view and understanding of how the geography of a city or a geographic area has changed over time.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

50 National Geographic 360 Videos

Watching 360 degree videos is probably my favorite thing to do with my Google Cardboard viewer. A lot of people don't realize that a Cardboard viewer can be used for more than just Google Expeditions. For example, National Geographic's YouTube channel contains fifty 360 videos featuring things like Mount Everest, glaciers in Iceland, elephants, sea turtles, lions, sharks, and polar expeditions.

You don't need to have a Google Cardboard viewer or any virtual reality headset. You can can just view them in your web browser then click and drag to experience the full 360 degree imagery. Of course, it's more fun to do it in a VR viewer.


YouTube's search tools include a filter to help you identify 360 degree videos. Give it a try to find other great 360 degree videos like those from National Geographic.



Applications for Education
One of the things that I appreciate about 360 videos is how they give students a bit more control over what they see and give students a better overall picture of what a place looks like. My hope is that students who view 360 videos like those from National Geographic are inspired to ask more questions and to perhaps travel to interesting places in the future.

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good morning from Maine where the sun is shining and burning off the last of the overnight fog. It's going to be a great day for fun things like riding bikes with my kids and not-so-fun things like mowing the lawn. I hope that you also have a fun and relaxing weekend.

This week I spent quite a bit of time planning a new project and working on a series of videos that I'll be releasing later this summer. I also took some time to look at feedback from the June session of the Practical Ed Tech Virtual Summer Camp and made a couple of tweaks for the upcoming July sessions (register here). Of course, I also published some new blog posts. The most popular ones are listed below.

These the most popular posts of the week:
1. Five Overlooked Features of Google Forms Quizzes
2. Updated - How to Create Virtual Class Pictures With Pixton EDU
3. Jamboard + Screencastify = Whiteboard Video
4. NASA Selfies - Put Yourself in Space and Learn a Bit About It
5. Five Screencastify Settings You Should Know How to Use
6. Video: The Solar System to Scale
7. How to Use Pictures in Google Forms

Two PD Opportunities in July
The Practical Ed Tech Virtual Summer Camp will be held two more times this summer. Register here for the July session of your choice.

In July I'll be hosting Teaching History With Technology. This is a five part course designed to help you develop new ways to create engaging history lessons and projects. Register now and use the discount code THWT2020.

This summer I'm working with a handful of schools and organizations to develop online professional development for teachers. If you'd like to work with me, please send me a note 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 it includes my tip of the week and a summary of the week's most popular posts from FreeTech4Teachers.com.
  • My YouTube Channel - 25,000 people subscribe to my YouTube channel for my regular series of tutorial videos including more than 350 Google tools tutorials.  
  • Facebook - The FreeTech4Teachers.com Facebook page has more than 450,000 followers. 
  • Twitter - I've been Tweeting away for the last thirteen years at twitter.com/rmbyrne
  • Instagram - this is mostly pictures of my kids, my dogs, my bikes, my skis, and fly fishing.

Friday, June 26, 2020

7 New Google Meet Features for Teachers

In a move that clearly is an attempt to match the functionality of Zoom and Microsoft Teams, Google has announced some new features that will soon be coming to Google Meet for G Suite for Education users. All of the new features that were announced address the many concerns about Google Meet that teachers have expressed in the last few months. Some of these features are available now and some will be coming over the next couple of months.

New Moderator Controls
  • Remotely mute all participants.
  • A hand-raising function will be coming soon. This lets students raise their hands in Google Meet to indicate that they want to speak in the meeting. 
  • Teachers will be able to end meetings for all and prevent students from rejoining after the meeting has been ended by the teacher. 
  • Guests can only "knock" or request to join after being ejected from meeting. 
  • The default setting for Google Meet will not allow anonymous guests.
Integrated Whiteboard!

  • This might be the most-requested feature for Google Meet. I've shared a couple of options (here and here) for a DIY whiteboard integration, but this should be a lot easier to use. 

Change Your Background

  • Much like in Zoom, you'll soon be able to use a custom background in Google Meet. 

Features for G Suite for Education Enterprise
G Suite for Education for Enterprise is the paid version of G Suite for Education. There are some new features coming to that version too. Those features include an option to record attendance and an option for break-out rooms in Google Meet. 

How to Use Loom to Make a Whiteboard Video

This week I published a couple of videos about making whiteboard-style instructional videos with Screencastify (you can see those videos on my YouTube channel). Of course, Screencastify isn't the only browser-based screencasting tool available to teachers. Loom is also an excellent and popular choice for making screencast videos right from your web browser.

In the following video I demonstrate how I paired Loom and Google's Jamboard to make a whiteboard-style instructional video. One of the tips that I shared in the video is to use the sharing option in Jamboard to give your students a copy of the drawings or sketches that you use in your instructional video.

Make a Whiteboard Video With Google Slides and Screencastify

Earlier this week I published a video demonstration of how to create a whiteboard-style instructional video with Google's Jamboard and Screencastify. At the end of that video I mentioned that you can do a similar thing with Google Slides and Screencastify. That's exactly what I demonstrate in the following new video.

One of the "tricks" that I share in the video is to enter presentation mode before you start recording your video. Doing that eliminates some of the fumbling of transitioning between editing mode and presentation mode in your video. Take a look at my demonstration video that is embedded below to see the whole process of making a whiteboard video with Google Slides and Screencastify.


Thursday, June 25, 2020

July PD Opportunities With Me

Last week I hosted the first Practical Ed Tech Virtual Summer Camp. I realize that the middle of June isn't the ideal time for everyone to join online professional development. That's why I'm offering the Practical Ed Tech Virtual Summer Camp two more times in July. The first July session runs July 6th-10th and the second session runs July 20th-24th. Only seven spots are left for the July 6th-10th session.

The Practical Ed Tech Virtual Summer Camp consists of ten live webinars spread across five days. There is a webinar at 10am ET and 1pm ET each day of the week. Recordings of the sessions will be available to those who register but cannot attend every live meeting. Topics covered in the webinars includes making virtual tours, creating instructional videos, fun formative assessment, classroom podcasting 101, and building your own apps (that one was a lot of fun last week). The complete list of topics can be seen here. FAQs are answered here.

Teaching History With Technology is the other live, online course that I'm hosting in July. This course will run July 13th-17th. Teaching History With Technology is a series of five live webinars. Each interactive webinar features practical ideas for using technology to create new, engaging lessons or to update some of your existing “go-to” history lessons. Detailed handouts are provided with every webinar. And if you miss a meeting or you just want to see something again, a recording of the webinars will be available to you too. Register here.

People sometimes ask why I advertise these courses here, the short answer is that registrations from these courses help to keep the lights on for Free Technology for Teachers. 

TechSmith Capture Replaces Jing

TechSmith's Jing was the first tool that I used to make screencast videos more than a decade ago. It was amazing to be able to quickly record a short video to explain things to colleagues and students. Since then other and better tools have come along including tools like Snagit made by TechSmith. Last spring Techsmith announced that they were winding down the Jing project because, in part, it used Flash as the file output. The end of Jing has now arrived and TechSmith is replacing it with a free product called TechSmith Capture.

You can download TechSmith Capture for free to use on Windows and Mac computers. Like its predecessor TechSmith Capture can be used to create screencast videos and capture screen images. An update over Jing is found in the fact that you can now record with your webcam while recording your screencast video. Finished videos are rendered as MP4 files that you can use in all of the typical places that you would share a video including YouTube.

I tried to install TechSmith Capture on my Windows computer this morning. Unfortunately, the installation kept timing out when I was prompted to sign into my TechSmith/ Screencast.com account. I was, however, successful in getting TechSmith Capture to run on my Mac.

Applications for Education
Like any screencast recording tool, TechSmith Capture can provide you with a convenient way to create short instructional videos for your students. Screencasting tools can also be helpful to students to explain in video format any problems they're having and need your assistance in solving.

TED-Ed Has Released Episode 9 of Think Like a Coder

Think Like a Coder is a TED-Ed series of videos that my freshmen loved this this past year. The latest installment in the series was released yesterday. Episode 9 is titled The Factory.

Episode 9 continues to follow the main characters Ethic and Hedge having to solve a puzzle using the logic that a coder would use.

It's best to watch the series in order, but you can jump into any of the videos you'll still get a little lesson out of it.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Google Adds Spanish Grammar Suggestions to Google Docs - But Not for Schools

Grammar suggestions has been one of the best improvements to Google Docs in the last year. So far those suggestions have only been available in English. Yesterday, Google announced that Spanish grammar suggestions are going to be rolling out to Google Docs users over the next couple of weeks. Unfortunately, this feature will not be available to G Suite for Education users of Google Docs.

When English grammar suggestions for Google Docs was first announced, G Suite for Education users were excluded. That changed after a few months. Hopefully, the pattern will be the same with Spanish grammar suggestions.

Tips & Tricks for Using Zoom and Google Meet - Free Webinar Tomorrow

Tomorrow at 5pm ET/ 2pm PT Rushton Hurley from Next Vista for Learning is hosting the next installment of his Activities Across Grade Levels series. Tomorrow's free webinar is all tips for improving your use of Zoom and Google Meet with students. You can register for the webinar here. Recordings of all previous installments in the series can be seen here.

You can get a sense of what the Activities Across Grade Levels webinars are like by watching last week's episode. Last week's episode was about simple video editing. The recording of that episode is embedded below.

Jamboard + Screencastify = Whiteboard Video

Yesterday morning someone on Twitter asked me for a recommendation for making a whiteboard video in a web browser without using Seesaw. (By the way, here's how to do it Seesaw). My suggestion was to try using Screencastify to record over the free drawing space provided by Google's online version of Jamboard. The online version of Jamboard is free unlike the physical product of the same name that Google sells. Here's a video of how that process works.


One of the benefits of using Jamboard for this kind of video is that when you are done you can share the Jamboard images with your students. You could even share the Jamboard via Google Classroom so that students have a copy of the process that you demonstrated while making your video.