Friday, January 31, 2020

A Great Set of Videos for Teaching Networking and Computer Hardware Concepts

As some of you know, I'm took over a computer science program at my local vocational/ technical high school this year. It has been fun and, at times, has made me feel like a brand new teacher again. When I took the job I told my director that I'd be fine with the programming side of things. It was the networking and hardware that I was concerned about. Fortunately, I've been able to brush-up fairly quickly with the help of some instructor resources from Cisco and a great YouTube channel called PowerCert Animated Videos.

PowerCert Animated Videos offer clear and concise explanations of big concepts in computer hardware and networking. I've been watching them as refreshers for myself. I've also been using them in lessons for my students. I alternate between showing them to the whole class and incorporating them into Edpuzzle activities. The PowerCert Animated Videos that I used in lessons this week were FTP Explained and DHCP Explained.




On a related note, here's my demonstration of how to create Edpuzzle activities.

Gmail, Screencasts, and Summer Plans - The Month in Review

The first month of 2020 is at its end. I hope the first month of the year has gone well for you. Did you make a New Year's Resolution? How's going? Mine was to cut-out junk food and except for three slip-ups I've kept to it.

This month I had the honor of speaking at Amarillo College and I hosted a couple of online courses through Practical Ed Tech. Speaking of Practical Ed Tech, the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp is going to happen again this year. Super early, super discounted registration is on sale now.

As I've done at the end of every month for the last ten years, I've put together a list of the most popular posts of the month. I don't see any reason to stop that pattern now.

These were the month's most popular posts:
1. Learn How to Use These 5 Time-saving Gmail Features in 2020
2. A Mostly Complete Guide to Classroom Blogging
3. Three Neat Things You Can Do With Google Sheets
4. A Tip for Your Colleagues Who Unnecessarily Use "Reply All"
5. Signing Into Chrome vs. Signing Into Your Google Account
6. How to Use the New Creative Commons Chrome Extension
7. A Great Update to Screencastify
8. How to Create an Online Sorting Activity Using Google Sheets
9. A Comparison of Multimedia Timeline Creation Tools - Updated
10. Three Interesting Ways to Use Google Slides Besides Making Presentations

I'll come to your school in 2020! 
Send me an email at richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com to learn more about how we can work together. This year I'm offering an opportunity to bring me to your school for free! Ask me for details.

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.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Two Ways to Make Progress Trackers With Google Sheets

In my previous post I mentioned that Google Sheets can be used for all kinds of interesting things. It can also be used for practical things like keeping tally of your progress or that of your students toward a goal. There are two ways that I usually recommend doing this. The simplest way is to use the progress tracker template available at Flippity.net. The method that offers more options is to use a pivot table in Google Sheets.

In the video below I demonstrate how to make a progress tracker using the template from Flippity.


In the following video I demonstrate to use pivot tables to make a progress tracker in Google Sheets.

How to Make Timelines With Google Sheets

There was a time when I didn't like working with Google Sheets. That changed about ten years ago after a chat with Kern Kelley who showed me some of the things that he had created with Google Sheets. Since then I've used Google Sheets for all kinds of things from self-grading assessments to data visualizations. But as a history teacher my favorite thing to do with Google Sheets has been making multimedia timelines with the help of templates from Flippity and Timeline JS.

With the Timeline JS template you can make a multimedia timeline that includes pictures, videos, audio, maps, and text. Watch my video below to see how it works.


Flippity's timeline template doesn't have as many options as the Timeline JS template, but it's still a good option for making a timeline. The upside to Flippity's template is that it is a little easier for first-time users to follow than the Timeline JS template. My video embedded below demonstrates how to use Flippity's timeline template.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Three Interesting Ways to Use Google Slides Besides Making Presentations

Google Slides was once a bare-bones alternative to PowerPoint and Keynote. I can still remember when the option to add a video was big news. Fast forward to today and there are lots of things that you can do with Google Slides besides make basic slideshow presentations. Here are three of my favorite ways to use Google Slides for something other than making a presentation.

Create a Jeopardy-style Game 
By inserting a table into your cover slide then using the slide-linking feature in Google Slides you can create a Jeopardy-style game to play in your classroom. The steps for doing that are outlined in the video below.


Create a Multimedia Timeline in Google Slides
A couple of years ago Google added some diagram templates to Google Slides. These templates can be inserted into any of your slides. A timeline is one of the templates that you'll find in the diagrams menu. Watch the following video to learn how to create a timeline in Google Slides.


Make a Common Craft-style Video
You can make simple animated videos with a bit of clip art, the animation tools built into Google Slides, and a free screen recording tool like Screencastify. In the following video I demonstrate how to do that.

It's Not You, It's Me - How to Check If a Website is Working Correctly

Yesterday morning Charles asked me via Twitter about a site I had previously mentioned for checking whether or not a website is up or down. The site Charles was looking for is Down for Everyone or Just Me. It's a simple site that will tell you if a website it is up or if it is down. I find it useful whenever I'm wondering if I'm having trouble accessing a site because of a change on our network filter or if the trouble in on the site's end. Here's a little video that I made about Down for Everyone or Just Me.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Quickly Create & Share Transcripts of YouTube Videos

VidReader was one of my favorite new tools in 2019. It's a tool that makes it easy to create an interactive transcript of any YouTube video. This morning I used to to create a transcript of a video. When I used VidReader this morning I noticed two new features that I hadn't previously seen. Those two new-to-me features are the option to share a direct link to the transcription page and the option to download the transcript as a PDF.

To use VidReader to generate a transcript simply head to the site then paste in the URL of the YouTube video that you want to create a transcript of. VidReader will then generate a transcript and display it on a page alongside the original video. The transcript is time-stamped so that you can click on it to jump to a section of the video. Below the video on the transcription page you'll find a link to share the transcript. And if you sign into VidReader (accounts are free) you can download a PDF of the transcript.



Here's the link to try the VidReader page that is pictured above.


Cotton and the Life Cycle of a Tee Shirt

Last week TED-Ed published a new lesson titled Why Is Cotton In Everything? The lesson begins with an explanation of why cotton was used by the Inca in suits of armor. From there the lesson delves into the properties of cotton that make strong, soft, and flexible. The bulk of the lesson is then spent on how cotton fibers grow.


At the end of Why Is Cotton In Everything? there is a suggestion to watch The Life Cycle of a T-Shirt. That video explains how tee shirts are made and distributed around the world. The lesson also takes a look at the environmental impact of the tee shirt industry.

19,000+ Teachers Get Their Ed Tech Tips This Way

At about this time six years ago I created the Practical Ed Tech Tip of the Week newsletter as a way to provide a summary of my most popular daily posts along with a featured tip of the week. This week the 19,000th teacher signed up for the newsletter. You can do the same right here.

The Practical Ed Tech Tip of the Week newsletter features my favorite tip of the week along with a summary of the most popular blog posts from my blogs FreeTech4Teachers.com, PracticalEdTech.com, and EdTechFitness.com. The newsletter is emailed on Sunday evening/ Monday morning (depends on your timezone). I'll often include things that aren't published elsewhere. For example, this week's newsletter included access to a Google Doc featuring my collection of best resources for public domain and Creative Commons audio files.

Those of you who read FreeTech4Teachers.com via email will be pleased to know that the Practical Ed Tech Tip of the Week email is published manually which means that unlike the FreeTech4Teachers.com daily emails, you can read the entire article in your inbox.

Sign up for the Practical Ed Tech Tip of the Week newsletter right here.

Monday, January 27, 2020

How to Remove Image Backgrounds in PowerPoint

A few weeks ago I published Three Ways to Remove Image Backgrounds With Just a Click or Two. I got a handful of Tweets and emails from folks who kindly reminded me that I didn't include using PowerPoint in that list. That was because I hadn't made a video about how to use PowerPoint to remove image backgrounds. This afternoon I changed that by recording the following short video.


Applications for Education
Students can use these editing feature in PowerPoint to remove the backgrounds from pictures of themselves students and then layer their new image onto an image of any landmark around the world. Students can then use those images in stories and reports that they write about those landmarks. For example, students could write travel narratives where they place images of themselves in front of a series of landmarks.

How to Search for Open-Access Datasets

Last spring I had a chance to see Dan Russell give a presentation of a new Google search tool called Dataset Search. It spent 2019 in beta. Last week it lost beta label and is now widely available to anyone who wants to use it. In a recent blog post Dan Russell explained a couple of the features of Dataset Search and highlighted four examples of datasets that you can find through Dataset Search.

Google's Dataset Search is designed to help users locate publicly available datasets. Through the Dataset Search tool you can find datasets in the forms of Excel and CSV files, Google Earth files, zip files of images, and collections of documents. In the following video that I recorded last spring I provide an overview of how to use Dataset Search.



On a related note, Dan Russell's book The Joy of Search is a fantastic resource for learning advanced search techniques.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

The Practical Ed Tech Podcast - Episode 30 - New Game Templates and More

I usually publish The Practical Ed Tech Podcast on Friday or Saturday, but this weekend I got a little sidetracked by a couple of other projects and didn't record until Sunday night. In this episode I highlighted some Microsoft and Google EDU product updates that were announced in conjunction with the BETT show. More interesting to me were the new tools that I tried this week and highlighted in the podcast. Those new tools included two game builders, a collaborative mapping tool, and a new brainstorming tool.

As I always do, I wrapped up the episode by answering a handful of questions from readers.

You can listen to the latest episode of The Practical Ed Tech Podcast right here or on your favorite podcast platform.



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

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Three Neat Things You Can Do With Google Sheets

Earlier this week my friend Beth asked me for some tutorials on Google Forms for beginners. As a follow up to that I've selected three Google Sheets tutorials from my library. These tutorials are for doing some interesting things with Google Sheets besides just looking at information collected through Google Forms.

Create a Random Name Picker in Google Sheets.


Create a Progress Tracker With Google Sheets


Create a Map of Spreadsheet Data

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good morning from Maine where it's nearly forty degrees warmer than last week. It almost felt like March weather when I went out with my dogs this morning. It's going to be a great day for taking my toddlers skiing. Wherever you are this weekend, I hope that you get to do something fun too. If that means catching up on some reading, take a look at this week's list of the most popular posts.

This week I hosted the third installment of Teaching History With Technology. A few folks have asked if I'll be offering the course again. I will be hosting it again in the spring after I wrap up Video Projects for Almost Every Classroom.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Quickly Create Collaborative Maps With Ethermap
2. How to Use Microsoft Forms to Collect Files
3. Rubrics and Originality Reports in Google Classroom
4. Three Google Forms Tutorials for Beginners
5. A Tip for Your Colleagues Who Unneccesarily Use "Reply All"
6. Vortex by ClassTools - Create Your Own Sorting Game
7. How to Create an Online Sorting Activity Using Google Sheets

I'll come to your school in 2020! 
Send me an email at richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com to learn more about how we can work together. This year I'm offering an opportunity to bring me to your school for free! Ask me for details.

Video Projects for Almost Every Classroom
Video Projects for Almost Every Classroom starts next week! You can get more information and a discount code right here.

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, January 24, 2020

Book Creator Adds New Accessibility Features

Book Creator is a tool that I have been using and recommending for years for making multimedia ebooks. You can use it as an iPad app or in your web browser. This week Book Creator announced that it now works in Microsoft Edge as well as Chrome and Safari. That's not the only product enhancement Book Creator released this week.

Some of the other Book Creator enhancements made this week include support for dictation in 120 languages, auto-generating captions on videos, and auto transcription of audio recordings. Automatic captioning of videos can be activated for videos that are recorded directly through the Book Creator app as well as videos that are uploaded to Book Creator pages. Likewise, automatic transcription of audio can be activated for files recorded directly in Book Creator as well as files that are added from external sources. Captions and transcripts are available in 120 languages.


Applications for Education
Students can use Book Creator to create ebooks that contain pictures, videos, audio recordings, drawings, and text. Those are just some of the types of the things that students can add to their Book Creator books. That flexibility is what has made Book Creator a popular choice for making ebooks to tell fiction and non-fiction stories. And lately I've seen teachers using Book Creator to develop professional development training materials.

How to Embed Google Calendar Into Blogger, WordPress, and Google Sites

Last week I got a couple of questions about an old video of mine in which I demonstrated embedding Google Calendar into Blogger. Google Calendar and Blogger have changed in the years since I made that video. That's why last night I decided to create the following new video about how to embed Google Calendar into Blogger, WordPress, and Google Sites.


Applications for Education
Putting a Google Calendar into your classroom blog or school website can be a good way to provide parents with a go-to place for information about upcoming assignments and events. A couple of years ago I worked with a school that used Google Calendar embedded into their website to display the school lunch menu.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Quickly Create Collaborative Maps With Ethermap

Google's My Maps tool is great for students to use to collaborate on the creation of custom maps. The problem with it is that students must have Google accounts in order to use it. Ethermap solves that problem by not requiring users to have any kind of email account.

Ethermap is a new tool that anyone can use to create online maps. Ethermap lets users share maps and collaborate on maps by simply sharing a link. In the following video I demonstrate how to use Ethermap to create an online map.


Learn how to use Google Maps & Earth in Your Classroom
If you are interested in learning how to use Google Maps or Google Earth, take a look at my on-demand webinar titled Google Maps & Earth – More Than Just Social Studies.

Three Google Forms Tutorials for Beginners

Last night my friend Beth emailed me to ask if I had any tutorials for beginning Google Forms users. My answer was, "I sure do!" These were the three Google Forms tutorials that sent to her to share with the group of teachers she's working with right now.

This one covers all the basics:



This one covers how to combine forms:


And this one covers 5 things every teacher should know about forms:


But wait! There's more! If you call now I'll throw in How to Create an Activity Tracker With Google Forms:

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Rubrics and Originality Reports in Google Classroom

Last week Google announced that Originality Reports in Google Classroom would soon be available to all users with the limitation that you could only run three reports unless your school subscribes to G Suite for Education Enterprise Edition (the paid version of G Suite for Education). As of yesterday afternoon (Eastern Time) Originality Reports are now available in all G Suite for Education domains.

What are Originality Reports?
Originality Reports in Google Classroom let you check documents for elements of plagiarism originality against the millions of webpages and books that are indexed by Google. Students are able to run Originality Reports on their own work before submitting it as an assignment in Google Classroom.

Rubrics in Google Classroom
Last August Google launched a beta of rubrics in Google Classroom. As of yesterday's announcement by Google, rubrics are now available to all teachers using Google Classroom. In the following video I demonstrate how to use rubrics in Google Classroom. It should be noted that since I made this video Google did introduce the option to reuse rubrics from assignment to assignment.

Creative Strength - A Student Video Contest

Creative Strength is the title of the latest Next Vista for Learning video contest. Like previous Next Vista contests, this one is open to students and teachers. There is a category for student-produced videos, a category for teacher-produced videos, and a category for videos created through the collaborative efforts of teachers and students. Regardless of the category, all videos must teach a lesson in 90 seconds or less. The lesson can be about almost any concept a person would learn about in elementary, middle, or high school.

Entries into Next Vista's Creative Strength video contest must be received by April 24th. There is a small bonus for those who submit their entries by March 27th. Contest winners receive iTunes gift cards and the pride of showcasing their videos for a larger audience.

Take a look at this video made by a Kindergarten class or any of the previous contest's finalists here for some inspiration.

If you could benefit from a little guidance on classroom video projects, enroll in my Practical Ed Tech course titled Video Projects for Almost Every Classroom.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Vortex by ClassTools - Create Your Own Sorting Game

Vortex is the latest game template published by ClassTools. Vortex lets you create an online game in which players have to sort words or phrases into up to four categories. Vortex replaces the Dust Bin sorting game that ClassTools used to offer but ran on Flash. Vortex doesn't use Flash which means it can be played on any device that has a web browser.

To create a game with the Vortex template simply head to Classtools.net/vortex then click "create new game." On the next screen you'll enter your game title, categories, and the words or terms that you want students to sort when they play your game. When you've entered all of the required information hit the "create" button and choose a password for editing your game. Your game will be assigned a unique URL that you can then share with your students.

When students play your Vortex game they have to try to sort the terms that appear on the screen as quickly as possible. Scores are based on how quickly and accurately terms are sorted.


Applications for Education
Vortex provides an easy way to create a sorting game that your students could use to review a list of vocabulary terms.

On a related note, Flippity.net recently published a new template for creating sorting activities via Google Sheets. Watch the video here to see how that template works.

How to Use Microsoft Forms to Collect Files

In this week's Practical Ed Tech Tip of the Week I featured three ways to create online forms to collect files from students. One of those options is to use Microsoft Forms. With Microsoft Forms you can specify the type and size of files that you'll accept in response to a question or prompt. You can embed your form into a blog post, website, or share it in your favorite LMS. In the following video I demonstrate how to use Microsoft Forms to collect files from students.



Applications for Education
If you're looking for an easy way to collect samples of students' media projects in one places, using Microsoft Forms to collect files might be the way to go.

Monday, January 20, 2020

How to Create an Online Sorting Activity Using Google Sheets

Flippity is a great source of templates for making online games, flashcards, and quizzes. Recently, Flippity added a new template that makes it easy to create an online sorting activity based on information you provide in a Google Sheet.

Flippity's newest template is called Manipulatives. The template lets you create an online activity in which students sort items into categories. You can have students sort items into columns, grids, Venn diagrams, and even into regions of a map. In the following video I demonstrate how to use Flippity Manipulatives to create an online sorting activity.



Applications for Education
As is demonstrated in the video above, you can use just about any image as the background in your sorting activities. To that end, I can see the template being useful for creating activities in which students have to match terms to parts of a diagram. For example, you might use a plant cell as the background then have students drag the names of the corresponding parts into their correct places on the diagram.

Video Projects for Almost Every Classroom - Deep Dive

The single most popular Practical Ed Tech webinar that I hosted last year was 5 Video Projects for Almost Every Classroom. More than 150 participated in it in live or recorded form. The most common piece of feedback that I received about it was, "I wish there was time spent on each project." That's why I've designed a new five part course titled Video Projects for Almost Every Classroom - A Deep Dive.

In Video Projects for Almost Every Classroom you'll learn how to make animated videos, green screen videos, documentary videos, instructional whiteboard videos, and video journals. I'll show you how you can do these projects on Chromebooks, Windows, Mac, iPad, and Android devices.

In addition to the how-to elements of the webinar we’ll cover planning, assessment, and privacy concerns. You’ll learn how to use aspects of YouTube that most people overlook. But YouTube isn’t the only way to share videos so we’ll look at other great options for sharing videos.

Video Projects for Almost Every Classroom begins at 4pm ET on January 30th. Watch this short video to learn more and get a discount code. Or just head to here to sign-up now.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good morning from Maine where it's a balmy -7F outside. My dogs went outside for about thirty seconds before coming right back to the house this morning. Most mornings I have to call them back in. Needless to say, we'll be waiting for it warm up a little bit before going to ski this morning.

This week I had the privilege to speak at Amarillo College. It was a fun event. One of the highlights for me was seeing a great presentation by La'Tonya Rease Miles about the hidden curriculum that first generation college students have to navigate. It was a fascinating talk and much of it was relevant to high school teachers as well as college instructors.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Signing Into Chrome vs. Signing Into Your Google Account
2. A Mostly Complete Guide to Classroom Blogging
3. A Great Update to Screencastify
4. A Student Podcast Contest
5. How to Use the New Creative Commons Chrome Extension
6. How to Upload a Podcast to SoundCloud
7. Keeping Track of Students' Websites

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.

Video Projects for Almost Every Classroom
Video Projects for Almost Every Classroom is an online course that I'm hosting on Practical Ed Tech starting on January 30th. You can get more information and a discount code right here.

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.

A Tip for Your Colleagues Who Unnecesarily Use "Reply All"

In a presentation that I occasionally give about the evolution of educational technology I have a slide that lists classic online discussion tools. On that slide I have a bullet point that reads, Group Email (which everyone hates). That slide always gets a chuckle from the audience because everyone has a colleague that uses "reply all" far more often than is necessary. If you use G Suite for Education, you avoid being that colleague by making a small change in your Gmail settings.

In Gmail settings you can set the default reply behavior to be "reply" instead of "reply all." Making that change means that you never have to worry about accidentally sending a reply a group unless it is absolutely necessary for everyone in the group to see your reply. See my screenshot below for directions.

Friday, January 17, 2020

The Practical Ed Tech Podcast - Episode 29 - Video & Standardized Chargers

There were a bunch of neat things related to ed tech that were released this week. And a bunch more will be out next week in conjunction with the BETT Show in London. In this week's episode of The Practical Ed Tech Podcast I shared a new video tool, an awesome update to a popular video tool, and a new video contest for students and teachers. In the episode I also shared an interesting idea coming out of Europe regarding the standardization of chargers.

As I always do, in the episode I answered some interesting questions from readers and listeners. You'll also want to listen for my personal professional learning highlight of the week that came courtesy of Amarillo College.

Listen to episode 29 of The Practical Ed Tech Podcast right here or on your favorite podcast platform.



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

The Origins of the English Language

This morning I had a student ask me "what does 'the' mean?" It's was one of those classic teenager moments of trying to distract me/ waste time at the start of class. I indulged him for a minute then got on with the plan for the day. The interaction did remind me that there was a TED-Ed lesson years released years ago about the origins of the English language. A little search through my archives and I found that lesson along with another lesson from The Open University on the same topic.

Where Did English Come From? The TED-Ed lesson focuses on the evolution of language and similarities to other languages. The TED-Ed video is embedded below.



The History of English from Open University is embedded below. As with many Open University lessons you should screen them to judge their suitability for your high school students.

How to Publish a Google Calendar Without Showing All Event Details

Yesterday, I received a question on an old YouTube video of mine in which I demonstrated how to embed a Google Calendar into Blogger. The video is seven years old and Google Calendar has changed a bit since then, but the question was still a good one. The question was, "instead of showing all the details how do you set so that the public only sees an event as busy?"

When you make one of your Google Calendars public you have the option to either "show all event details" or "see only free/busy." You'll find this option by opening your calendar's "settings and sharing" menu then scrolling down to "Access permissions." See my screenshots below for details.

Step 1:

Step 2:


On a related note, here's how you can display the same event on multiple calendars.

Chrome Media Hub - Manage Background Video and Audio

Like a lot of people, I have a habit of leaving a bunch of Chrome tabs open even if I'm not actively using them. It's not the best habit because it does unnecessarily use resources. It can also contribute to the annoyance of having a video or audio file start playing in the background. Google has released a solution for the annoyance of music or videos playing in background tabs.

Media Hub is a new feature of the Chrome web browser. It lets you manage playback of audio and video on websites that you have open on background tabs that you're not actively using. You'll find the Media Hub in the upper, right corner of Chrome between the end of the address bar and before any extensions that you have installed. To use the Media Hub just click on it to open a simple control menu that will let you stop, pause, or play any media that is loaded on any of your open tabs.

Applications for Education
Media Hub has been available on Chromebooks for a while. It's now available on Windows and Mac too. Where I see this being useful in a classroom is to quickly stop or start background audio like that from a countdown timer like those found at online-stopwatch.com or the simply "set timer X minutes" function that is built into Chrome.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Keeping Track of Students' Websites

A couple of months ago I wrote about how my students are using Google Sites as digital portfolios this year. Fortunately for me, this year I only have twenty-five students' sites to keep track of. Years ago I had more than one hundred to keep track of. If you find yourself trying to keep track of one hundred or more student websites, try the method that I described in the following blog post from 2015.

This morning I answered an email from a reader who was looking for a little advice on keeping track of more than 150 Google Sites maintained by students as their digital portfolios. Here's the scenario that was described to me,
I have more than 150 students using e.Portfolios and I struggle with finding different students' work. I ask students to name their GoogleSites specifically so I can sort them. I have created a form for student to complete to keep a record of the links. Maybe you have a better way?
This was my suggestion for attempting to keep track of all the sites. (I used this method myself with about 100 students a few years ago).
To make it easier to sort submissions I create student groups (not for collaboration, just for sorting) and make a different form for each group. Students have to submit their updates to the form that is assigned to their group. That way instead of having 150 students making submissions to one form I have 25 students making submissions to each of six forms. It's a little easier to sort through 25 students making submissions than 150 students making submissions to one form. I make it the responsibility of the students to enter their submissions on the correct form.

Google Classroom Originality Reports Expand Next Week

Back in August Google unveiled Originality Reports as a beta product in Google Classroom. According to an email that landed in my domain administrator account this afternoon, Originality Reports will be available in all G Suite for Education domains beginning on January 21st.

Originality Reports in Google Classroom will let you check documents for elements of plagiarism originality against the millions of webpages and books that are indexed by Google. Students are able to run Originality Reports on their own work before submitting it as an assignment in Google Classroom.

Teachers who are in G Suite for Education domains can activate Originality Reports on up to three assignments within a Google Classroom. Teachers who are in a G Suite for Education Enterprise domain (the paid, upgraded version of G Suite for Education) can use Originality Reports on as many assignments as they like.

Using Originality Reports as a Teacher
If you're like me and most teachers who use G Suite for Education, you're probably using the free version of G Suite for Education and therefore will only be able to use Originality Reports on three assignments. That's why I foresee it only being used on long and infrequent assignments like research papers and not on short and frequent assignments. For shorter assignments I'll just use the good old standard of, "that doesn't sound like something student X would write" and then copy and paste a phrase or two into Google search to check for plagiarism.

Do You Know What's On Your Phone?

When was the last time you looked at your phone? According to my site analytics there's at least a 30% chance that the answer to that question is "right now." But when was the last time you looked at all the stuff that's on your phone? How many files do have you that downloaded (knowingly or unknowingly) that you needed to look at just once? What about that app you thought you'd use all the time that you haven't used in months or years? The point is, we all have things cluttering up our phones that we don't need.

Three Benefits of Cleaning Up Your Phone
  • It could run better without all of those little files that don't need to be on it. Cumulatively, they could be hogging up a bunch of space on your phone.
  • Removes security risks. If you have some apps on your phone that you haven't used in a long time, there's good chance that you've forgotten what kinds of permissions you've granted it. And if it's an app from a small developer, it might not even be supported anymore which means they're not paying attention to permissions and security either.
  • Preserve your battery by removing apps that you don't use that might be running in the background and eating away at your battery.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

A Great Update to Screencastify

Screencastify is a tremendously popular screencast recording tool. A large part of its popularity comes from being easy to use on Chromebooks. In fact, last fall I helped eighth grade students use Screencastify in conjunction with Brush Ninja on their Chromebooks to make simple animated videos. As great as it was Screencastify wasn't without limitations. Those included a monthly limit on the number of videos you could make and placing a watermark on all videos. As of last week those limitations are gone!

Last week Screencastify announced that the limitation on the number of videos you can make in month has been removed from the free plan. Furthermore, the requirement of having a watermark on the videos you make with the free plan has been removed. The only limitation now is individual videos must be under five minutes long.

In addition to removing limitations from the free plan Screencastify added new features to the free plan. Those new features include trimming videos, exporting videos in three formats (MP4, MP3, GIF), and additional sharing features. The new sharing features are one-click QR code generation, embed codes for placement on your own website, and one-click sharing via email. Those sharing features are in addition to the already present option to share directly to Google Classroom.

Applications for Education
Screencastify is a fantastic tool for students and teachers to use to create short videos. Some of the types of videos that I've had students make with Screencastify include whiteboard-style instructional videos, simple animated videos, and one-take video journal entries. Of course, Screencastify is great for screencast videos to show students and colleagues how to use a new program or website.

Screencastify is one of the tools that is featured in my upcoming course, Video Projects for Almost Every Classroom

Thanks to Brad Dale for Tweeting about the screencastify update last night.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Signing Into Chrome vs. Signing Into Your Google Account

Last week my friend Beth Still asked me if I had a video that showed people how to sign into Chrome and switch between Chrome profiles. She mentioned it because she was helping some people who were confused about the difference between signing into Chrome versus signing into their Google accounts. The differences are small, but significant. In the following video I demonstrate signing into your Chrome profile versus signing into a Google account.


Applications for Education
As I explained in the video, signing into Chrome makes it easy for students to take their bookmarks and personalized Chrome settings with them from computer to computer. It's also important to note that students should sign out of their Chrome profiles if they are sharing computers and don't have separate user accounts for the shared computers.

How to Upload a Podcast to SoundCloud

Yesterday, I shared an update about NPR's 2020 Student Podcast Challenge. One of the requirements for participation in that contest is that teachers have to upload students' podcasts to SoundCloud. Watch the following video if you're thinking about having your students participate in the contest, but you're not sure how to go about uploading a podcast to SoundCloud.


On a related note, SoundCloud used to offer a built-in recording tool. That is no longer the case which is too bad because it did provide a convenient way to record a podcast. Fortunately, tools like Anchor.fm offer a similar capability. I've included a tutorial on how to use Anchor in the video below.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

A Student Podcast Contest

For the second year in a row NPR is a hosting a podcasting competition for students in fifth through twelfth grade. To enter the challenge students have to create a podcast that is three to twelve minutes long. Unlike last year, this year students can include music in their podcasts. Any music that is included in a podcast has to be a student's original work.

NPR's Student Podcast Challenge is open for submissions now and will stay open until March 24th. The winning submissions will be played on NPR broadcasts. Submissions to the contest have to be made by teachers on behalf of students. Submissions have to be uploaded to SoundCloud. Submissions have to be original work created specifically for the contest. All of the contest rules are available here.

Applications for Education
For this contest NPR has published two extensive podcasting guides. The guide for students walks them through the planning and recording processes. Although they don't provide tutorials on specific tools, they do offer this video about training your voice to sound more natural on a microphone.


H/T to Larry Ferlazzo.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good morning from Maine where we're anticipating a winter ice storm. I'm trying to get a lot done before the inevitable power outage. One of those things is writing up this week's list of the most popular posts of the week.

This week I hosted the first session of Teaching History With Technology. 31 people are participating in the course. At the end of the month I'll be hosting a new course called Video Projects for Every Classroom - Deep Dive.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. A Comparison of Multimedia Timeline Creation Tools - Updated
2. Biomes and Ecoregions Interactive Map
3. Tips on Using Voice Typing in Google Documents
4. How to Use the New Creative Commons Chrome Extension
5. Learn How to Use These 5 Time-saving Gmail Features in 2020
6. Algorithms Explained by Common Craft
7. How to Combine Multiple Google Forms Into One

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, January 10, 2020

The Practical Ed Tech Podcast Episode #28

This evening after my toddlers went to bed I sat down to record the 28th episode of The Practical Ed Tech Podcast. This episode follows the same format as most of the others. I shared some news and notes from the world of ed tech, gave a little update on what's happening in my classroom, and answered a handful of questions from readers and listeners. You can listen to the latest episode right here or on your favorite podcast network.


The show notes are available in this Google Doc.



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

Reverb Record - Quickly Create Voice Recordings

Reverb is a relatively new service (still in beta) that is designed to let people create short voice recordings to share with others. The concept is similar to Voxer and Synth in that you can record a message for a group to listen to and then members of that group can reply with voice messages of their own. Reverb Record is a recording tool offered by Reverb that you can to record and share with the world.

To use Reverb Record simply go to the website, click the microphone icon, and start talking. Click the microphone icon to stop the recording when you're done. You can then share your message via social media or by embedding your recording into a blog post. Registration is not required in order to use Reverb Record.


Applications for Education
Reverb Record could be a convenient tool to use to create a short audio recording for your students and or their parents to listen to. I've used Vocaroo in the past to record sub plans for my classes to listen to and Reverb Record could be used in the same way.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

A Mostly Complete Guide to Classroom Blogging

Over the last couple of weeks I've published some lengthy blog posts about classroom blogging activities and tools for classroom blogging. Those posts were excerpts from a longer piece that I've been working on. That longer piece is almost done. For lack of a more creative title, I'm calling it A Mostly Complete Guide to Classroom Blogging.

In A Mostly Complete Guide to Classroom Blogging you'll find a glossary of blogging terms, a comparison of blogging platforms, a list of K-12 blogging activities, and some suggestions for classroom blogging ground rules.

You can get a Google Docs copy of A Mostly Complete Guide to Classroom Blogging right here.

How to Use the New Creative Commons Chrome Extension

Earlier this week Creative Commons released a new Chrome extension that enables users to find Creative Commons licensed images without having to leave the browser tabs their currently viewing. With the CC Search Browser Extension installed users can find images from more than a dozen hosts of Creative Commons licensed works. The extension not only provides images for download, it also provides all of the attribution information needed for the images. And to help users keep track of their images, the CC Search Browser Extension provides a bookmarking capability. Watch my video that is embedded below to see how the new CC Search Browser Extension works.



Thanks to Larry Ferlazzo for sharing the CC Search Browser Extension in his Ed Tech Digest post. 

Applications for Education 
The CC Search Browser Extension could be a great little tool for students to use to quickly find some pictures that they can use in slideshows and video projects. It should be noted that a lot of the results through the extension come from Flickr so if Flickr is blocked in your school the search results could be limited.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Algorithms Explained by Common Craft

This week in my ninth grade computer science principles class we started talking about big data and algorithms. One of the resources that I used in introducing this topic was Common Craft's explanation of algorithms. The two and a half minute video explains what an algorithm is and the roles that algorithms can play in our lives, particularly in our online lives.


After they watched the video I had my students list some other ways they could think of that algorithms are or could be used in their lives. The most common example in my classroom was in the videos that are suggested to them on YouTube. 

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

Dozens of Fun, Hands-on Science Lessons

Science Snacks from Exploratorium is a great collection of hands-on science lessons for elementary school, middle school, and high school students. I've been recommending it for years and recently revisited it to discover that more activities have been added. 

Science Snacks features activities that can be conducted with inexpensive and readily available materials. Each Science Snack comes with a materials list and step-by-step directions. Science Snacks are also accompanied by a written explanation of the science at work in the activity. Many Science Snacks, like Penny Battery, include video demonstrations and explanations.

You can search for Science Snacks alphabetically or you can search by subject. The subject search is the best way to search if you are looking for an activity to match a lesson plan or curriculum standard that you already have in mind.

Applications for Education

Many of the Science Snacks activities could be conducted by students at home with the help/ supervision of parents. Using the Science Snacks in that way could be a good alternative to typical homework assignments. Have students do one of the activities for homework and report their observations in Google Documents or as comments in Google Classroom.