Friday, July 31, 2020

The Month in Review - The Most Popular Posts in July

It's hard for me to believe that it's the last day of July. It feels like just last week I was hosting end-of-year Google Meet sessions with my students. Now I'm starting to think about the first day of school that is less than a month away. That's why I'm going to have a few days offline next week to recharge my brain and my enthusiasm. I hope that you've had or will have a similar opportunity before school starts.

As I do at the end of every month I've compiled a list of the ten most read posts over the last 30 days. Take a look and see if there is something useful or interesting that you missed.

These were the most popular posts in July:
1. Use Whiteboards in Google Meet Without Screensharing
2. 7 New Google Meet Features for Teachers
3. Convert Handwritten Notes Into Google Documents
4. How to Use Kahoot With Google Classroom
5. 5 Ways to Make Whiteboard Instructional Videos in Your Web Browser
6. Seven Ideas for Flipgrid Activities
7. 5 Google Classroom Features You Might Have Overlooked or Forgotten
8. How to Make a Digital Bookshelf in Google Slides
9. How to Create Your Own Online Board Game
10. How to Work With PDFs in Google Classroom

Back to School PD Opportunities
This week I received a bunch of requests to host PD webinars for the start of the school year. If you'd like to have me host a PD session for your school, please send me a note at richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com to learn more about how we can work together.

Thank You for Your Support!
Other Places to Follow My Work
Besides FreeTech4Teachers.com and the daily email digest, there are other ways to keep up with what I'm publishing. 
  • Practical Ed Tech Newsletter - This comes out once per week (Sunday night/ Monday morning) and it includes my tip of the week and a summary of the week's most popular posts from FreeTech4Teachers.com.
  • My YouTube Channel - more than 26,000 people subscribe to my YouTube channel for my regular series of tutorial videos including more than 400 Google tools tutorials.  
  • Facebook - The FreeTech4Teachers.com Facebook page has more than 450,000 followers. 
  • Twitter - I've been Tweeting away for the last thirteen years at twitter.com/rmbyrne
  • Instagram - this is mostly pictures of my kids, my dogs, my bikes, my skis, and fly fishing.

Finding Primary Sources in the World Digital Library

The World Digital Library is a resource that I started using back in 2009. At that time it was just a small collection of about 1,200 digitized primary source artifacts from libraries around the world. Today, the World Digital Library hosts more than 19,000 digitized primary source artifacts to view and download.

As you'll see in the video embedded below you can search the WDL by date, era, country, continent, topic, and type of resource. But my favorite way to explore the WDL is by browsing through the interactive maps that are available when you click on the globe icon in the site's header. The WDL aims to be accessible to as many people as possible by providing search tools and content descriptions in multiple languages.


Applications for Education
The World Digital Library can be a great resource for anyone that teaches history and or cultural studies. The wealth of image based resources along with the document based resources makes the WDL appropriate for use with most age groups.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

How to Check the Accessibility of Your Google Slides

Yesterday afternoon I saw someone on Twitter ask if there is a way to evaluate the accessibility of a slide presentation. My answer was to try Grackle Slides. Grackle Slides is a Google Slides add-on that will evaluate the accessibility of your presentation and give you suggestions on how to improve the accessibility of your presentation. Watch the short video below to see how it works.



Grackle Slides is a companion to the Grackle Docs add-on for Google Documents that I featured last December. Watch my video about Grackle Docs as embedded below.

Alternatives to Google Forms

Earlier this week I answered an email from a reader who was looking for a way to collect "check-in" information from students but didn't want to use Google Forms. Here are the alternatives to Google Forms that I suggested she try.

JotForm
JotForm is a good tool for creating fillable PDFs and online forms for things like course registration, permission slips, and course evaluations. Last week I wrote a detailed overview of JotForm. I made a video that walks you through the features of JotForm from the perspective of a form creator and a form respondent.



Microsoft Forms
Microsoft Forms has a lot of the features that Google Forms offers. For those who work in schools that have Microsoft 365 accounts, Microsoft Forms provides a good way to create online surveys and quizzes. My short tutorials on Microsoft Forms can be seen here.



Formative
This might not seem obvious at first glance, but Formative could be a good tool to collect quiz and survey responses from students. In Formative you can create an activity in which students answer multiple choice and short answer questions. Formative also lets you create "show your work" questions in which students are given an online whiteboard to draw and type on. Here's my demo of how that works.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Using DocsTeach to Create Online Lessons - Free Webinar Next Week

DocsTeach is a favorite resource of mine for U.S. History teachers and students. I used it and it's predecessor fairly regularly when I was teaching U.S. History. DocsTeach provides an online space where you can create primary source based lessons for your students to complete online or offline. Last fall I published a detailed tutorial on how to create lessons with it. If you'd like some live instruction on how to use it, DocsTeach is hosting a series of free webinars in August.

On August 4th, 6th, 11th, and 13th at 2pm ET DocsTeach staff will host 20 minute webinars about how to use the features of DocsTeach for online instruction. Advanced registration is required in order to participate in the live webinars. Register here.

Five Things I'm Excited About for the New School Year

Yesterday morning I wrote about how I'm preparing for the worst for the new school year and my nervousness about the start of the school year. To balance that post, I think it's a good idea to think about and share what I am looking forward to about the start of the new school year.

Reconnecting with students. 
I'm fortunate to have a program in which students can stay with me for three years if they want to. Most of my students from last year are coming back. A couple of them have been emailing me throughout the summer to tell me about what they're tinkering with and or to ask questions and make suggestions for activities to do in the fall.

Raspberry Pi 4
One of those kids that has been emailing me all summer got an 8GB Raspberry Pi 4 this summer. He's off and running with it. I'm going to have spend some time in August trying to catch up to him before school starts. And if I don't catch up to him, that's okay because I'll readily admit that I have lots to learn and he can teach me.

Phidgets
I wrote about Phidgets yesterday. They're inexpensive sensors and micro-controllers that can be programmed in Java, Python, C#, or Swift. Setting them up is easy. Once set-up kids can tinker with the code to do all kinds of interesting things. You can get a free Phidgets starter kit by filling out a short request form on their education page.

Rebuilding a network
Due to the abrupt end to in-person classes and some miscommunication between the maintenance staff, myself, and administration the wireless and wired networks that were built in my classroom were unceremoniously dismantled before a proper schematic was made. So I'm looking at this as an opportunity to rebuild it better than before.

Seeing my colleagues
Even if we're masked and six+ apart from each other it will still be nice to see them face-to-face again. Other than my immediate family and a few socially distant conversations with neighbors, I haven't had any in-person social interactions since March 13th and I think it's making me a bit nutty.

Disclosure: Phidgets is currently an advertiser on this blog. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Phidgets - A Fun, Free, Hands-on Way to Learn Python, Java, and More

Disclosure: Phidgets is an advertiser on this blog.

As the new school year approaches Phidgets is one new thing that I’m excited to use with my students. Phidgets provide a fun, hands-on way for students to learn to program in Python, Java, C#, and Swift. If you’re not a computer science teacher, don’t skip over this post thinking that Phidgets is just a product for computer science classes. There’s no cost to try it out because Phidgets will send you a free kit to get started. And Phidgets has super easy-to-follow instructions that make perfect sense even if you have never written a single line of code in your life.

What are Phidgets?
Phidgets are sensors, microcontrollers that you can program in your choice of four programming languages. You can program Phidgets to do things like turn things like LED lights on and off, to record data, and to automate processes. Come all three of those things together and you’ll start to build some really interesting things like lights that turn on based on a light sensor or build a simple alert system with motion and proximity sensors. Probably the quickest way to see what’s possible with Phidgets is to watch this 90 second video.


Who can use Phidgets?
I’m planning to use Phidgets with my 9th and 10th grade students this fall. I’m confident that 6th through 8th grade students could also have success using Phidgets.

What’s in the Phidgets starter kit and how do I get one?
The Phidgets starter kit for schools comes in a 6”x3”x4” box that serves as the storage container for the kit’s contents and also serves to hold the LEDs and switches included in the kit. The kit also includes a humidity sensor, a hub (where wired connections are made), and all necessary wires and cables.

You can get your free Phidgets starter kit by filling out this short form. After filling out that form you might want to watch one of the recorded getting started webinars for teachers or sign up for one of the upcoming live webinars. The next live webinar is tomorrow!

Getting Started is Easy!
Once you’ve received your kit from Phidgets (mine came about a week after ordering) head to Phidgets.com/start and follow the directions for assembling your kit. Your kit should have everything that you see in my pictures. Those things are two switches (red and green), two LED lights (red and green), a VINT hub (that’s what connects all of the wiring), a humidity sensor, a USB cable (to power your lights and sensors from your computer), and wires to connect all of the components.

After assembling your kit the next thing you will need to do is select the programming language and environment that you want to use to write the programs that will run your lights and sensors. This step will be the most confusing step for those who don’t have any prior programming experience. If you want me to make this step easy for you, just choose Python as your language and Thonny as your programming environment. You’ll have to install Thonny on your computer in order to write programs and make your Phidgets do anything. Fortunately, the Phidgets getting started tutorial includes sample code that you can copy and paste directly into Thonny. Phidgets also includes suggestions on how to change the code to make your lights and sensors do things other than what the sample code provided.

Tinkering with Phidgets
The fun of Phidgets comes once you’ve gone through the tutorials and you’re ready to start tinkering with the programming. Your students can start by just modifying the timing to make LEDs flash at different intervals. From there they might move on to using the humidity and sensor record data and have that data trigger the flashing of an LED. There’s much more that students can do if you give them time to tinker. What I’m excited about for the fall is seeing what my students will come up with when they have time to experiment with Phidgets and Python.

How to Clear Your Chrome Browser History and Stored Passwords


On a fairly regular basis I get emails from teachers who are disappointed that a website I demonstrated in a video or wrote about in a blog post doesn't work for them. Sometimes the trouble is with the website, but often the trouble is on your end. After you've tried the steps I outlined in this post, you might want to try clearing your browser's cache of cookies and stored passwords. That's particularly true if you're having trouble resetting a password on a website. In the following video I demonstrate how to clear your stored information in the Chrome web browser.



Preparing for the Worst With Zoom, Dual Monitors, Microphones, and More

In the last couple of weeks I've received a bunch of emails and Tweets from people who are panicking about going back to school and having to simultaneously teach students in their classrooms while also live-streaming and or recording their lessons for students who are staying home. I think it is completely unrealistic to expect teachers to be able do this. It's hard enough to keep a group of kids engaged in a physical classroom. It's even harder to keep a group kids engaged in an online classroom (especially if those kids don't want to be there). All that said, there's a good chance that I might end up having to do that this fall (my school has not made any official decisions). Here's what I'm doing to prepare for that potential situation. Hopefully, this helps some of you too.

Zoom
Until Google actually rolls-out all of the new Google Meet features they teased in June, I'm anticipating starting the year using Zoom for virtual classes. In the set-up for my Zoom meetings I'll enable the option to mute all participants on entry, use meeting passwords, and enable the waiting room option. My district doesn't want us recording live meetings. If your school district allows it, I'd do it.

Dual Monitors/ Dual Computers
I'm fortunate to have access to high quality laptops and desktops in my classroom. My plan is to use one for monitoring the live broadcast and one for instruction. An alternative is to use two monitors connected to one computer. If you're a Windows user, follow these directions for setting up a dual monitor display. If you're a Mac user, follow these directions for setting up a dual monitor display. Hopefully, your school is willing to at least invest in a second monitor for you. One that's adequate for the purpose can be had for under $75.

Microphone
For many years I've used Blue Snowball microphones when recording videos and hosting webinars. But being tethered to my computer won't work when I need to be able to move around my classroom and broadcast my audio for those participating remotely to hear. So I've invested in a wireless microphone and receiver set-up that I can plug into my laptop. I just tested it this morning and it worked for recording while up to about 50 feet away from my computer. That should be adequate for my classroom. I am a little worried about potential for interference if a bunch of teachers are using the same set-up in their classrooms. But my bigger worry is forgetting to mute the microphone when I don't need to broadcast (those of you who are my age or older may be haunted by this infamous Leslie Nielsen scene).

Bottom Line
As the new school year get closer I'm more nervous about the first day of school than I was on my first day of teaching nearly two decades ago (gosh, where did the time go?). I hope that we call can adjust to our new normal as seamlessly as possible.

Monday, July 27, 2020

How to Make a Digital Bookshelf in Google Slides

This summer I've had more requests for book recommendations than I ever have in the nearly thirteen year history of this blog. I've also had a ton of requests for help making things like digital choice boards. So to address both of those requests I made the following video in which I demonstrate how to use Google Slides to create an interactive, digital bookshelf. The process is simple and can be used to create all kinds of digital choice boards.

In the following video I demonstrate how to create and publish a digital bookshelf with Google Slides. There are really only five simple steps to it. First, create a blank Google Slide. Second, upload a picture of a bookshelf. Third, upload pictures of book covers. Fourth, insert links to the books. Fifth, publish the slide. All of those steps are demonstrated below.



Here are the links to the books in my shelf:
Invent to Learn
Harnessing Technology for Deeper Learning
Draft Animals
Digital Minimalism
eSports Edu
The Boys in the Boat
The Joy of Search
The River of Doubt
The Ultimate Book of Dad Jokes

Historical Scene Investigations - A Great Way to Get Students to Use Primary Sources

Historical Scene Investigation is one of my favorite resources for U.S. History teachers and students. I've used it and referred people to it for years. HSI presents students with historical cases to "crack" through the use of evidence found in the form of primary source documents.

Historical Scene Investigation contains thirteen cases in which students analyze "clues" found in primary sources in order to form a conclusion to each investigation. For example, in the case of The Boston Massacre students have to decide if justice was served. HSI provides students with "case files" on which they record the evidence they find in the primary source documents and images they are provided. HSI provides templates for students to use to record observations from the evidence.

HSI is produced by College of William & Mary School of Education, University of Kentucky School of Education, and the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources Program. My video overview of HSI is embedded below.


As I mentioned in the video above, once you have done a couple of these with your students it becomes easy to craft your own HSI activities or have them craft HSI activities for each other to solve.

On a related note, Common Craft has a good video that explains the differences between primary and secondary sources. That video is embedded below.


Disclosure: I have an in-kind relationship with Common Craft. 

Two Ed Tech Guys Return to Answer Questions - Free Webinar Next Week

This past spring Rushton Hurley and I hosted a weekly webinar series called Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff. We went on hiatus in June and July, but we're going to be back and better than ever in August! And we want you to join us!

We'll be recording live at 4pm ET next Thursday. You can join us to ask questions or to just listen to the soothing sounds of our voices. Whichever you choose to do, register here to join us next week for Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff. And if you can't join us for the live session, we'll still take your questions via email.

You can see the recordings of our spring episodes on this page hosted by Next Vista for Learning.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

The Week in Review - So Many Webinars

Good morning from Maine where I'm sitting on my back porch drinking coffee and watching the fog clear out of the valley below me. The scene reminds me of the old saying, "fog in the hollow, good weather to follow."

This week I wrapped up the third session of the Practical Ed Tech Virtual Summer Camp. In all nearly 200 people participated in June and July. Thank you! And combined with webinars that I hosted for other groups, I've conducted 35 webinars in the last three weeks. Next week, I'm not hosting any as I'll be spending most of the week doing fun things with my daughters. The first of those fun things is today as we head to the lake to play. I hope that you also have something fun planned for the weekend.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Use Whiteboards in Google Meet Without Screensharing
2. Convert Handwritten Notes Into Google Documents
3. Quickly Create Online Whiteboards for Your Students
4. Create Talking Pictures of Famous People
5. How to Create Labeling Activities With Google Drawings and Classroom
6. 5 Alternatives to Traditional Book Report Projects
7. 5 Ways to Make Whiteboard Instructional Videos in Your Web Browser

Back to School PD Opportunities
This week I received a bunch of requests to host PD webinars for the start of the school year. If you'd like to have me host a PD session for your school, please send me a note at richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com to learn more about how we can work together.

Thank You for Your Support!
Other Places to Follow My Work
Besides FreeTech4Teachers.com and the daily email digest, there are other ways to keep up with what I'm publishing. 
  • Practical Ed Tech Newsletter - This comes out once per week (Sunday night/ Monday morning) and it includes my tip of the week and a summary of the week's most popular posts from FreeTech4Teachers.com.
  • My YouTube Channel - more than 26,000 people subscribe to my YouTube channel for my regular series of tutorial videos including more than 400 Google tools tutorials.  
  • Facebook - The FreeTech4Teachers.com Facebook page has more than 450,000 followers. 
  • Twitter - I've been Tweeting away for the last thirteen years at twitter.com/rmbyrne
  • Instagram - this is mostly pictures of my kids, my dogs, my bikes, my skis, and fly fishing.

Friday, July 24, 2020

A Challenging Battles and Heritage Map Game

Geoquiz History Edition is a fun and challenging history game for history buffs. The game works like similar geography games in which you're given the name of a place and have to place a marker on a blank outline map as close as possible to the actual location.

In Geoquiz History Edition you're given the name of a battle or the name of historically significant landmark. The War Battle edition of the game lists battles from wars all over the world throughout history. The Heritage edition of the game lists historically significant places in the heritage of a country or culture.

Geoquiz History Edition is played without the need to register or sign into any kind of account. Each round of the game contains ten prompts. You're given immediate feedback as to how accurate your guess was. That feedback comes in the form of a line drawn from your placemarker to the correct placemarker.

Applications for Education
Geoquiz History Edition doesn't have categories so all prompts are completely random from locations all over the globe. For that reason the game is probably best used as a way to spark interest in learning more about the places that appear in the game.

H/T to Maps Mania

Searching the National Register of Historic Places

This morning I went down an Internet rabbit hole of looking for lesser-known historic places in Maine. That process started because I was looking for some geocaching activities to do in a coastal community about 60 miles from where I live. Before I knew it I was on the National Register of Historic Places hosted by the National Park Service.

The National Register of Historic Places is a great place to discover lesser-known historic places within each state in the United States. Within the listings you'll find pictures and the documents submitted for inclusion in the register. To help others discover this interesting resource I recorded the following short video.


Applications for Education
The National Register of Historic Places could be a good resource to use as the inspiration for local history projects for middle school and high school students. I'd have students go into the register, browse for places within their state and or county, and then conduct a short research activity to learn more about a chosen place.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Scribble Maps - Create Multimedia Maps - No Account Required

Earlier this week I presented a webinar about using Google Maps and Earth for more than just social studies lessons. A follow-up email that I received came from a teacher who wanted to know if there was a way for her students to create multimedia maps without needing to sign into a Google account. My answer was to try Scribble Maps. Scribble Maps can be used by students to create multimedia maps without having to sign-up or sign-into any kind of account.

Scribble Maps is a free tool for creating custom, multimedia maps online. Scribble Maps provides a variety of base layer maps on which you can draw freehand, add placemarks, add image overlays, and type across the map. Scribble Maps will work in the web browser on your laptop, Chromebook, iPad, or Android tablet. In the video embedded below I provide an overview of how to use Scribble Maps.


Applications for Education
Scribble Maps is a good mapping tool to use in social studies classes when you want students to identify natural and man-made landmarks. They can use the drawing tools to circle the landmarks then use the placemark tools to write about the landmarks. For example, you could give students a list of ten landmarks to identify then have them use the numbered placemark icons to identify and write about those landmarks. The drawing tools will help students make their placemarks standout.

Three Time-saving G Suite Features for Teachers

This afternoon I hosted a webinar in which I shared some time-saving tips for teachers using G Suite for Education. I shared them in the context of talking about providing feedback to students as quickly as possible in asynchronous online learning environments. Aside from that context, these I don't know any teacher who wouldn't like to tackle administrative tasks more quickly and get on with other things. So without wasting any more time, here are three time-saving tips for teachers using G Suite for Education.

Use a Comment Bank in Google Classroom
If you use Google Classroom to give Google Docs, Slides, or Sheets assignments to your students, create and use a comment bank to speed up the process of giving feedback to your students. Watch my video below to learn how to do this.



Use Google Keep to Add Comments to Students' Work
Google Classroom is great for giving feedback on final drafts of students' work. But if you don't use Google Classroom or you want to give students feedback on early drafts of their work, then the following method of using Google Keep to add comments to your students' Docs, Slides, and Sheets can be a time-saver.



Use Canned Responses in Your Email
Do you find yourself answering the same emailed questions over and over again? If so, you need to try using canned responses in your email. Canned responses allow you to draft messages that you can save and insert into responses over and over again. Watch my video to learn how to enable canned responses in Gmail (G Suite for Edu mail).



Wednesday, July 22, 2020

5 Alternatives to Traditional Book Report Projects

I've been revisiting some of my favorite books this summer. Doing that has reminded me of some ideas that I've shared in the past and also sparked some new ideas. One of those ideas is using multimedia creation tools to create alternatives to traditional book reports. Here's a handful of ideas for alternatives to traditional book report projects.

Create a Game
Have students design and publish their own online board games based on the plot and characters of a book. Flippity recently published a new template that students can modify to create their own online board games.



Create a Virtual Tour
Students can use Google Earth or Google's VR Tour Creator to create virtual tour based on locations featured in a book. Students using the web browser version of Google Earth can include videos in the placemarkers in their tours. Students who use Google Earth Pro can record audio narration for their entire tours. And with the VR Tour Creator students can include audio narration within each scene of their tours.




Create a Book Trailer Video
This now classic alternative to a book report asks students to make a short video to promote a book. Students can summarize key points in the book and try to entice viewers to read the book. Adobe Spark is a great tool for making book trailer videos.



Write Alternate Endings to Stories
Consider using the choose-your-own-adventure model and have students write some alternate endings to a story. They can do this in Google Slides. Here's a video about the process.



Create a Multimedia Timeline Based on a Story
This is a great option for students who have read historical fiction or non-fiction books. They can summarize key points of the book in a multimedia timeline made with Timeline JS. The example that I often give is a timeline that I built based on the book Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure.

Dave Grohl Comes to the Defense of Teachers

On the surface Dave Grohl, the drummer for Nirvana and front man of Foo Fighters, doesn't seem like the celebrity who would come to the defense of teachers amid controversy over school re-opening plans. But that's exactly what he did in a video that was released today on the Foo Fighters YouTube channel. I won't say anything more than just watch the video and share it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

How to Use Canva for Online Brainstorming Activities

Last week I wrote a post about the real-time collaboration option that Canva has started to roll out. This morning I got a question from a reader who was having a little trouble using that feature. The trouble is that the real-time collaboration option in Canva isn't available to use with all templates, yet. That said, it is available to use with this selection of brainstorming templates.

In the following video I demonstrate how to use Canva's real-time collaboration function for an online brainstorming session. In the video I also demonstrate how you can tell if the template support real-time collaboration or not.

Convert Handwritten Notes Into Google Documents

This week my Practical Ed Tech Tip of the Week newsletter was about tools for digitizing physical notes. There are tools like CamScanner and Office Lens specifically made for that task. There are also tools that have the "hidden" capability to digitize physical notes. One of those tools is Google Drive.

When you snap a picture and upload it to Google Drive you can then have it converted into a Google Document that you can edit and share just like any other Google Doc. In the following video I demonstrate how easy it is to use Google Drive to convert physical notes into Google Docs.


Applications for Education
Many teachers, including me, still like to have students write at least some of their notes in physical notebooks. The trouble is that some students are prone to losing those physical notes. Having students snap a picture and save it to Google Drive is one way to preserve those physical notes.

Ease of sharing notes with you is another benefit of snapping a picture of physical notes and converting them into Google Docs. If you like to do periodic "notebook checks," taking pictures of notebook pages and uploading them to Google Drive is a good alternative to collecting physical notebooks.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Create Talking Pictures of Famous People

This morning the power was out at my house so I sat on my porch drinking coffee (brewed before the power went out) and brainstormed a list of ways to use video tools in elementary school classrooms. One of the ideas that I came up with was using ChatterPix Kids to create talking pictures of famous people.

ChatterPix Kids is a free app (Android version here, iPad version here) that lets students take pictures or upload pictures, draw a smile, and then record themselves talking for up to thirty seconds. The finished product is saved as a video file on the students' iPads or Android tablets. That video file can then be shared in a variety of ways including in Google Classroom. The following videos demonstrate how to use the Android and iOS versions of ChatterPix Kids.



Applications for Education
A great way to use ChatterPix Kids is to have students use it to record themselves talking as if they were the person in the pictures they use in the app. Consider having students read a quote from that person. Or have students read a short biographical detail about the person while recording in ChatterPix Kids.

How OneNote Can Help Students Solve Math Problems

As I mentioned last week, I'm trying to make more videos about the excellent products that Microsoft offers to teachers and students for free. One of those products is OneNote. Within OneNote there is a great feature that can help students solve math problems. In the video that I've embedded below you can see how OneNote can help students solve math problems.

OneNote provides students with step-by-step outlines for solving math problems that they write in their OneNote notebooks. The way that this works is a student hand-writes or types a problem onto a page in OneNote and then highlights that problem using the lasso tool in OneNote. Once the problem is highlighted students can then select "math" in the ribbon menu and a new menu appears on the page. In that new menu students can choose to see the steps to take to solve the problem.

Watch my short video to see how to use the math problem solution function in OneNote.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

How to Create Labeling Activities With Google Drawings and Classroom

Last week I hosted a webinar for a group that I'm working this  summer. One part of that webinar included making online activities for students. I included some of the typical things like Kahoot and Wizer but I also included a demonstration on how to use Google Drawings to make online labeling activities.

In the video that is embedded below I demonstrate how to use Google Drawings to create a labeling activity and then distribute it to students through Google Classroom. In the video I used the example of creating an activity in which students drag state names onto a blank map of New England. A variation on that activity would be to have students using the arrow tools in Google Drawings to draw connections between the labels and the states. Watch the video below to see how the whole process works including how students complete the activity in Google Classroom.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good morning from Maine where the temperature only reached 62F yesterday, but today is supposed to reach 90! These wild fluctuations in summer weather is something I'm just putting into a mental category labeled, "well...that's 2020 for you!"

I'm looking forward to a relaxing weekend and I hope that you are too. Next week I have another busy week of hosting webinars as I'll be running the third section of the Practical Ed Tech Virtual Summer Camp. There is still time to sign up to join me.

These were the most popular posts of the week:
1. 5 Ways to Make Whiteboard Instructional Videos in Your Web Browser
2. 500+ Icebreaker Questions
3. Doozy - Create and Play Fun and Educational Quiz Games
4. Canva Introduces Real-time Collaboration Options
5. How to Collaborate on Word Documents Online
6. Updated and Easier Way to Schedule Events in Google Calendar
7. How to Create Your Own Online Board Game

The Practical Ed Tech Virtual Summer Camp!
The Practical Ed Tech Virtual Summer Camp will be held one more time this summer. Register here for the session starting on Monday!

This summer I'm working with a handful of schools and organizations to develop online professional development for teachers. If you'd like to work with me, please send me a note at richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com to learn more about how we can work together.

Thank You for Your Support!
Other Places to Follow My Work
Besides FreeTech4Teachers.com and the daily email digest, there are other ways to keep up with what I'm publishing. 
  • Practical Ed Tech Newsletter - This comes out once per week (Sunday night/ Monday morning) and it includes my tip of the week and a summary of the week's most popular posts from FreeTech4Teachers.com.
  • My YouTube Channel - more than 26,000 people subscribe to my YouTube channel for my regular series of tutorial videos including more than 400 Google tools tutorials.  
  • Facebook - The FreeTech4Teachers.com Facebook page has more than 450,000 followers. 
  • Twitter - I've been Tweeting away for the last thirteen years at twitter.com/rmbyrne
  • Instagram - this is mostly pictures of my kids, my dogs, my bikes, my skis, and fly fishing.

Got Toddlers? Bookmark This Website

If you have toddlers at home like I do, Stain Solutions is a website that need to bookmark today. Stain Solutions is a handy website developed by Susan Taylor at the University of Illinois Extension. The site is a database of solutions for removing more than 200 common stains like coffee, bird poop, and white glue (commonly called Elmer's glue). Click on a stain in the chart and you will be taken to a list of the ingredients needed to make a solution that will remove your chosen stain. Directions and warnings are provided along with the solutions.

Applications for Education
I don't know of any teacher who hasn't stained work clothes themselves or had them stained as the result of a student mishap. I've stained enough neckties to create a drop-cloth. Coffee, ink, and dry-erase markers seem to be the leading causes of those stains. Solutions to remove all those stains can be found on Stain Solutions.

Friday, July 17, 2020

An Update to an Old Web Quest Assignment

I've been doing a lot of reading this summer. Some of the books that I've been reading this summer are books that I've read in the past but am revisiting because I've always found that I pick up new things the second or third time through. Two of those books that I've revisited this summer are Invent to Learn by Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager and Empowering Online Learning by Curtis Bonk and Ke Zhang. The combination has sparked some new ideas (perhaps re-ignited) for me about how to structure prompts for students.

Early in Empowering Online Learning Bonk and Zhang write about conducting a web quest or online scavenger hunt activity. They were writing in 2007/2008 when web quests were still a relatively new activity to many teachers who were trying to help students develop search skills. The example that Bonk and Zhang gave was essentially a list of questions for students to answer with the help of a search engine.

As I re-read the web quest activity outlined by Bonk and Zhang I remembered Stager's refrain of "a good prompt is worth a thousand words." Combining those two elements I came up with an update to an old search lesson activity that I used to do with some of my high school students.

The old search activity that I used to do with students was to have them pick a popular stock from the NYSE or NASDAQ and then find and evaluate buy/ sell/ hold articles they found about those stocks. The updated version of that lesson is to have students look up ten data points (for example: volume, short interest, cash flow, EPS) about a stock like AAPL (Apple) and then research ten ways that a professional analyst would use those data points to create a buy/ sell/ hold rating.

Three Lessons on the Chemistry of Coffee

One of the things that I've missed the most over the last few months is going to my local coffee shop (Cafe Nomad) and having some of the excellent coffee that they brew. Try as I might, the coffee I brew at home just isn't the same quality of what they make at the cafe. (I also miss the community aspect of sitting in the cafe with friends). So what is it that goes into a perfect cup of coffee? A big part of that answer is found in the science of coffee. Reactions, one of my favorite YouTube channels, has a great video that explains the chemistry of coffee. I particularly like that the video explains chemical differences between light, medium, and dark roast coffees.



What's Actually Inside an Average Cup of Coffee? is a video that was produced by Wired. The video provides a short run-down of the chemical contents of brewed coffee.



I can count on one hand the number of times I've had decaffeinated coffee, but I still find How Do You Decaffeinate Coffee? published by Brain Stuff to be interesting. In How Do You Decaffeinate Coffee? viewers again learn about the chemicals in coffee and how how to remove the caffeine from coffee.



All three of these videos are good candidates for use in an online science lessons created with EDpuzzle. Here's an overview of how to use EDpuzzle.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

500+ Icebreaker Questions

Believe it or not we're closer to the start of the new school year than we are to the end of the last one. Whether we're going back into our physical classrooms or staying in an online environment, we're going to need to get to know our new students and they need to get to know each other. One way to do this is through asking fun icebreaker questions. If you've run through all of your common icebreaker questions and want some new ones to try, take a look at Icebreakers.io.

Icebreakers.io offers lists of icebreaker questions. The questions are arranged in categories for small groups, for introverts, for adults, for work, and for fun. Coming soon they'll have lists specifically for school settings. All of the questions can be viewed individually and copied. You can also download the lists of questions in convenient PDFs.

Applications for Education
I looked through the lists on Icebreakers.io and found plenty that I would feel comfortable posing to students in my classroom, in a Zoom meeting, or in Google Classroom to start a discussion. I'm looking forward to seeing the school questions list that Icebreakers.io is building.

5 Ways to Make Whiteboard Instructional Videos in Your Web Browser

Over the last few months I've written a bunch of blog posts and made a handful of videos on simple ways to make whiteboard instructional videos in your web browser. These have been popular, in part, because this style of video can be made using tools that are readily available to Chromebook users. As a reader pointed out to me in an email this morning, I haven't put all of these videos and posts together in one place. So to remedy that I've put together the following compilation of five ways to make whiteboard instructional videos.

Try using Screencastify to record over the free drawing space provided by Google's online version of Jamboard. The online version of Jamboard is free unlike the physical product of the same name that Google sells. One of the benefits of using Jamboard for this kind of video is that when you are done you can share the Jamboard images with your students. You could even share the Jamboard via Google Classroom so that students have a copy of the process that you demonstrated while making your video.



Loom is also an excellent and popular choice for making screencast videos right from your web browser. In the following video I demonstrate how I paired Loom and Google's Jamboard to make a whiteboard-style instructional video. One of the tips that I shared in the video is to use the sharing option in Jamboard to give your students a copy of the drawings or sketches that you use in your instructional video.



Flipgrid offers an integrated whiteboard function.You can use this feature to create whiteboard videos for your students to watch in Flipgrid. You can also have your students use the whiteboard tools to reply to a prompt that you have given to them. In my video that is embedded below I provide an overview of how to use the whiteboard function and a couple of other functions in Flipgrid.



Wakelet has integrated the Flipgrid camera into their service so that you can create whiteboard-style instructional videos directly within your Wakelet collections. Watch my video below to see how that process works.



Seesaw is my go-to tool for making digital portfolios. I like it because it's a versatile platform that can be used for more than just portfolio creation. You can use it as a blog, use it to share announcements with parents, use it to distribute assignments, and you can use it to create whiteboard videos. In fact, there are a couple of ways that you and your students can create whiteboard videos in Seesaw. Both of those methods are outlined in my new video that is embedded below.




Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Book Creator Adds New Options for Copying and Re-using Pages

Book Creator is one of my go-to tools for making ebooks and digital portfolios. In fact, I like it so much that it's one of the featured tools in my Practical Ed Tech Virtual Summer Camp. And now there is a new feature that makes Book Creator better than ever. That new feature is the option to copy multiple pages from one of your books and re-use them in another book.

In Book Creator you can now copy and re-use any of the pages in your books including the cover page. This can be done within the same book or be done between multiple books.


Applications for Education
As Book Creator wrote in their Tweet announcing this new feature, copying and pasting pages could be quite useful in creating a template that you want students to use for their books. I find that when using Book Creator as a tool for a portfolio it's nice to have students follow the same structure. Following the same structure makes it easier for a teacher to quickly locate an artifact related to a topic or standard within a portfolio.

Doozy - Create and Play Fun and Educational Quiz Games

Doozy is a neat service for creating online quiz games that you can share with anyone and they can play without having to register for an account. The quiz games that you create on Doozy can be multiple choice or short answer questions. The games that you make can, and probably should, include pictures as part of your questions. Doozy quiz games can be played individually and in teams.

The best way to understand how Doozy works is to just go to the site and select a game to play by yourself. (If you're of my generation, take a crack at the 1980's movie trivia game). You can play any of the games in the public gallery on your own and get a score at the end.

To create a game on Doozy you can either modify one of the existing games on the site or create a game from scratch. To create a game from scratch just click the "create" button on the home page and then title your quiz game, upload a cover image, and start adding questions. Whether you use multiple choice or short answer questions you do need to include a correct answer for each question. When you have finished creating your Doozy quiz game you can share it by clicking the "run quiz" option. Clicking "run quiz" will create a game pin that you can share with others to enter at Doozy.live to play the game.

Doozy games can be played in teams. To play in teams one player has to choose a game to join then select "play with friends." That selection will then generate a unique link to share with teammates.

Applications for Education
Doozy doesn't require players to register to play the games which makes it quick and easy to get a group of students playing your quiz game in your classroom or in a Zoom or Google Meet call. Doozy doesn't offer any options for you to track your students' scores so playing games in Doozy is purely a review or practice activity.

If your students are over 13, you might consider having them create their own Doozy games to share and show what they know about a topic.

I discovered Doozy through one of Larry Ferlazzo's recent Ed Tech Digest posts. If you don't follow Larry's blog, you should. 

Join Me Next Week for the Practical Ed Tech Virtual Summer Camp!

Next week I'm hosting the third session of the Practical Ed Tech Virtual Summer Camp. The first two sessions were full of enthusiastic teachers who asked great questions and shared great ideas over the course of ten interactive webinars. Some of the topics that sparked the most questions were online assessment, digital portfolios, video creation, and developing virtual tours. But those are just some of the topics that are covered during the week. The full list is available right here on the registration page.

There is still time to register for the Practical Ed Tech Virtual Summer Camp that runs next Monday through Friday. A handful of seats are still available. You can claim yours right here.

Here are some comments from people in the first two sessions of this year's Practical Ed Tech Virtual Summer Camp:
  • This is an awesome bootcamp with more stuff to learn than I could have ever imagined. The one I'm most interested in the portfolio. I can't wait to play around with it. Thank you for offering this camp.
  • Thank you for a great workshop! I learned a lot and I will apply some of them to my Spanish classes next year. 
  • The camp with you has been a delight and I've learned so much from you. I laugh every time you make a funny face for selfies or make drawings and laugh at yourself. I just wanted to let you know that I'm having a great time and learning so much.

Want to know more? 
Check out the FAQs or watch the video below.



p.s. sometimes people ask why I advertise this event here if it's not free. The answer is that registration fees from this event and other PD webinars go toward keeping Free Technology for Teachers going. 

Monday, July 13, 2020

Anonymous Users Blocked from Google Meet in G Suite EDU

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

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

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

Canva Introduces Real-time Collaboration Options

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

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

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

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

Updated and Easier Way to Schedule Events in Google Calendar

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

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

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

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

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