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Thursday, April 30, 2020

The Month in Review - The Most Popular Posts

It's the last day of April. In some ways this month seemed to fly by and in others it seemed to drag along. The part that flew by was all work related as I was constantly answering questions from students, colleagues, and readers in between hosting virtual class meetings and webinars. The part that dragged along was all related to weather. Winter wouldn't give way to spring here and we had more than a handful of snowy days here in Maine.

As I do at the end of every month, I've created a list of the most popular posts of the month. It will probably not be a surprise to you that most of the posts in the list address topics related to online instruction. Take a look and see if there is something useful that you missed earlier in the month.

These were the most popular posts in April:
1. An Option for Making Sure Students Know They Have Google Classroom Assignments
2. An Overview of How Students View and Return Assignments in Google Classroom
3. Now You Can Use Flipgrid to Make Screencast Videos
4. 5 Google Classroom Tips for Teachers - Things You Might Have Overlooked or Forgotten
5. Google Classroom Assignments from Teacher and Student Perspectives - Nine Lessons
6. 5 Things You Should Never Do In a Virtual Staff Meeting
7. How to Quickly Create a Narrated Video from PowerPoint or Google Slides
8. Three Ways to Share Docs in Google Classroom - When to Use Each
9. By Request - How to Create a Timed Quiz in Google Classroom
10. How to Quickly Incorporate Google Meet Into Google Classroom

Online PD With Me!
I've been hosting professional development webinars for a decade.
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 21,000 people subscribe to my YouTube channel for my regular series of tutorial videos including more than 350 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 more than 450,000 followers. 
  • Twitter - I've been Tweeting away for the last thirteen years at twitter.com/rmbyrne
  • Instagram - this is mostly pictures of my kids, my dogs, my bikes, my skis, and fly fishing.

5 Easy Ways to Improve Your Videos

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learn more about making videos at the Practical Ed Tech Virtual Summer Camp or in one of my on-demand webinars

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

How to Create a Green Screen Video Without a Green Screen

If you have ever wanted to make a green video but didn't have access to iMovie and couldn't make the investment in other video editing software, this new video is for you. In the following video I demonstrate how you can use Zoom and Adobe Spark together to create a green screen video.

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

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


In the Practical Ed Tech Virtual Summer Camp I'll be covering lots of other ideas for classroom video projects. Registration is open now. 

Take a Virtual Field Trip to Maine's Wildlife Park

The Maine Wildlife Park is on my list of must-visit places for anyone visiting Maine with kids between ages two and twelve. It's a place where you can see moose, bears, beavers, deer, bobcats, lynx, and many other animals that are native to Maine. My daughters absolutely love it! Unfortunately, like many other parks the Maine Wildlife Park is closed for the foreseeable future due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, the park service is offering some virtual field trips this spring.

Starting next week the Maine Wildlife Park will be hosting two virtual field trips per week throughout the month of May. These virtual field trips are designed for elementary school and middle school students, but are open to anyone who wants to join. The field trips will be held through Zoom.

Additional Resources for Educators
The Maine Wildlife Park offers nineteen PDFs that teachers can distribute to students. Included in the list of PDFs are fact sheets, coloring pages, and animal observation charts. The observation charts could make a great companion to the upcoming virtual field trips.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

National Parks Games and Challenges - Try Virtual National Parks Bingo

I love the National Parks service that we have here in the U.S. One of the things I'm looking forward to doing with my kids when they're a little older is to help them explore some of the places in National Parks and National Forests that I've enjoyed in my life. My love of the outdoors is why I always get excited when I come across new and updated resources from the National Parks Service.

Most National Parks are still closed right now, but that doesn't mean kids can't learn about them. The National Parks Service offers a large collection of online and offline activities that kids can do to learn about National Parks even if they can't visit them right now.

The NPS Games and Challenges collection includes games about animals and landmarks within parks, drawing and coloring pages, hands-on projects like making costumes, and virtual scavenger hunts.

The NPS games about animals are a fun little guessing games in which students see a baby animal and have to guess what it will look like when it is grown up. For example, can you tell if this is a baby mountain lion or a baby bobcat? The Where the Park Am I? game shows you a 360 image taken within a park and you have to guess which park it was taken in. Go here and see if you can spot Acadia National Park (that's the only National Park in my state).

Virtual National Park Bingo is a game that asks players to explore a variety of NPS webpages and external resources to complete the bingo board. One of the bingo squares requires taking a national parks virtual tour. You could do that on the NPS website or head to this Google Earth collection to tour the U.S. National Parks.

Applications for Education
I only highlighted a few of the dozens of activities that you can find on the NPS' Games and Challenges site. There is something on there for students of all ages to try online and offline. And, of course, many of the activities can be modified to the needs of your students. For example, it wouldn't be hard to create a different version of National Parks Bingo based entirely on the imagery and information in the Google Earth collection of NPS tours.

On a related note, I offer an on-demand webinar all about using Google Earth and Maps in your classroom. You can find that webinar here.  

USGS Find a Feature Challenges - Outdoor Learning Opportunities

Last week I wrote about the Learning from Home resources available from the USGS. While it's not specifically a part of the Learning from Home resources, USGS offers another selection of activities that can be used for "at home" learning. Those activities are called Find a Feature.

The USGS Find a Feature challenge is a series of photo challenges. Each challenge asks participants to photograph a type of geological or ecological feature in their neighborhoods. When they've found the feature and taken a picture participants can post it on social media and tag @USGS_YES

Applications for Education
Find a Feature includes supporting documentation for teachers, parents, and students. For example, the current challenge about water clarity includes explanations of what water clarity is and how it is measured.

You could easily create your own Find a Feature challenge that is more specific to your area than the general challenges offered by the USGS. You could create a private "find a feature" challenge by posting an assignment in Google Classroom and having students reply with a photograph.

Monday, April 27, 2020

How to Create & Manage Multiple Gmail Signatures - And Why You Might Want To

About six weeks ago Google introduced a new multiple signatures option in Gmail. The feature has been rolling-out to G Suite for Edu domains over the last few weeks. It appeared in my school's domain last week and a colleague emailed me to ask what what does and why he should care about it.

Why you might create and use multiple signatures.
The multiple signatures option lets you create a signature that you use when sending an email to students and a different one to use when sending an email to colleagues. I created a signature that reads, "Mr. Byrne, Computer Science" when I'm emailing my students. The one that I use when emailing my colleagues, parents, or vendors reads "Richard Byrne, Computer Science." I did this just to create consistency with my students because they call me Mr. Byrne in class and online.

In the following video I demonstrate how to create and manage multiple signatures in Gmail.

What's Inside Your Computer - Three Introductory Lessons from TED-Ed

Much like cars, many of us use computers without knowing what really makes them go. And much like cars you don't have to know what makes your computer run, but it can certainly be helpful to know the basics in order to make informed decisions about them. Of course, if you want to attempt to repair your computer then you'll definitely want to know what makes them work.

TED-Ed has a few videos that can help viewers understand the basics the components inside a computer and how they work. These videos are appropriate for upper elementary school and middle school students. High school students who don't have any formal background in computer science may also find these videos to be instructive.

Inside Your Computer
This video covers all of the basic components found in a computer today. The video focuses on the role of the CPU in the system.



How Do Hard Drives Work?
This TED-Ed lesson explains how a mechanical hard drive works. It's important to note that the video doesn't specifically say that the lesson is based on a mechanical hard drive. Solid State Drives (SSD) function differently so you'll need make that clarification for your students.



How Computer Memory Works
Through this TED-Ed video viewers learn about types of memory within a computer and how they function within the greater system of a computer.

ICYMI - Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions & Share Cool Stuff - Webinar Recording

Every Friday afternoon I join Rushton Hurley from Next Vista for Learning for Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions & Share Cool Stuff. If you missed the last episode, the recording now available here on Next Vista under "previously." You can also watch the recording as embedded below.


On a related note, Rushton Hurley and Susan Stewart host Activities Across Grade Levels every Thursday afternoon. You can find recordings of those episodes and register for the next session here.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

5 Things You Should Never Do In a Virtual Staff Meeting

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

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

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

The Week in Review - Could This Be Spring?

Good morning from Maine where the birds are chirping as the sun begins to rise. The forecast calls for temperatures in the 50's (F) for the second day in row! Could this be the beginning of consistent spring weather? I hope so. We're all getting a little tired of boots and snowsuits (wrestling toddlers into snowsuits is a workout).

I plan to spend the day playing outside with my kids and my dogs. I hope that wherever you are this weekend, you can get outside too. Getting fresh air and exercise is a great way to reset your brain after a long week of virtual meetings and virtual classes.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Google Classroom Assignments from Teacher and Student Perspectives - Nine Lessons
2. By Request - How to Create a Timed Quiz in Google Classroom
3. How to Reverse the Mirroring Effect in Zoom
4. Google Meet Gets a Grid View and Higher Quality Video Sharing
5. Google Sites Templates & Banners
6. Five Elementary Lessons You Can Do With Pixton EDU
7. Explore the Library of Congress on Your iPad

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, I am planning to host some more later this month and in May so stay tuned for more information about those soon. 
  • I'm always available to schedule custom, online PD for your school.
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 21,000 people subscribe to my YouTube channel for my regular series of tutorial videos including more than 350 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 more than 450,000 followers. 
  • Twitter - I've been Tweeting away for the last thirteen years at twitter.com/rmbyrne
  • Instagram - this is mostly pictures of my kids, my dogs, my bikes, my skis, and fly fishing.

Friday, April 24, 2020

How to Collect Voicemail Through Your Website with SpeakPipe

In a couple episodes of Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff Rushton and I have mentioned using SpeakPipe. SpeakPipe is a tool that allows you to collect voicemail messages through your website or blog. With SpeakPipe installed on your blog anyone can click on the "send voicemail" button and leave a message for you. You can then either listen to the message or read a transcript of the message in your SpeakPipe account.

Someone who watched one of the webinars in which Rushton and I mentioned SpeakPipe emailed me this week for advice on how to install SpeakPipe. I made the following short video to explain how you can install SpeakPipe on a Google Site. The process in the video can used for just about any other website or blog platform that allows you to embed 3rd party HTML widgets.



Applications for Education
SpeakPipe can be a nice little addition to a school, library, or club website so that you can collect voice messages that are automatically transcribed for reading. You can also use it to simply create your own MP3 recordings that you download and distribute through your blog or website.

How to Reverse the Mirroring Effect in Zoom

In my recent article titled What's On My Desktop I mentioned using a small physical whiteboard during live lessons delivered via Zoom or Google Meet. Since then a few people have emailed to ask how I am able to make the writing on the whiteboard not appear reversed to students.

It's actually really easy to fix the problem of text and images appearing reversed to your Zoom audience. By default Zoom mirrors everything that is broadcast from your webcam. If you go into the video settings in Zoom there is an option to uncheck "mirror my video." As soon as you uncheck "mirror my video" you'll see everything flip sides of the screen and your audience will too. Watch my video or see my screenshot below for directions.



USGS Offers Online and Hands-on Learning from Home Resources

Since I was in elementary school I have enjoyed looking at maps and day dreaming about the places those maps depict. I like maps so much I have a couple of USGS topographical maps on the wall in my office. So whenever the USGS emails me with something new, I immediately investigate it. The latest email that I got from the USGS featured collections of "learning from home" resources.

Learning From Home With USGS offers eight weeks of lesson ideas and activities that students can complete online and or offline in their homes. For example, this week's resources include step-by-step directions and templates for building six different sand dune models. This week's resources also include dozens of links to resources for learning about national parks that contain sand dunes.

You can use the Learning From Home With USGS units in any order that you like. All of the resources from prior weeks are still available on the Learning From Home pages. Last week's unit was all about fossils. The fossils unit includes templates and step-by-step directions for making paper dinosaurs.

Applications for Education
If you're looking for some science or geography activities that your students can complete at home without an Internet connection, the USGS Learning From Home activities are worth your time to explore. All of the templates and step-by-step directions are available in PDFs that you can download and print to mail home to students.

Related Resources
The USGS offers thousands of historical maps that you can download for free through the topoView site.



Google Earth has historical and time-lapse imagery that can be useful in showing students the effects of erosion on coastal areas. Here's a video on how to find that imagery.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Google Sites Templates & Banners

Years ago Google Sites had a gallery of templates that you could pick from when you were starting to build a website. When the new (current) version of Google Sites was launched in 2016 the template gallery was removed. Today, Google brought back the Google Sites template gallery. The gallery is rather limited at this point, but it does have a few templates for education sites.

Banner announcements is another new feature that was added to Google Sites today. This feature will let you put a custom banner across the top of your site on its homepage and or all pages within the site. Putting a banner at the top can be a good way to call attention to an important notice that you want to make sure visitors don't miss. As I demonstrated in the video below, banners can be linked to calls to action for things like joining a virtual meeting.

In the video that is embedded below I demonstrate both of the new features that were added to Google Sites today.

Two Free Webinars Today and Tomorrow

Rushton Hurley, founder of Next Vista for Learning, has been hosting some great webinars over the last couple of months. One of those is every Thursday at 5pm ET and the other is every Friday at 1pm ET.

Today, at 5pm ET Rushton is hosting Activities Across Grade Levels. Susan Stewart is the co-presenter for the webinar. The focus of today's webinar is on activities for learning English and other languages. You can register for the free webinar right here.

Tomorrow, at 1pm ET I'll be joining Rushton for the fifth installment of Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff. Please come and ask us anything. We try to do more than just share cool tools, we try to share ideas for implementation too. You can register for the webinar and find previous episodes here.

Service via Video
Next Vista for Learning is currently running a collaborative video creation project that students and teachers. The project is called Service via Video. The goal of the project is,in Rushton's words, "to inspire others by telling stories of service using digital video." Rushton recently hosted a webinar about the project. The webinar included ideas for making videos and how to use Adobe Spark to make videos. You can find the webinar recording and handouts under "previously" on this page.

Google Meet Gets a Grid View and Higher Quality Video Sharing

One of the things that many people like about Zoom is the ability to see all participants in a call in a grid on your screen. (It makes me feel like I'm in the opening scene of The Brady Bunch). Now Google is going to offer that ability as a native part of Google Meet.

As Google announced yesterday, you'll soon be able to see sixteen participants in a Google Meet on one screen. This feature has started to roll-out to some domains and should be available in all G Suite domains by the first of May. You'll be able to implement a tiled layout display from the layout controls when you are in an active Google Meet. Directions are available here.

Higher Quality Video Sharing
There was another enhancement to Google Meet announced yesterday. That enhancement is a new option to share one Chrome tab in Google Meet instead of sharing your entire screen or an entire window. This feature was created in order to improve the quality of video playback in Google Meet. It should make playing a YouTube video in a meeting a little smoother. This should also improve the playback of video and audio that is embedded into Google Slides presentations. This feature should be on now for all users. Directions are available here.

Applications for Education
Teachers who want to better keep track of how attentive students are in a virtual meeting will probably like the new tiled/ grid view in Google Meet.

The improved video sharing option should eliminate some of the glitches associated with streaming in Google Meet. Eliminating those glitches should help hold students' attention a bit more in a Google Meet. I know that my students quickly get distracted if a stream starts glitching in our Google Meet calls.

Getting Started With Google Meet

If you're new to using Google Meet, here are a few videos that I've made this spring that should help you get started.

How to use Google Meet in Google Classroom



What Google Meet looks like to students.



How to schedule Google Meet events in Google Calendar.

By Request - How to Create a Timed Quiz in Google Classroom

I'm taking a digital portfolio approach to assessment in our remote learning environment and using EDpuzzle for little comprehension checks. But my approach to assessment isn't the only one you might take. In fact, a more than a handful of people have asked me via email, Twitter, and even a phone call (a colleague of mine) about using Google Forms for timed quizzes. It is possible to deliver timed quizzes by using a combination of Google Forms, Google Classroom, and Form Limiter.

In this new video I demonstrate how to you can create a timed quiz in Google Classroom by using Google Forms, the Forms add-on FormLimiter, and the scheduling function in Google Classroom.



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

Google Classroom Assignments from Teacher and Student Perspectives - Nine Lessons

A frequent occurrence in my inbox these days is requests for help understanding how students see assignments and feedback in Google Classroom. Additionally, I've had requests for clarification on how students should submit their work for grading in Google Classroom. To address those questions I made a new video that shows three ways to give assignments in Google Classroom and how students can submit work for those assignments.

This video provides an overview of how teachers can give assignments in Google Classroom and how students can submit work for assignments in Google Classroom.


Nine things this video teaches:
1. How to give an assignment in which students get a file pre-made for them to edit.
2. How students can complete an assignment in which they were given a pre-made file to edit.
3. How to grade and give comments on the assignment listed above.

4. How to give an assignment in which students have to attach a file that wasn't made with a G Suite tool.
5. How students submit files made outside of G Suite.
6. How to grade and give comments on the assignment listed above.

7. How to give an assignment in which students have to make their own Google Doc.
8. How students can create and submit a Google Doc in response to an assignment.
9. How to grade and give comments on the assignment listed above.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Join Me for a Live Podcast Q&A Tomorrow at 3pm ET

Tomorrow afternoon at 3pm ET I'll be a guest on Jeff Mao's new podcast Edmoxie TL4Ed Live! Jeff, in his own words, is a recovering government bureaucrat, who successfully led the Maine Learning Technology Initiative for many years. I've talked to Jeff many times over the years including interviewing for a job that I didn't get :) This should be a fun podcast conversation.

I know that Jeff has some questions lined-up for me, but we welcome your questions too. You're also welcome to join if you don't have questions and just want to hear me in a live, unscripted format. You can join the live broadcast tomorrow right here.

In fairness to Jeff, I would have been a terrible choice for that particular job. For fans of The Office, I would have ended up doing some Jim Halpert-like things out of boredom. 

Explore the Library of Congress on Your iPad

The Library of Congress Collections app is a free iPad app that offers a nice way for students and teachers to explore collections of artifacts housed by the Library of Congress. The collections available through the app are also available directly on the LOC website. The benefit of viewing them in the app is ability to smoothly pinch and zoom on documents, maps, and images. The app also offers collections that contain audio and video recordings.


The LOC Collections app lets you browse and search through collections of artifacts covering a wide range of topics in U.S. History. When you do find an artifact that you like and want to save for future reference you can add it to your favorites within the app. Additionally, many items found in the app can be shared to other apps like OneNote, Google Drive, and Box that you might already have on your iPad.

LOC Collections is only available for iOS at this time. An email that I received from the Library of Congress stated that an Android version of the app will be available later this year.

Applications for Education
The LOC Collections app could be a great resource for students who are researching a specific topic in U.S. History and need to consult some primary sources. For example, there is an entire collection of "man on the street" audio recordings of interviews done with Americans immediately after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Listening to those interviews could give students a better understanding of how Americans felt in 1941.

The LOC Collections app could also be a good resource to have students explore to find a topic that they want to research in more depth. Just browsing through the list of collections could spark some curiosity and introduce students to topics they might not have thought about or even heard about.

Gallery AR - Augmented Reality Art on Your Walls

Gallery AR is a free iPad app and free iPhone app that anyone can use to view classic works of art in augmented reality. The app features art work that was digitized by The Art Institute of Chicago.

Gallery AR digitally displays works of art on your walls when you point your phone or iPad at it. Works appear to be chosen at random, but you can swap them out with another work by tapping the reset icon in the app. You zoom in on the art work by walking closer to the wall in front of you.

In my testing of Gallery AR I found it to be a bit sensitive to changes in lighting. In fact, the app didn't display anything until I turned on every light in my office and opened the shades to let in sunlight. In fairness to the developer, I have the same problem with the augmented reality function in the Google Arts & Culture app.

Applications for Education
Gallery AR could be a nice app for art teachers to recommend to students who are currently at home and looking for a new way to experience classic works of art. The app is free and doesn't require any registration to use and doesn't offer any confusing in-app purchases.

A Few Overlooked Ways to Customize Google Sites

In a recent article about using digital portfolios for assessment I mentioned using Google Sites and Blogger. Neither of those tools are known for being aesthetically outstanding. In fact, I'd say they're very plain at best. That said, there are some little tweaks that you can make to Google Sites to improve site navigation and to attempt to differentiate your site from the standard templates. Unfortunately, those options are kind of hidden and often overlooked.

In the following video I demonstrate a few little tweaks that you can make to your Google Site. In this video you will see:
  • How to change the placement of navigation links. 
  • How to apply a custom favicon. 
  • How to add a site logo.


On a related note, here's a video about changing the favicon on Blogger blogs.

How to Enable Google Sites Collaboration Through Google Classroom

After watching my video about Google Sites in my recent Practical Ed Tech newsletter a reader emailed to ask me for ideas for the best way to share Google Sites with her students so that they can all work on the same site. In this post I'll share a couple of ways to do that including how to enable collaboration through Google Classroom.

There are a couple ways to enable collaboration on Google Sites. The first is to click the "share with others" icon in the upper-right corner of the Google Sites editor and then enter your students' email addresses. The other method is to share your Google Site as an assignment in Google Classroom and allow students to edit the file. Both methods are demonstrated in the following video.

In this video:

  • How to share a Google Site via email.
  • How to share a Google Site through Google Classroom. 
  • A suggestion on how to manage shared Google Sites.


Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Five Elementary Lessons You Can Do With Pixton EDU

Disclosure: Pixton is currently an advertiser on this blog. 

For many years I’ve promoted the idea of using comics as a way to get students to develop fiction and nonfiction stories. In fact, I’ve hosted webinars in which I explained how I’ve used comics as the basis for getting students interested in telling history stories. For more than a decade Pixton has been one of the tools that I’ve used to help students develop fiction and nonfiction stories in comic form.

One of the things that drew me to Pixton many years ago was the wide variety of artwork that students can use to develop their stories. Even people like me who are not good at drawing can create great comics by using Pixton’s backgrounds, characters, and speech bubbles. Pixton EDU bundles many of those elements into thematic content packs. Those content packs can provide inspiration for stories while also giving students a variety of artwork with which to craft their stories. Let’s take a look at five elementary school lessons inspired by the content packs available in Pixton EDU.

Real World Mathematics
Pixton EDU offers a content pack called Math Shopping. In that pack are customizable backgrounds, characters, and prop items that can be used to tell stories of using mathematics concepts to make good choices while shopping. My thought was to have a little fun with this and have students illustrate examples of “bad math in the real world.” For example, I might tell the story of the time my local McDonald’s was advertising apple pies for .49/each or $1.00 for two.

Digital Citizenship
It is never too early for students to start learning and developing good digital citizenship habits. One way to help students recognize good and bad digital citizenship is to share some stories as examples. Pixton EDU offers a content pack about bullying that could be used in telling stories of good and bad digital citizenship habits.

Solar System
Use the Pixton EDU Solar System content pack to write a little solar system travel narrative. That narrative could be based on facts like the first moon landing or first Canadian to stay in the ISS. Students could also create a narrative that combines facts like distances between planets with fiction elements like putting themselves in a lunar building.

Spelling
Learning to spell is full of tricky little rules to learn. It’s also full of handy rules of thumb like “I before E except after C.” Using the framework of a comic and the tools in Pixton EDU is a good way to have students illustrate those rules. Or use those same tools to create little stories in the style of “A is for Apple.”

Social Norms and Manners
There is a lot that kids learn in school that never appears in a grade. Many of those things could be classified as social norms or manners. You can use many of the content packs or just use the blank templates in Pixton EDU to illustrate some of those norms and manners. Better yet, have students use those packs to create a story to illustrate using good manners.

How to Get Started With Pixton EDU

You can register on Pixton EDU by using your G Suite account, your Microsoft account, or by using any email address and selecting a password. Once you’ve registered as a teacher you can create classrooms on Pixton EDU. Your classroom will be assigned its own unique URL that you can direct your students to in order to join your class. Students can join with G Suite accounts, Microsoft accounts, or by directly registering on Pixton EDU.

The advantage of having students join your Pixton EDU classroom is that you can see all of their work in one place. Additionally, you can send students feedback directly from your Pixton EDU classroom.

The best way to get familiar with using the Pixton EDU creation tools is to jump in and start customizing your avatar. Fortunately, Pixton EDU walks you through that process as soon as you register on the site. Likewise, your students will be guided through customizing their own avatars when they join your classroom.

After you’ve gotten the hang of customizing your avatar, you’ll be able to quickly customize characters as you make comics in Pixton EDU. Then you’ll be ready to start working with and customizing elements of any content packs. The Truth or Lie content pack is a free and fun one to use before moving into some of the project ideas that were suggested in the first half of this article.

How to Add Answer Feedback to Quizzes in Google Forms & How Students See It

Over the weekend I received an email from a reader who wanted to know what his students saw when feedback was added to quizzes created with Google Forms. That is exactly what I demonstrate in the following new video.

In the following video you will see:
  • How to create a quiz in Google Forms. 
  • How to add answer feedback to quizzes in Google Forms. 
  • How students can instantly view feedback. 
  • How to leave comments on a quiz students take in Google Forms. 



As I mentioned in the video, there isn't a way to force students to watch the videos that you leave as answer feedback. But you can insert a link to anything you like in the answer feedback. If you want to include answer feedback in video form and want to have a record of whether or not students watch the video, you could include a link to an EDpuzzle video lesson in the answer feedback. Here's an overview of how to use EDpuzzle.

Monday, April 20, 2020

World Wildlife Fund Livestreams, Apps, and Games for Students

For years the World Wildlife Fund has offered educational games and apps for students. Now they're also offering live educational broadcasts for students.

On the WWF's Wild Classroom page you will find a list of upcoming livestreams and he target audience for those livestreams. For example, tomorrow's livestream about bees is intended for students in second through sixth grade.

In addition to upcoming live broadcasts the WWF Wild Classroom page features daily lesson plans and activities. The activities were designed for use at school, but could easily be modified to be completed at home with the help of parents. Every lesson plan includes an activity outline, a video, and a related article. Archives of previous weeks'  lesson plans are available at the bottom of the WWF Wild Classroom page.

WWF Mobile Apps
One of my all-time favorite iPad apps was developed by the WWF. That app is the WWF Together App. It's not the most advanced app you'll find, but it is beautifully done. WWF Together now features the stories of threatened or endangered animals around the world. The stories include facts about the animals' ranges, threats to their habitats, and latest news about efforts to help preserve these animals and their habitats. Within each story there is an opportunity for students to take a selfie with an animal. This is done through the use of augmented reality that lets users place an origami rendering of an animal into any setting including a selfie. And for those who want a hands-on activity, WWF Together includes directions for making origami animals.

WWF Free Rivers is a free augmented reality app produced by the World Wildlife Foundation. The app uses augmented reality to present a story about rivers. WWF Free Rivers tells students stories about the implications of changes in weather patterns, damming rivers, and pollution on river ecosystems. Students interact with these stories by moving their iPads and or by pinching and zooming on elements in the stories. Unlike some other AR apps the animations within WWF Free Rivers can be experienced by students from a variety of angles. A great example of this is found early in the app when students can see what a dam does to a river. During that experience students can see the dam from above, from below, and from the sides.

Resources for Teaching & Learning About the American Revolution

Today is Patriots' Day here in Maine as well as Massachusetts and Connecticut. It's a day commemorate the start of the American Revolutionary War with the Battles of Lexington and Concord. As a good New Englander, this is the day that I like to highlight some of my favorite resources for teaching and learning about the American Revolution.

Pictures of the Revolutionary War is a compilation of images about the Revolutionary War. The images in the collection chronicle the stirrings of rebellion in the pre-revolution years, the war from both American and British perspectives, and events following the Revolutionary War.

Minute Man National Historical Park offers detailed lesson plans that can be in conjunction with a visit to the park and lesson plans that can be used independent of a visit to the park. Take a look at the Legacy of Conflict lesson plan designed for 5th grade students (link opens a PDF) to get a sense of the type of detailed resources that the park offers.

Creating Google Earth tours of Revolutionary War battle sites is an activity that I did for many years with my U.S. History students. Students would create multimedia placemarkers for each battle in sequence. The placemarkers contained information about the outcome and significance of each battle. Here's a video on how to make a tour with with the browser-based version of Google Earth.



Video Lessons
Keith Hughes has a popular video in which he explains the American Revolution for middle school and high school students.



Crash Course has an extensive series on U.S. History. Included in that series is Taxes & Smuggling - Prelude to Revolution.



Mr. Betts has a YouTube channel on which he posts cartoons and song parodies to teach U.S. History lessons. Here's one he did about the Battles of Lexington and Concord.



Bonus for Red Sox Fans!
This is usually the day that the Boston Marathon is held and Red Sox play a morning game. Neither is happening this year. For my fellow Red Sox fans here's a famous clip from the 2007 Patriots' Day game.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Webinar Recording - Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff

On Friday afternoon I joined Rushton Hurley for our weekly webinar Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff. It was a fun webinar. I feel like it was our best one yet. If you missed it, the recording is now available to view here or as embedded below. The slides can be seen here and the transcript with links can be seen here.

Throughout the week Rushton hosts a bunch of other webinars. I encourage you to head to the Next Vista webinars page to see what else he has coming up this week.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

The Week in Review - Might as Well Eat Cake

Good morning from Maine where the sun is soon to be shining and the snow is gone. At this time last week we were still recovering from the effects of a big spring snowstorm. In the middle of last week's power outage my friend and colleague Dr. Wendy Robichaud and her husband sent us a cake. The cake came with a nice reminder that we can all use from time-to-time. Wherever you are this weekend, I hope that you can enjoy some cake or something equally fun too.


These were the week's most popular posts:
1. How to Quickly Create a Narrated Video from PowerPoint or Google Slides
2. How to Quickly Incorporate Google Meet Into Google Classroom
3. An Option for Making Sure Students Know They Have Google Classroom Assignments
4. How to Use Google Hangouts Meet in Google Classroom
5. How to Share Your Videos in Google Classroom - With and Without YouTube
6. Screencastify Submit Looks Promising - Easy Way for Students to Make Videos
7. Ten Fun and Challenging Geography Games for Students of All Ages

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, I am planning to host some more later this month and in May so stay tuned for more information about those soon. 
  • I'm always available to schedule custom, online PD for your school.

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 20,000 people subscribe to my YouTube channel for my regular series of tutorial videos including more than 350 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 more than 450,000 followers. 
  • Twitter - I've been Tweeting away for the last thirteen years at twitter.com/rmbyrne
  • Instagram - this is mostly pictures of my kids, my dogs, my bikes, my skis, and fly fishing.

EZCheck.me - A Convenient Way to Take Attendance for Large Classes

EZCheck.me is a new service that could be helpful whenever we return to having classes in-person instead of virtually. EZCheck.me is a system that lets students check themselves in for your class.

With the EZCheck.me system you simply project a QR code and your students scan it with their phones to check themselves in. Students who don't have a smartphone can check in by using a corresponding check-in code that is displayed next to the QR code. The QR code and check-in codes are dynamic which means they change from class to class so that students have to be there in class to get the correct code.


Applications for Education
I tested EZCheck.me and found it to be a easy to use. I can see it being helpful to those who teach large classes.

There are some issues that will keep me from using it with my classes. First, I know all of my students by name and face so I can take attendance in less time than it would take to project the QR code and get students to scan it. Second, even if students use use the numeric check-in code they still have to verify their phone numbers. For those two reasons I don't see it being a tool that K-12 teachers will use, but it could be a solution for taking attendance in university classes and for conducting check-ins for large conferences.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Put Scrap Cardboard to Use With One of These Hands-on Learning Projects

Instructables is one of my favorite places to find ideas for all kinds of hands-on projects from complex Raspberry Pi and Arduino projects to simple things made with cardboard, there are projects for everyone on Instructables.

Currently, Instructables is hosting a contest called the Speed Cardboard Challenge. As the name implies, you have to design and make something out of cardboard. You also have to publish directions that other people can follow to make your project. The contest runs through April 20th at midnight Pacific Time. There are twenty prizes being given away. The top prize is a $500 Amazon gift card.

At the time of this writing, there are 134 entries into the contest. You can see the entries on the Speed Cardboard Challenge. Some of the entries are things that kids can definitely do at home. Those are making a 360 viewer, making a cardboard speaker, and making a pinball machine.

Thanks to online shopping and quarantining there is an abundance of cardboard in my life. Projects like the ones on the Instructables Speed Cardboard Challenge provide a good way to put some of that cardboard to use. Heck, I might even turn some of that cardboard into a set of drawers to organize loose office supplies.

Applications for Education
In a webinar that Rushton Hurley and I hosted earlier today someone asked for our thoughts about just letting kids come up with questions to explore. I think that's a great idea! Doing things like Instructables cardboard projects can be a good way to spark students' imaginations for STEM-related questions to explore. Depending upon the project and the age of your students they could come up with questions about PSI (pounds per square inch), calculating area and volume, or the structural integrity of various adhesives as they interact with cardboard.

Kids Can Learn About National Parks on a Virtual Road Trip With Nature Cat

PBS Kids Nature Cat collection offers a bunch of great activities that elementary school students can do at home with or without direct involvement of parents. One of the activities that kids can probably do on their own is the Nature Cat Road Trip.

On the Nature Cat Road Trip students learn about a handful of national parks. The Road Trip is essentially an interactive board game. Students pick a character to move along the game board after they spin a number spinner. At various stops along the way students learn about national parks and complete little activities at those stops. Completing the activities gives students virtual souvenirs.

The PBS Kids Nature Cat collection has more than just interactive games. The collection also includes some hands-on learning activities that students can complete at home with the help of their parents. These activities include making pinecone bird feeders (my kids did that a couple of weeks ago), making a little indoor garden, and making a composting station.

PBS Kids Nature Cat Mobile Apps
Nature Cat's Great Outdoors is a free app from PBS Kids. The app, available for iOS and Android, provides students with activities they can do outdoors in all kinds of weather. There are activities for sunny days, rainy days, and snowy days. An example of a rainy day adventure is recording the sounds of rain drops and the sounds of splashing in puddles. The app has more than 100 adventure suggestions built into it. Students earn digital badges for completing adventures.

Nature Cat's Great Outdoors has a journal component that students can use to record observations and ideas. The journal lets students save audio recordings, type notes, and draw. Students can record and write on blank journal pages or respond to one of the prompts included in the journals.

Fact Fragment Frenzy - An App to Practice Identifying Facts

Yesterday, I shared Common Craft's new video about facts and opinions. In looking for some related resources I came across a blog post that I wrote a few years ago about a free iPad and Android app from Read Write Think. The app is called Fact Fragment Frenzy.

The purpose of Fact Fragment Frenzy is to help students learn how to pull facts out of a passage of text. The app includes a demonstration video in which the narrator explains which words in a text represent facts and which words do not represent facts. After watching the demonstration video students can use the app to practice identifying facts in a passage.

Fact Fragment Frenzy lets students practice identifying facts in a passage by having them drag words from a text into a digital notebook within the app. The app contains five practice passages.

Applications for Education
Fact Fragment Frenzy could be a good app for elementary school students to use to learn how to identify the important facts in a passage. One downside to the app is that it doesn't provide students with feedback on the choices that they make in the app. You will have to review your students' choices in order for them to receive feedback.

Read Write Think offers some lesson ideas that incorporate Fact Fragment Frenzy.