Monday, March 30, 2020

A Map Coloring Challenge

Last week Maps Mania shared a collection of online and printable map activities for kids and adults. At the bottom of that collection was a link to Mathigon's map coloring challenge. The challenge is to use as few colors as possible to color in all 50 U.S. states without the same color touching two states at the same time. For example, if I color New Hampshire purple, I can't use purple on Vermont, Maine, New York, or Massachusetts but I could use purple on Pennsylvania.

Mathigon's map coloring challenge can be completed online where they offer the same challenge for coloring maps of South America, England, and Germany. But if you send your students to that page they'll be able to quickly click to see the solution to the challenge. So what I'd do instead is print a blank map from a site like Printable World Map then have students try the challenge. Another option would be to upload an outline map to a service like Google's Jamboard to color the map online. Watch my video below to learn how that process works.

C-SPAN Classroom Offers New Lessons on the Economic Impact of COVID-19

C-SPAN Classroom is a free resource that anyone who teaches U.S. History or civics should have bookmarked. I've written about many of their great resources and programs over the years including their annual student video contest and annual summer workshops for teachers.

C-SPAN Classroom recently published a new lesson plan that includes a set of resources for helping students explore and learn about the current and possible future economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The resources include eight video clips, an analysis template, and a brainstorming activity for students to complete individually or in online groups.

Application in Online Classrooms
The lesson features eighteen vocabulary words that high school students have probably heard but will need to review in the context of the lesson and the current COVID-19 pandemic. I might use Google Classroom or Microsoft Teams to create a discussion forum in which students go beyond basic definitions and discuss the terms in current context. After that discussion takes place then I'd have students join me in an online meeting (Hangouts, Zoom, Teams would all be fine) to talk about the videos and or the brainstorming they did in the discussion forum.

Create Video-based Lessons a Little Faster With This Chrome Extension

A couple of weeks ago when I got the notice that my school would be closing I made a video about how to use EDpuzzle to create video-based lessons without having to create your own recordings. I first shared it with my colleagues and then included it in my Practical Ed Tech newsletter. One thing that I didn't mention in the video because I forgot about it, was the existence of an EDpuzzle Chrome extension.

EDpuzzle's Chrome extension lets you quickly jump from watching a video on YouTube to creating and editing a lesson in your EDpuzzle account. It even works if you use a different Google account for Chrome than you do for Google Classroom or EDpuzzle. With the EDpuzzle Chrome extension installed you will see a little "edit with edpuzzle" button appear next to the title of any video that you watch on YouTube. As soon as you click that button you'll be taken into the lesson editor in your EDpuzzle account. It's not a game-changing feature, but it is a convenient one. Watch my short video below for a demonstration of how the EDpuzzle Chrome extension works.


And here's my complete overview of how to use EDpuzzle.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Webinar Recording - Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions

Last Friday Rushton Hurley from Next Vista for Learning and I held the first episode of Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions (if you have a better idea for a title, please tell us). Lots of people came and lots more asked me about a recording. Rushton recorded it and put up a page of resources. The recording is embedded below and the slides from the session can be seen here.


If you're wondering why I'm looking away a lot, I had two computers going so that I could monitor chat and pull up questions.

Next Friday Rushton and I will host episode 2 of Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions - And Share Cool Stuff. Join us live at 1pm ET / 10am PT.

A Student View of Joining a Zoom Meeting on an Android Phone

A few days ago I got an email from a reader asking me what it looks like when a student tries to join a Zoom meeting on an Android phone. It was a good question because it is important to have an understanding of what a student experiences when he or she tries to use the technology that we're requesting them to use. I made the following short video to show what it looks like when a student joins a Zoom meeting on an Android phone.

It's important to note that students can join without installing the Zoom Android app. This video shows what it looks like when students join without installing the app.


On a related note, here's my overview of how to schedule and start a Zoom meeting as a teacher.

The Practical Ed Tech Podcast - Episode 39B - I'm Tired and Can't Count

On Friday I recorded the 39th episode of The Practical Ed Tech Podcast. You might be saying, "but Richard, last week wasn't last week the 39th episode?" You would be right because I called it that, but it turns out I lost track somewhere and skipped an episode so this is really the 39th episode.

This week's episode is a short one. I had a long week answering lots of questions from colleagues as well as followers of my blogs and YouTube channel. In this episode I answer questions from readers, share my thoughts about Google Hangouts with students, and shared a couple of neat do-at-home educational resources you might want to share with parents.

You can listen to episode 39B of The Practical Ed Tech Podcast right here or on your favorite podcast network. The show notes can be found here.


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

Saturday, March 28, 2020

The Week in Review - Online Meetings, Baseball Cards, and Forts

Good morning from Maine where the birds are chirping and it feels like spring as I sip my coffee. We're going to spend the day playing in the yard. Spring has come a little earlier than normal here in Maine otherwise we might be going crazy isolating in the house. Rain is in the forecast for tomorrow so we'll probably be building some indoor forts. On a related note, my toddlers keep asking "when will all the sick people get better?" because they want to be able to go back to their gymnastics classes and their favorite playground.

This week I held some class meetings via Google Hangouts. The first one was a bit like herding cats, but the second and third ones went much better. How are your online class meetings going? How about online staff meetings?

Indulge me as I share one more personal note before jumping to this week's most popular posts. Every spring I look forward to opening day of baseball season. I usually make cook some hot dogs, get a cheap beer, and enjoy the first game the year. Opening day was supposed to be this past Thursday. Opening day being canceled prompted me to go up to my attic and look through old baseball cards. It was fun trip down memory lane that I shared on Instagram.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Three Ways to Share Docs in Google Classroom - When to Use Each
2. 5 Google Classroom Tips for Teachers - Things You Might Have Overlooked or Forgotten
3. An Option for Making Sure Students Know They Have Google Classroom Assignments
4. An Overview of How Students View and Return Assignments in Google Classroom
5. Two Collections of Hands-on Science Lessons Students Can Do At Home
6. A Solution to Zoom "Not Responding" on Windows 10
7. Knowt Will Turn Your Notes and Favorite Webpages Into Quizzes for You

Online PD With Me!
I've been hosting professional development webinars for a decade. My most popular webinars are available on-demand right here. If you prefer live webinars, starting April 6th I'm working with Ed Tech Teacher to teach Making Multimedia Social Studies Lessons - Audio, Video, and More.

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 17,000 people subscribe 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.

How to Share Your Computer's Audio in Microsoft Teams

Whether it's the basics of how the technology works or "features" right now we're all learning a lot about hosting online meetings. For example, this week I learned about sharing system audio in Microsoft Teams meetings. Microsoft Teams isn't a service that I use on a regular basis so when I do use it there is a bit of fumbling around at first. I learned about sharing system audio in Microsoft Teams by watching this video produced by Mike Tholfsen.


Applications for Education
As Mike explained in the video, sharing system audio is the way to make sure that your students can hear the videos and audio files that you have included in presentation.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Free Course - A Teacher's Guide to Creating Common Craft Style Videos

For more than a dozen years Common Craft videos have been used by teachers to help students understand topics including digital citizenship, personal finance, and many big technology concepts. One of the things that makes Common Craft videos popular is the clear and concise manner in which information is presented using a whiteboard, simple cutouts, and voice over. That style has become known as the Common Craft style and many teachers including myself have had students make videos using that style. Now Common Craft offers their own free course for teachers who want to make Common Craft style videos in their classrooms.

A Teacher's Guide to Creating Common Craft Style Videos is a free self-paced course that contains five modules. The modules start with the key concepts of the Common Craft style before moving onto walk you through the tools you need (and don't need), the planning process (a downloadable template included), and the final production steps. Throughout the course there are examples of work done by teachers and students.

And if you have never seen a Common Craft video before, here's a good one to get started.


For those looking to do a little more reading about the Common Craft style, take a look at The Art of Explanation written by Lee LeFever.

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

Anchor Offers a New Way to Remotely Record Podcasts With a Group

Anchor is the service that I have been using since last August to produce my weekly Practical Ed Tech Podcast. I use Anchor because Anchor makes it incredibly easier to record, edit, and publish my podcast to all of the major podcast networks at once. In other words, with just a couple of clicks my podcast gets distributed to Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, and a handful of other networks. You can see my whole process outlined in this video and blog post.

Most of my podcast episodes are solo efforts, but I have done a handful with guests including this one with Scott McLeod and this one with LT Rease Miles. I used Zoom to record those episodes and then publish them through Anchor. While that process works, it could be easier. Fortunately, Anchor has introduced a new way to record podcasts with remote guests.

Anchor now lets you record with up to four remote guests even if they don't have Anchor accounts. To do this just open the Anchor app, click record, and then click "invite friends" to send them a link to join you in your recording. Guests can open the link in Firefox, Safari, Edge, or the Anchor app (Chrome support coming soon) and start recording with you. The whole process is demonstrated in this new video from Anchor.


Applications for Education
If you're looking for a way to have your students create podcasts while your school is closed, Anchor's new remote recording option could be just what you need. Anchor offers some ideas for podcast topics here or you could head to the Story Corps Great Questions page to look for some podcast topics.

How to Quickly Turn Any Document or Webpage Into a Practice Quiz

On Tuesday I wrote about the new version of Knowt that will let you import any of your Google Docs, Word docs, or any public webpage into a notebook. Once in your notebook it just takes one more click to have a practice quiz created for you. As I demonstrate in the following video, Knowt will generate quizzes with three question formats and will generate multiple quizzes from the same document or webpage.


Knowt has a product for teachers coming soon. The teacher version will let you create notebooks and practice activities to share with your students. You can register for early access to the teacher version right now.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

A Great Series for Introducing or Reviewing Arduino Programming Concepts

Arduino programming was one of the things that we were really starting to get rolling on just before school closed. Now that my school is closed and we're doing remote teaching and learning, I'm using EDpuzzle to create review activities for my students.

This week I used EDpuzzle to create lessons based on a great series of Arduino programming basics. The videos were produced by Bob at I Like to Make Stuff. In the three part series he covers the big, basic concepts of programming in general before moving into the specifics of Arduino programming. The final video in the series puts everything together for viewers. And if you're wondering what an Arduino is, Bob has that covered too. The first video in the series is embedded below and the rest can be found on I Like to Make Stuff.



If you're wondering what EDpuzzle is and how it works, I have that covered here.

Quick Tip - Apply Custom Colors to Google Slides

Regular users of Google Slides are probably familiar with the process of adding images to the backgrounds of their slides and changing the background color. There is one little background color option that is easily overlooked. That option is applying a custom color that isn't listed in the default color menu in Google Slides.

In Google Slides it is possible to use any color you like as the background for your slides. To do this simply open the background colors option then at the bottom of the menu click the little "+" icon to open another menu in which you can enter a color code or drag your cursor on a palette to select a custom color shade. The process is demonstrated in my video that is embedded below.


Applications for Education
This is certainly not a game-changing feature of Google Slides, but it might be pleasing to some teachers and students who want a little more control over the color schemes in their slides. 

Free Webinar Tomorrow - Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions

For the last few weeks Rushton Hurley, founder of Next Vista for Learning and a former virtual school principal, has been hosting free webinars all about making the transition to online teaching and learning. Tomorrow, I'm going to join him as a co-host for a webinar titled Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions.

As the title implies, during tomorrow's webinar we'll be taking questions and doing our best to answer them for you. We'll also share some of our favorite cool finds and pass along a few tips and tricks. The webinar will be live at 1pm ET/ 10am PT. You can register here.

Last week Rushton hosted a webinar with Susan Stewart that they called Activities Across Grade Levels: The Power of an Image. If you're an elementary  school teacher, this is a webinar for you. The recording is embedded below and you can get the slides and chat transcript here.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

An Option for Making Sure Students Know They Have Google Classroom Assignments

Yesterday afternoon a friend texted me to ask if there was a way to check to see if students have looked at announcements or assignments in Google Classroom. Unfortunately, there isn't a "read receipt" type of feature built into Google Classroom. That doesn't mean all hope is lost for determining whether or not students recognize that they have assignments or announcements to read in Google Classroom. Here's what I've been doing and recommending to friends and colleagues who ask.

To make sure that my students are acknowledging that they have new assignments and announcements in Google Classroom I've been sending out group emails that simply say, "You have a new assignment, please check Google Classroom. Please let me know that you've read this email." But I don't leave it at that. Before I send out the email I make sure that I've enabled "request read receipt" in the message settings. The screenshot below shows you where that option is found. By having read receipt enabled I can see if a student has opened the email even if he or she doesn't actually reply to me.


If you don't see the Read Receipt option in your G Suite for Education account, ask your domain administrator if he or she can turn it on. Domain administrators can turn it on for all users or for individual users.

On a related note, my video on how to create contact groups in Gmail is embedded below.

Two Ways to Find Free Ebooks to Download

Every day I'm hearing from teachers who can't get back into their classrooms because their school buildings are completely closed. My own school building has very limited access and only by administrative approval right now. These kind of closures have left some teachers searching for online alternatives to the books, particularly free reading time books, that are in their inaccessible classrooms. If that describes your situation, here are a couple of good places to search for free ebooks that you and your students can download.

Google Books
Google Books can be a great place to search for free ebooks. One of the features that I like best about Google Books is the option to search within a book for keywords and passages before you download it. In addition to downloading ebooks you can embed free ebooks from Google Books into blog posts and webpages.




The Internet Archive
Before you jump to the Internet Archive I have to give my usual disclaimer about it. There is a ton of educational materials available through the Internet Archive. However, there is also material that you probably wouldn't want younger students to stumble upon. Therefore, I always recommend searching the Internet Archive yourself and then just selecting and downloading materials to share without sending your students to the site directly.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

An Overview of How Students View and Return Assignments in Google Classroom

Over the last week I've spent a lot of time helping some of my colleagues get up and running with Google Classroom. One of the things that they've asked about is what a student sees when he or she receives an assignment in Google Classroom. A few readers have emailed me with similar questions about that. I have a demo Google Classroom that I use to show colleagues what a student sees in Google Classroom. But for everyone else I made the following short video. I hope this helps some of you gain a little better understanding of what students see when they receive an assignment and when an assignment is returned to them in Google Classroom.


In the video above I mentioned using rubrics in Google Classroom. Here's the video that I made last fall to demonstrate how rubrics work in Google Classroom.

Free Webinar - Making Multimedia Social Studies Lessons

Tomorrow at 11am ET I'm partnering with my friend Greg Kulowiec from EdTechTeacher.org to host a free webinar titled Making Multimedia Social Studies Lessons: Audio, Video, and More. Greg taught middle school social studies for many years and is now a leading expert on the use augmented reality and virtual reality in education. I taught high school social studies for years before taking over a high school computer science program this year.

In tomorrow's free webinar we'll be sharing some of our favorite methods for developing multimedia social studies lessons. If you're looking for some new ideas to make your social studies lessons a little more interesting for your students, join us tomorrow for this free webinar.

Registration is available on the EdTechTeacher.org homepage. On that page you'll also find some other free webinars that EdTechTeacher.org is hosting.

Knowt Will Turn Your Notes and Favorite Webpages Into Quizzes for You

Knowt is a great service for turning notes and documents into practice quizzes. When I wrote about last summer you could only use notes that you either wrote in Knowt itself or imported from Google Drive. I gave it another look this morning and saw that it now supports importing webpages. It also has more question types than it did the last time I tried it.

Knowt takes the notes that you have in your free Knowt online notebook and turns them into practice quizzes for you. Your notes can be written directly in Knowt or imported from Google Drive, from a document stored on your computer, or from any public webpage. For example, I was able to import the Wikipedia article about Milan-San Remo and have a notebook page and quiz created for me.

Practice quizzes created in Knowt use a mix of multiple choice, matching, and fill-in-the-blank questions. Instant feedback is provided as soon as you submit an answer to a question. At the end of the quiz you can review all questions and their correct answers. You can take the quiz again or have a new practice quiz generated for you. Knowt varies the number of questions, sequence of questions, and question formats each time you generate a new quiz even if the quiz is about the same article or note.

Applications for Education
Right now Knowt is a great tool that students can use on their own to create review activities for themselves. In April Knowt is opening a beta for teachers interested in using Knowt to create notebooks and quizzes that they can share with their students. Registration for the beta of Knowt's classroom product is available here.

Monday, March 23, 2020

A Solution to Zoom "Not Responding" on Windows 10

On Friday morning I started having problems with every Zoom meeting that I tried to launch or join on my Windows 10 computer resulting in the annoying "application not responding" message. I didn't have the same problem on my Mac.

Based on the response to a Tweet that I posted, I wasn't the only one with the problem of the Zoom Windows 10 client freezing. To fix the problem I tried all of the usual tricks of restarting my computer, uninstalling and reinstalling the Zoom desktop client, and disabling every application that I thought might be creating a conflict. I even made sure that the driver for my graphics card was updated. None of those things fixed the problem. Finally, late this afternoon there was an update from Zoom that fixed the problem.

Zoom's notes about the update simply state "minor bug fixes." I'd say it's more than a minor bug fix. I know that Zoom's employees are probably working double-time in the current climate so I'm glad that they were able to release an update rather quickly. The lesson in this for all of us to make sure we have a second option getting things done. I used Google Hangouts today when Zoom wouldn't cooperate for a meeting I had scheduled.

While we're on the topic of Zoom, here's my tutorial on how to host a meeting with it.


How to Collect and Organize Images in Google Classroom

A friend of mine who teaches phys ed had the idea to have his students submit pictures as evidence of doing phys ed activities at home. He asked me for advice on how to best collect and organize those pictures. I recommended posting the assignment in Google Classroom and collecting the images that way. In the following video I demonstrate how that process looks from the perspective of a teacher and from the perspective of a student.



This process can be used for collecting any kind of file that you want to request from your students. For example, you could collect and organize video files and audio files this way. I only used image files in the demonstration because that's what I was specifically asked about.

WriteReader Templates Can Help Students Start the Writing Process

WriteReader is a great tool for creating multimedia stories that I've featured a half dozen times or more over the years. The last time I wrote about it they had just added some new page styles. Last week WriteReader unveiled a new feature that I think a lot elementary school teachers will like.

WriteReader now offers you the option to create templates to distribute to students. To create a template you simply start creating a book in your account and then toggle on the "Templates" option that appears over your book as you're editing it. Here's a video on how to create a book in WriteReader and the screenshot below shows you where the new templates option appears.

Applications for Education
WriteReader published a fairly extensive blog post containing some suggestions on how the templates feature could be used by teachers. One of the things they suggested was using WriteReader books to help students learn new vocabulary words by writing about words that are represented by images the teacher inserts into a book template. That process could easily be reversed by having students add images that represent words added to the template by their teacher.

My first thought when reading about the templates feature in WriteReader was that it could be helpful in getting students started on a creative writing activity. You could write a page or two then have students complete the story. Alternatively, write the ending for a story and have students write a beginning for it.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Two Collections of Hands-on Science Lessons Students Can Do At Home

Online lessons and virtual meetings with students and parents can be good, but at a certain point students are going to want to do more than just look at their screens and answer questions. That's why it's worth thinking about some hands-on activities that we can suggest students do at home alone or with the help of their parents. One of the activities that I'm planning to send to my students next week is a mini solar house project that is featured on Microsoft's Hacking STEM website.

Hacking STEM is a Microsoft website that offers about two dozen hands-on science lessons. The activities are a mix of things that students can probably do on their own and some that probably can't be done without the supervision of a teacher or parent with working knowledge of the concept(s) being taught. For example, the mini solar house project that I'm having my ninth grade students do can be done safely without my direct supervision (I'm removing the glue gun component and having them use tape). But the "party lights" activity on the same page is not something they'll be able to do on their own.

As I mentioned in the most recent episode of The Practical Ed Tech Podcast Exploratorium's Science Snacks website has dozens and dozens of hands-on science projects for students of all ages. There is a subsection of the site called Family-Friendly Snacks that offers activities specifically designed for parents to do at home with their kids. The vast majority of the projects can be done with common household items. And in response to the COVID-19 outbreak Exploratorium has a selection of activities and videos about viruses.

BONUS: Squishy Circuits!
Years ago I shared this TED-Ed Talk about squishy circuits. Squishy circuits calls for making conductive dough (play dough) to create circuits that light up bulbs or run other simple electronics. Danny Nicholson offers detailed directions on how to make and use squishy circuits.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good morning from Maine where school is closed until April 27th and I'm practicing social distancing. On a brighter note, the sun is shining and I'll be playing outside with my kids today.

I'm betting that, like me, many of you had a busy week of trying to quickly adjust to teaching your classes in some type of remote learning environment. As my principal said to us yesterday, by Tuesday it already felt like Friday. All that to say, I hope you get some time to reset and recharge this weekend.

Not surprisingly, all of this week's most popular posts are related to online learning.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. The Cincinnati Zoo Launches Daily Virtual Zoo Visits
2. Cisco Makes Webex Free and Publishes Guides for Teachers and Students
3. 5 Google Classroom Tips for Teachers - Things You Might Have Overlooked or Forgotten
4. How to Create Video Lessons Without Making Your Own Recordings
5. How to Schedule and Host Google Hangouts Meet Events - Video
6. Webinar Recording - Three Things We Can Do To Quickly Transition to Teaching Online
7. Tips and Tools for Teaching Remotely

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 17,000 people subscribe 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.

Live Weather Lessons for Kids Hosted by a Meteorologist

Mallory Brooke is a meteorologist who lives in and is an active part of my local community. In addition to giving weather forecasts on a couple of our local television news stations, she runs a firm called Nor'Easter Weather Consulting. Last night she announced that starting next week she'll be giving live weather lessons to kids via Facebook Live. She's calling it Weather at Your Home.

Mallory Brooke's Weather at Your Home will be on Tuesday and Friday at 10am ET on her Facebook page. According to her announcement (embedded below) she'll take questions from kids and talk about the day's weather and forecast.

Friday, March 20, 2020

The Practical Ed Tech Podcast - Episode 39 - We're All Online

In this week's episode of The Practical Ed Tech Podcast I share some new resources for teaching online, some upcoming free PD opportunities, and some cool activities to pass along to parents who are looking for educational activities to do at home with their kids. I also shared my thoughts about teaching online and what I'm doing to try to make the transition to online learning as easy as possible for my students now that my school is closed until April 27th. The episode also includes some tips on working from home from my experience of doing it for almost a decade. And, as always, I answered questions from readers, listeners, and viewers like you.

Listen to the episode here or on your favorite podcast network. Get the full show notes in this Google Doc.




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

Free Online Live & Recorded AP US, AP World, and AP Government Classes

Tom Richey is a name that is probably familiar to history teachers who have followed my blog over the years. Tom is a AP US, AP World, and AP Government teacher who has a hugely popular YouTube channel. He also publishes some excellent PowerPoint templates for history teachers. This week he hosted free online and interactive classes for students in AP US, AP World, and AP Government classes. He had his slides and lecture ready to go and also answered questions from students as they came in via chat. If you missed the live class, you can go back and watch them here on his YouTube channel.

Tom's planning to host classes three times per week for at least the next couple of weeks. Students can sign up here to participate and be notified when the classes are live.

Three Ways to Share Docs in Google Classroom - When to Use Each

As you might guess, I'm getting flooded with requests for help with all kinds of things related to online teaching and learning. I'm doing my best to respond to all of them although I am placing priority on the requests from my colleagues at my school. One of the requests that I got was to create an explanation of the best ways to share documents in Google Classroom. That's why I made the following video that outlines three ways to share documents through Google Classroom, what each method looks like on the teacher and student side, and when you might want to use each of the methods.

Reminder - Free Webinar About Online Learning Activities - Today at 1pm ET

As mentioned earlier this week, at 1pm ET today Rushton Hurley (founder of Next Vista and all around great guy) is hosting a free webinar about online learning activities. I'll be dropping into the webinar as well.

There are a few components to today's free Next Vista webinar.

  • How assignments can work for those who have just switched to online learning.
  • Help teachers see a particular activity, done as online learning, for littles, upper elementary, middle schoolers, and high school students.
  • A look at a contest for identifying the cool learning students experience in their school. And also a video contest focused on those who make life better for others.


Register for the webinar here.

And on this page you can find a recording of the webinar that Rushton hosted last week.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

5 Google Classroom Tips for Teachers - Things You Might Have Overlooked or Forgotten

Like I'm sure many of you are, I'm getting lots of requests from colleagues and readers for help with Google Classroom. I have a bunch of short tutorials here on my YouTube channel. But I made the following slideshow for my colleagues who are starting to really use and rely on Google Classroom now that are school is closed.

The slideshow isn't intended to be an A-Z tutorial on using Google Classroom. I made it to highlight what I think are some helpful little features that might have been overlooked or forgotten about. I hope this helps some of you.

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

Create a Simple Website With Canva and Use It as a Digital Portfolio

Canva has been my graphic design tool of choice for the last five years. Lately, I've been using it to create slideshow presentations and videos in addition to simple graphics like the featured image in this blog post. In fact, the last two free webinars that I hosted featured slideshows designed in Canva.

One of the things that I like about using Canva for slideshows is that when I want to share the slides with a wider audience I can publish as a nice, clean and simple website. When I publish the slideshows that I make with Canva all of the links and videos that embedded in the slides continue to work. In the following video I demonstrate how to publish Canva slideshows as a simple stand-alone website.


Applications for Education
A few of my current students absolutely love using Canva. One of the things that I plan to do when we get back to having school in the school building is to have my students take pictures and record short videos about the projects they're doing in my classroom. Then they'll put the pictures and videos into slideshows in Canva and publish them as simple websites to share them as digital portfolios. Yes, they could do the same with Google Slides or PowerPoint, but Canva's presentation is just a little bit cleaner from the viewer's perspective.

Why I Make Video Tutorials

Yesterday afternoon someone wrote on my Facebook page that she was going to stop following the page because I had too many videos and not enough written tutorials. The fact of the matter is that I've published nearly 15,000 blog posts and less than half have videos in them (I counted last night). But I can see how she had that impression because for the last two years I have made a concerted effort to publish more tutorial videos and fewer written tutorials. I'd like to explain why. So here it is in list format.

1. Copyright issues. If you have followed this blog for more than a year, you're probably well aware of the many issues I've had with people stealing my work and pawning it off as their own. The most egregious cases have involved people using my work as their own in conference presentations! It's a heck of a lot harder to pass off my video as your own than it is to copy and paste my writing and images.

2. Discoverability. Depending the report you read, YouTube is the second or third most visited website in the world. Putting videos on YouTube helps more people discover my tutorials and this blog.

3. Clarity. Even when I write tutorials there are still some parts of the process that are better shown than told. A video solves that problem.

4. Time. I have a full-time course load and a family to raise and I try to stay in shape by racing my bicycle (masters category, baby!). I can produce a screencast video in the same or less time than it takes to make a series of written instructions.

Could my videos be better? Sure they could. But I wouldn't be able to make as many and many of them are made as a direct result of a request from a reader. So it all comes back to trying to help as many people as I can. It appears that video is the way to do that. Someone recently gave me the compliment that my videos have a "nice homemade feel." I'll take it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

How to Create Contact Groups in Gmail

Yesterday I shared the time-saving tip of scheduling emails in Gmail. Today, I have another time-saving Gmail tip. Creating a contact group or a contact label in Gmail makes it possible to simply type the name of a group into the Gmail composition editor and have all of the addresses in that group populated at once. This can be a huge time-saver when you need to send the same message to a group of students and or their parents.

The process of creating a contact group in Gmail has changed since the last time I published a tutorial about it. The video that I created today outlines the current process for making contact groups in Gmail.

How to Create Annotated Screen Capture Images

This morning I got an email from a reader who was looking for a screen capture tool that included tools for drawing straight lines, arrows, boxes, and generally making screen captures look a little more professional. One of the tools that I recommended was Nimbus Screenshot.

Nimbus Screenshot is available to use as an extension in Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. There is also a Nimbus Screenshot Chrome app for Chromebook users who want to be able to capture more than just a browser window. In the following video I demonstrate how to use Nimbus Screenshot to create annotated screen capture images.


Applications for Education
When explaining to students how to use a new tool it's often easier to show with them with a screen capture than it is to write out an explanation. Over the next couple of weeks my high school computer science courses will be online so I'm sure that I'll be making lots of screen captures to highlight pieces of code that need to be altered.

Free Historical Coloring Pages

If you're looking for an offline activity that you can recommend to parents for their students to do at home, take a look at the New York Academy of Medicine's Color Our Collections website. The site contains contributions from more than one hundred museums and libraries around the world. The participating museums and libraries offered of up PDFs of black and white drawings that visitors can print and then color. In other words, Color Our Collections is a huge collection of historical coloring book pages.

Applications for Education
Color Our Collections offers coloring pages covering a wide range of topics and themes. The Getty contributions feature animals, the contribution from the Library of Virginia covers the topic of Women's Suffrage, and Brunel University's collection features trains. Contributions from some museums and libraries cover topics in medicine. Because of the wide range of topics in the collection I'd recommend either curating a collection from the collection to send home or advising parents to pick and print from the website rather than sending students directly to the website.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Three More Free Webinars About Online Learning

Last week Rushton Hurley hosted three webinars about transitioning to online teaching and learning. Those webinars addressed a lot of questions about planning. You can watch the recording of his webinar from last week here.

Rushton is hosting three more free webinars this week. Here's how Rushton describes the webinars that he's hosting this week:

This program is not a collection of web-based tech tools, but rather one which focuses on how assignments can work for those who have just switched to online learning. The tools you are familiar with are your best choices after a sudden change to online instruction, and finding ways to use them effectively is the goal of the webinar.

This week's webinars will be on Wednesday at 4pm and 7pm ET and on Friday at 1pm ET. You can register for the webinars here.

In case you're wondering who Rushton Hurley is, he's the founder of Next Vista for Learning and a former principal of an online school. Watch the recording of one of his webinars from last week to learn more about him and his work.


Rushton uses Zoom for his webinars. You can learn how Zoom works by watching this short video.

Create a Consistent Communication Schedule by Using Gmail's Scheduling Feature - Here's How To Use It

In my webinar about quickly transitioning to teaching online (recording available here) I mentioned that I would using the scheduling feature in Gmail to send messages to students and parents on a consistent schedule. Here's a demonstration of how to use the scheduling feature in Gmail.


Applications for Education
You might be wondering why I would use this feature and not just use the scheduling feature in Google Classroom. The answer is that I have some students who prefer to have email sent to an email address other than the one issued by the school. Right now my priority is engaging my students in an online learning experience that we've been thrust into. Now is not the time for me to make a stand that says, "you must use your school email!" I'll fight that battle later. On a similar note, I have parents who despite repeated invitations won't join Google Classroom so I'm trying to meet them where they are.

Webinar Recording - Three Things We Can Do To Quickly Transition to Teaching Online

Last night I hosted a free webinar in which I shared what I'm doing to transition to quickly transition to teaching my high school classes online. I also shared some advice from my colleague Dr. Wendy Robichaud on how to prepare students for online learning and what to focus on in the first week or two. Other highlights of the webinar included tips for making videos and tips for keeping a consistent communication schedule. The webinar concludes with a short demonstration of how to use EDpuzzle to make video lessons.

Like most of you, I'm quickly having to transition to teaching my classes online. I've taught professional development courses online for a decade, but this is the first time I have to do it for high school students.

The recording of the webinar is now available to view on my YouTube channel and as embedded below.


The slides from the webinar can be accessed here and viewed as embedded below.

Three Things We Can Do to Quickly Transition to Online Teaching by richardbyrne

Monday, March 16, 2020

The Cincinnati Zoo Launches Daily Virtual Zoo Visits

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.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

How to Create Video Lessons Without Making Your Own Recordings

In the latest episode of The Practical Ed Tech Podcast I mentioned that EDpuzzle recently updated their user interface and that I was going to make a video about it. Well I started to make a video just about the updated UI then realized that I could help more teachers right now by making a complete overview of how EDpuzzle works. So that's what I did. In the following I provide a complete overview of how to use EDpuzzle to create video lessons using videos that you find online.

Highlights of the video include:
  • How to create an EDpuzzle account.
  • How to create an EDpuzzle classroom via Google Classroom and without Google Classroom.
  • How to make lessons with videos you've found online.
  • How to make lessons with videos you've created.
  • How students can access and respond to your lessons.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

How to Schedule and Host Google Hangouts Meet Events - Video

Last week I published a series of screenshots illustrating how to schedule and host Google Hangouts Meet events. For those who would like to see the whole process in a video format, I recorded the following tutorial video. In How to Create Google Hangouts Meet Events you'll see two methods for creating events and inviting your students to join those events.


Take a look at my PDF Tips and Tools for Teaching Remotely for more tools and ideas for online instruction.

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good morning from Maine where the wind is howling outside. Spring seems to be coming a little early this year as almost all of the snow in my yard has melted and the stream behind my house is running high.

As COVID-19 continues to spread and more schools close, I hope that all of can stay healthy and safe. Kudos to the ed tech companies and organizations that have worked hard to make resources freely available to teachers and students who need help rapidly transitioning to online instruction. As I said on my podcast, you can call me naive, but I think the vast majority are doing it out of a genuine concern and not as a money-grab.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Cisco Makes Webex Free and Publishes Guides for Teachers and Students
2. Tips and Tools for Teaching Remotely
3. Now You Can Fix Images in Google Docs
4. How to Host an Online Meeting With Zoom
5. How to Schedule, Host, and Customize Google Hangouts Meet Events
6. Two More Guides to Transitioning to Online Instruction
7. Teamimg - Collaborate to Make Interactive Images

2020 Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp!
I'm still planning to host the 2020 Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp in July. Discounted early registration is on sale now.

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 17,000 people subscribe 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.