Saturday, October 24, 2020

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good morning from Maine where it is still an hour before sunrise as I compose this blog post. Next weekend we'll change the clocks and we'll be back to at least seeing some sunshine before school begins. Of course, that will also mean an earlier sunset. Such is life in northern New England. 

To the category of "things I've learned during this pandemic" this week I discovered that if I haven't shaved for a week my face gets extra itchy behind the masks that I have to wear all day in my classroom. I'll be back to the clean-shaven-but-covered-with-mask look on Monday. Before Monday gets here I plan to play outside with my kids and rake more leaves. I hope that you also have something fun to do this weekend. 

  • More than 300 of you have participated in a Practical Ed Tech course or webinar this year. Those registrations help keep Free Technology for Teachers and Practical Ed Tech going. I couldn't do it without you!
  • Pixton EDU is a great tool for creating comics and storyboards. 
  • Cloud Stop Motion makes it easy to create a stop motion video in your web browser. 
Other Places to Follow Me:
  • The Practical Ed Tech Newsletter comes out every Sunday evening/ Monday morning. It features my favorite tip of the week and the week's most popular posts from Free Technology for Teachers.
  • My YouTube channel has more than 30,000 subscribers watching my short tutorial videos on a wide array of edtech tools. 
  • I've been Tweeting as @rmbyrne for thirteen years. 
  • The Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page features new and old posts from this blog throughout the week. 
  • And if you're curious about my life outside of education, you can follow me on Instagram or Strava.

JotForm Offers an Easy Way to Schedule Meetings

Yesterday I wrote a short overview of some tools for scheduling parent-teacher conferences. JotForm was one of the tools featured in that post. One of the things that is great about JotForm's meeting scheduling tool is that it prevents double-booking of time slots. I made the following short video to demonstrate how easy it is to create a meeting scheduling form with JotForm. 

Friday, October 23, 2020

How to Simultaneously Caption and Translate Presentations

In this week's episode of Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff Rushton and I addressed a question about improving the accessibility of presentations for ELL students. One of my suggestions was to try using the caption and translate option that is built into the online version of PowerPoint. 

In the online version of PowerPoint (free for anyone who wants to use) you can select the language that you are speaking in and the language in which you want your live captions to appear. For example, I can speak in English and have my captions appear in Icelandic. In fact, that's exactly what I demonstrate in the following short video

Take a Crash Course in Making & Teaching With Video This Weekend

How to make instructional videos is far and way the topic that I have received the most questions about over the last six months. That's why I put together a self-paced Practical Ed Tech course on how to make and teach with video

A Crash Course in Making & Teaching With Video gives you everything you need to know to create instructional videos and nothing that you don't need to know. It's short enough for you to complete in a weekend and be ready to roll-out your first video on Monday morning. 

Whether you have a Windows computer, a Mac, or a Chromebook you can do everything that is taught in this course. Teachers of elementary school, middle school, and high school students will find this course prepares them to make videos for their students. And as a bonus, you'll get ideas for video projects your students can do.

In A Crash Course in Making & Teaching With Video you'll learn:

  • Best practices for creating instructional videos.
  • Five easy methods for making instructional videos.
  • How to responsibly share video lessons with your students.
  • The equipment you do and don’t need.
  • How to avoid copyright problems.
  • How to make sure your students actually watch your video lessons!

I announce the Practical Ed Tech webinars and courses on this blog because the registrations from them goes to keeping the lights on at Free Technology for Teachers. And while all the tools featured in the webinars and courses are available for free, my time for teaching isn't free.

Tools for Scheduling Parent-Teacher Conferences and Other Meetings

The end of the first quarter or third of the school year is almost here for many of us. That means it's time for parent-teacher conferences. At my school, we have to schedule those meetings with parents. Based on the questions I've seen in my inbox this week, my school isn't the only one that requires teachers to set conference times. I use the appointment slots feature in Google Calendar to set my schedule and let parents sign-up, but that's not the only way it can be done. 

JotForm
JotForm is a good alternative to Google Forms and Microsoft Forms. In JotForm there is an option to add appointment registration questions. You can set appointment slots of 15, 30, 45, or 60 minutes. Once an appointment has been claimed it can't be claimed by anyone else visiting your form. 

Choice Eliminator 2
This is a Google Forms add-on that will remove answer choices from a question as they get used up. To use it you should make a question in Google Forms that has all available appointment times listed in a drop-down menu. Once a time has been chosen by one form respondent it cannot be claimed by anyone else. 

A known quirk of Choice Eliminator 2 is that there is a lag between when a choice is made and when it actually gets eliminated. That means it is possible that two people could make the same choice if they're filling out the form at the same time.

Calendly
The free version of Calendly will let you easily create appointment slots with just a click or two. More importantly, people who want to schedule an appointment with you just have to click a time on your calendar and enter their names in order to reserve an appointment. Visitors do not have to have a Google Account to view or enter information into an appointment slot. Visitors who make appointments with you through Calendly can sync the appointment to their own Google Calendars, iCal, or Outlook calendars.

Google Calendar Appointment Slots
Using appointment slots in Google Calendar makes scheduling very easy compared to trying to use email, a spreadsheet, or even a shared Google Calendar. Watch this video to learn how you can make appointment slots in your Google Calendar.



Here's how to combine Google Calendar appointment slots with Zoom and Google Classroom.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

An Unplanned Benefit of Using Your Own Pictures in Blog Posts and Presentations

Last week I went on a bit of a rant about copyright and fair use. If you didn't read it, the gist of it was "no, you can't use any picture you find on the Internet and call it Fair Use because it's school-related." The best way to avoid accidental copyright infringement is to just use your own pictures. An additional benefit occurred to me this week when I was filing yet another DMCA takedown notice for a website that was copying all of my blog posts. 

When you use your own pictures in a blog post, in a video, or in a slideshow that you post online you don't have to worry that you've infringed on someone else's copyright. Additionally, if someone then tries to improperly use your work without permission, you have an additional claim that you can make against the infringer. In the case of a blog post, I made the claim in my DMCA takedown notice that my writing was used without permission and my image was used without permission. Why that matters is because of the time it takes to file these kinds of claims. A claim for writing is takes more time than a claim for an image, especially if the image is a selfie. 

I realize that many of you will never have to file a DMCA takedown notice to protect your work. But if you do, I hope this helps. And for everyone else, I hope it's another little story that you can share with your students and colleagues when educating them about copyright and fair use. 

A Helpful Update to Canva's Image Background Removal Tool

Late last year Canva added an image background removal tool to the menu of options for editing your graphics and presentations. Yesterday, when I used that tool to create an image for my blog post about TED-Ed's lesson on milk I noticed that there are two new options in the background removal tool. 

The new options in Canva's image background removal tool let you specify which parts of the background that you want to remove. You can choose to use a fine eraser tool or a coarse eraser tool in addition to the automatic background remover. The fine eraser tool is nice to use to "clean up" any mistakes made by automatic image remover. 


Applications for Education
This feature is available to all Canva for Education users. Canva for Education is free to teachers and students. Using the background removal tools is a good way to remove any sensitive information that you don't want displayed in a picture that you're going to post online. 

The background removal tool provides a good way for students to create cut-outs of themselves to then place onto other backgrounds. That's something I demonstrated and talked about in this video that demonstrates another background removal tool called Remove.bg. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

A TED-Ed Lesson Exploring the Pros and Cons of Types of Milk

TED-Ed released a new lesson this week. The lesson is all about milk. The title of the lesson, Which Kind of Milk is Best for You? doesn't accurately portray the number of lessons and questions that can be raised when students watch the video. 

Which Kind of Milk is Best for You? explains the basics of the nutrition of dairy milk and plant-based milk products like soy, almond, and oat milk. That part of the video is fairly straight-forward. It starts to get interesting when information about how the various milks are created and the environmental impacts of each. It is through the combined lenses of nutrition and environmental impact that the video presents the answer to the question "which kind of milk is best for you?" (Spoiler alert: TED-Ed is not going to be getting any Christmas cards from the dairy farmers of America). 


Applications for Education
When I started watching this video I thought it would just be an overview of nutritional value of the various milks and perhaps how plant-based milk is created. I wasn't expecting it to take a turn toward environment. And as I watched the second half of the video I started to think about the questions and arguments that might be raised by students depending upon their personal backgrounds. For example, students who come from farming families (I have two right now and have had many over the years) might view this lesson and raise some arguments that students who don't have a farming background might not even consider. The video could also lead into discussions about farm and industry subsidies and or their respective lobbying groups. 

An Easy Way to Search in Google Classroom

Twice this week I've had people ask me if there is a search function in Google Classroom. Unless, I've been overlooking something obvious, there isn't a native search function built into Google Classroom. What I have been telling people to do is use Control+F on Windows computers or Command+F on Mac computers to search within a Google Classroom stream or classwork section. It's not a perfect solution, but it's better than just scrolling through dozens of announcements or assignments to find the one that you want. In the following short video I demonstrate how to search in Google Classroom by using Control+F. 
 

Applications for Education
We're getting to the point in the school year that many of us have a lot of announcements and assignments posted in Google Classroom. If you or your students need a quick way to look for an item in your assignments or announcements, this is the way to do it. 

If you have a question for me, send me an email richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com and I'll include it in the weekly free webinar series that I co-host with Rushton Hurley

13 Google Forms Tutorials for Beginners and Experienced Users

For the last six or seven months whenever I open my YouTube analytics the top two videos are almost always How to Host an Online Meeting With Zoom and The Basics of Creating a Quiz in Google Forms. And based on the response to the Google Forms video that I posted on Monday, there are a lot of people who want more Google Forms tips and tricks to use in their virtual, hybrid, and in-person classrooms. Here is a selection of more Google Forms tips and tricks tutorials that are available on my YouTube channel

The Basics of Creating a Quiz in Google Forms


Enable These Google Forms Settings to Save Time Making Quizzes.



Use Google Forms to Create a Digital Sign-in/ Sign-out Sheet






















Tuesday, October 20, 2020

A New Microsoft Teams Feature That I Wish Google Classroom Had

If you work in a school that use Microsoft Teams or any of the other great Office 365 tools available to teachers and students, you need to subscribe to Mike Tholfsen's YouTube channel. It was through his channel that I recently learned about a fantastic new feature in Microsoft Teams that I wish Google would add to Classroom.

The new Microsoft Teams feature that look awesome is the option to anonymize students' assignment submissions when you're grading them. In other words, you can hide all student names and avatars when you are grading their work then reveal their names and avatars after you have completed grading all submissions. Mike made a new video that succinctly shows you how to use anonymous grading in Microsoft Teams


Applications for Education
Whether we want to admit it or not, we all can have a little bias when looking through students' essays and other written work like lab reports (Mike gives a good example of that in the video above). Anonymizing assignment submissions is one way to try to remove that bias. I'm glad to see that Microsoft Teams now has this option and I hope that Google's product development team takes note of it. 

Loom Updates With Some Great Features for Teachers

The question that people email to me more than any other is some variation on "how do you get that circle in your YouTube videos?" There are two tools that I typically recommend for that. One is Screencast-o-matic and the other is Loom. Loom recently announced a bunch of updates including some that will be of particular interest to teachers like you and me.

Before addressing the updates that Loom announced, it's important to note that Loom's education product is free to teachers who have verifiable education email accounts (generally, .edu or .k12.state.us). Loom for Education gives teachers all of the features of Loom's pro (paid) account. 

The recent updates to Loom that teachers should note are viewer insights, shared libraries, and new screenshot options. The viewer insights will let you see how much a video was watched and let viewers respond with emojis to your videos. The shared libraries function lets you share videos with some, but not all viewers (this is in addition to password-protecting videos). And the Loom desktop app for Windows and Mac now lets you capture and share screenshots with just a couple of clicks. 

The screenshot below contains Loom's complete list of features available for free to teachers who register for Loom for Education. 

Applications for Education
Loom's viewer insights is a great middle ground between just making a video for students to watch and making a video with a whole bunch of attached questions to answer. In other words, it's somewhere between Flipgrid and EDpuzzle. 

I also love using Loom as a tool to help colleagues. Rather than writing directions to solve their tech problems I can use Loom's Chrome and Gmail add-on to record and send a screencast directly from my inbox. Here's a little video on how that works. 

To learn more about making and teaching with video, enroll in my Practical Ed Tech course titled A Crash Course in Making & Teaching With Video.

Monday, October 19, 2020

How to Create Self-grading, Timed Quizzes in Google Classroom

This morning my freshmen students took a quiz that I created and distributed through Google Forms. The quiz was self-grading because I used the answer key option in Google Forms. The quiz was also a timed activity because I used assignment scheduling combined with Form Limiter. With that combination I was able to give my students exactly 35 minutes to complete the quiz. On the short answer questions, I used data validation to require that students write complete sentences. If you'd like to do a similar thing, watch the following two videos that demonstrate the process I used in making my quiz. 

How to Create Self-grading, Timed Quizzes in Google Classroom

How to Require Complete Sentences in Google Forms

How to Specify Video Playback Settings in Google Slides

Last week Google announced a small, but potentially annoying change to the default video playback settings in Google Slides. Fortunately, you can override the default playback setting for the videos that you use in Google Slides. This applies to videos that you add from YouTube as well as videos that you insert from your Google Drive account. 

In the following video I demonstrate how to change the video playback settings in Google Slides. This video also includes information on how to specify which part of a video that you want to show in your slide. 

Sunday, October 18, 2020

How to Change Google Classroom Mobile Notifications

It's the weekend and your phone is blowing up with notifications from Google Classroom while you're playing with your kids, watching Netflix with your spouse, or finally finishing that house project. It doesn't have to be this way. 

You can take a break from "teacher mode." In fact, it's good for you and your students if you do take a break from "teacher mode" during the weekend. One of the best ways to do this is to turn off the school-related notifications on your phone. In the following videos I demonstrate how to change the Google Classroom notifications that you receive on your phone. 

Here's how to change the Google Classroom notifications on an Android phone


Here's how to change the Google Classroom notifications on an iPhone or iPad

Activities Across Grade Levels - Free Weekly Webinars

Every week I mention the free webinars that I do with Rushton Hurley on Thursday afternoons. But that's not the only free webinar that Rushton facilitates through Next Vista for Learning. He also runs a series called Activities Across Grade Levels

Activities Across Grade Levels is a weekly webinar series that Rushton Hurley and Susan Stewart offer for free to anyone who wants to join them on Thursday evening/ afternoon. In these half-hour webinars they cover a different activity or topic every week. This week's topic is Gamified Learning. Some of the past topics include digital citizenship, arts & culture, fake news, protocols, and time-savers. 

Last week's Activities Across Grade Levels topic was service to others. Watch the recording here or check out all of the previous episodes here. You can register for this week's webinar right here

Saturday, October 17, 2020

ICYMI - Two EdTech Guys Take Questions & Share Cool Stuff

Every Thursday afternoon I join Rushton Hurley from Next Vista for Learning to answer questions from teachers, librarians, and tech coaches like you. We call these free webinars Two EdTech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff. We have fun doing and I hope that you'll join us for the next one

You can see the recording of the latest episode right here or as embedded below. If you go to the recordings page on Next Vista for Learning you can access all of the links and slides that were used during the webinar. 


In the episode we covered questions on the following topics:
  • Copyright and Fair Use
  • How to spend $10,000
  • Music for classroom projects
  • G Suite/ Google Workspaces Admin
  • Alternatives to Swivl
  • Gauging the mood of hybrid and online classes.

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good morning from rainy Maine. It looks like it's going to be the perfect kind of day to stay inside to watch movies and read a good book. But I won't be doing that because I have toddlers, dogs, and an old house that always needs something fixed. We'll be putting on our wellies and jackets and going outside to play for at least a little while. I hope that wherever you are this weekend that you can get outside for some fun too. 

This week I hosted a Practical Ed Tech webinar about formative assessment methods for online and hybrid classes. An on-demand version of that webinar will be available next week. In the meantime, check out my other on-demand offerings including A Crash Course in Making & Teaching With Video

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Two New Helpful Features in Google Meet 
  • More than 300 of you have participated in a Practical Ed Tech course or webinar this year. Those registrations help keep Free Technology for Teachers and Practical Ed Tech going. I couldn't do it without you!
  • Pixton EDU is a great tool for creating comics and storyboards. 
  • Cloud Stop Motion makes it easy to create a stop motion video in your web browser. 
Other Places to Follow Me:
  • The Practical Ed Tech Newsletter comes out every Sunday evening/ Monday morning. It features my favorite tip of the week and the week's most popular posts from Free Technology for Teachers.
  • My YouTube channel has more than 30,000 subscribers watching my short tutorial videos on a wide array of edtech tools. 
  • I've been Tweeting as @rmbyrne for thirteen years. 
  • The Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page features new and old posts from this blog throughout the week. 
  • And if you're curious about my life outside of education, you can follow me on Instagram or Strava.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Story Spheres - Create Immersive Audio Tours of Interesting Places

Story Spheres is a neat tool for adding audio recordings to 360 imagery. Story Spheres lets you upload short audio recordings in which you describe to viewers what they're seeing, the history of what they're seeing, and the significance of what's in the scene they're seeing. It's possible to upload multiple recordings. When you're done you can can share your Story Spheres story in a blog post, on social media, or any other place that you typically post a link. Take a look at this Story Spheres story about Uluru to get a better sense of what can be done with Story Spheres. 

Back in June I wrote out directions for how to use Story Spheres. You can read those directions here or watch my new video about how to make a Story Spheres story. 


Applications for Education
One of my favorite uses of Story Spheres is creating short local history projects. Students can explore their communities and capture imagery that they then narrate to tell the story behind what they have photographed. 

I used the Google Street View app to capture the 360 imagery for my Story Sphere, but there are many other free apps that will let you capture 360 imagery without needing to purchase a 360 camera.

A Small, Potentially Annoying Change to Google Slides

From improved meeting controls to an easier way to add citations in Google Docs, there have been a bunch of positive changes to Google Workspaces (formerly G Suite) this fall. Now Google has made a change to Google Slides that could prove to be quite annoying to some of us. That change applies to how videos are played in Google Slides. 

This week Google announced that the new default setting for videos in Google Slides is going to be automatic playback when presenting. The previous default was for videos to only play when you chose to play them while presenting. Now as soon as you advance to a slide that has a video in it the video will start playing. The new default playback will probably prove to be incredibly annoying to those of us who like to explain a bit about a video before we play it for our students or other audience. 

Fortunately, you can change the playback setting for the videos that you insert into Google Slides. You can do that by highlighting the video in your slide and then opening the "format options" menu. In that menu you can change the video from the default automatic playback to manual playback. 



Using Mood Clouds in Virtual and Hybrid Classrooms

Earlier this I published a video about creating and hosting polls in Google Slides with the Poll Everywhere Chrome extension. When I published that I mentioned that I use the word cloud option and have students respond to simple questions like "how do you feel after the long weekend?" and "what's the best word to describe today's lesson?" Students respond from their computers and a word cloud appears on the slide giving me a better sense of the overall mood of my hybrid class (half of my students are virtual and half are in-class on any given day). It's not perfect, but it works for me and it might work for you. 

Three Tools for Creating and Hosting Polls in Slides

As mentioned above, I'm currently using the combination of Google Slides and Poll Everywhere. You can watch this video to see how that combination works. Poll Everywhere also offers a PowerPoint add-in that works in a very similar manner. Of course, you could also just use PollEverywhere.com directly without the slides. All three options will let you display word clouds. 

Sli.do is another tool that you can use in Google Slides and PowerPoint to create an host polls. Students can respond to your polls from their computers or phones. I've used Sli.do in the past. I'm not currently using it for any particular reason other than I wanted to try something different this fall. Here's a little video overview of how it works in Google Slides. Both the PowerPoint and Google Slides versions will display word clouds of responses from students. 

Mentimeter is another polling tool that I've used at various times in the past, mostly in conference presentations. While it doesn't offer a Google Slides add-on, it does offer a PowerPoint add-in that you can use to create and host polls. Like the two services listed above, Mentimeter lets students respond to your questions from their computers and phones. Responses can be displayed in a variety of formats including word clouds. 

Thursday, October 15, 2020

How to Make Whiteboard Videos in Wakelet

Wakelet is a tool that become immensely popular in schools in the last few years. A large part of the popularity is due to the many ways that Wakelet can be used. You can use it to host collections of pictures, to share bookmarks, and you can even use it to create instructional videos. That's exactly what I demonstrate in this new video


You can learn a lot more about making and teaching with videos in my on-demand course, A Crash Course in Making & Teaching With Video.

Five Free Tools That Help Students Format Bibliographies

When I was in high school we had to learn how to create bibliographies by working from a template that my history teacher, Mr. Diggs, provided to us. When I went to college, I referred to that template and an early version of The Student Writer to make bibliographies. Today, students have a wealth of online tools that can help them properly structure citations and bibliographies. I've featured a handful of them over the last couple of years. Here they are. 

Google recently added a citation tool to Google Docs that makes most citation add-ons redundant. With the latest update to Google Docs you can now create MLA, APA, and Chicago style citations directly in Google Docs without the need for a third-party add-on. You'll find the new citation feature in the tools drop-down menu in Google Docs. Watch this video to see how it works.



Bibcitation is a free tool that supports dozens of citation styles. To use Bibcitation select the type of resource that you're citing and then enter the requested information. In many cases, just entering the title of a book or a webpage URL will fill-in all of the other required information for you. After you have entered into Bibcitation all of the resources that you need to cite, a list of the citations will be generated for you. You can then download all of the citations in your preferred style as a document, as HTML, or as BibTex. Here's a video overview of how it works.



QuickCite is a free tool that helps students create properly formatted MLA 8 citations. QuickCite can also be used by students to create informal citations for use in things like blog posts, slideshows, and videos. One of the features of QuickCite that I particularly like is that it provides little help bubbles for students to consult if they aren't sure what to enter into the citation. I highlight that feature and other features of QuickCite in the following video.



MyBib is another free tool that students can use to create citations and bibliographies in a wide range of styles including the popular MLA, APA, Chicago, IEEE, and Harvard styles. Watch my video to see how your students can use MyBib to create bibliographies.



Formatically is a free tool that was designed by college students to help other students create properly formatted works cited pages. To use Formatically's instant citation tool just paste the URL of the page that you want to cite into the instant citation tool. Once pasted into the tool you can choose the format that you want to use for your citation. If there is an error in the citation, you can correct it by clicking the edit icon at the end of the written citation. The system works the same way for books except that rather than entering a web page URL you enter a book title. Watch the video embedded below to learn more about Formatically's instant citation tool.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Addressing Two Common Copyright Misunderstandings

Long time followers of my blog know that over the years I have fought many many many battles with people who think it's okay to republish my blog posts in their entirety without permission. I've been doing this for so long that at times I feel like I'm preaching to the choir.  Then at other times I feel like I'm yelling into a black hole while simultaneously ramming my head into a wall. Two incidents this week have brought these feelings roiling to the top. Rather than just vent, I'm going to try to turn these into teaching experiences by sharing them here on Free Technology for Teachers

Incident #1: A Plea for Help
On Monday I got the following email from a reader who was looking for my assistance. 
The media specialist at my school feels that it is OK to use images that have watermarks on them in her school news videos under the educational fair use copyright guidelines because they are not being used to make a profit nor are the images being distorted or changed. Nevermind the fact that they should be using images from sites that have copyright free images for educational use, is she correct in her reasoning that she can use ANY picture, including ones with watermarks, under the educational fair use copyright guidelines?
Getting this message was worrying because a "media specialist" should have a much better understanding of copyright and fair use than was is portrayed in the message above. A quick look at Stanford University Library's Measuring Fair Use should make it clear to the media specialist in question is absolutely wrong in her understanding of fair use. In short, unless the images the person is using are so unique that there is nothing else like them and she's using them in a critique or as an instructive example (for example, explaining an aspect of a Picasso painting) that's not fair use. 

Simply saying "I'm not making a profit from it" doesn't mean it's a fair use. The use has to also not diminish the artist's opportunity to earn an income from his/her work. When you use a copyrighted work with permission and without paying a royalty, you've diminished the artist's income potential. This is the same reason why you can't buy one copy of a textbook then make 100 photocopies of it and say "well I'm not making money from it." Houston ISD was hit with a $9.2 million fine after trying to use that very logic to justify photocopying copyrighted works (they eventually settled for a $7.8 million judgement). 

Incident #2: It Says Free
The second copyright incident this week is the one that really got under my skin. There's a website that was copying and pasting my blog posts and ever so slightly changing a word or to make it appear as though it was their original work. When I caught them and called them out on Twitter the first defense, in a now deleted Tweet, was "I paid someone on Fiver to set it up, it wasn't supposed to be like that." To which I replied, "It was done wrong so fix it!" The second Tweet I got from the offender was this one that shows a complete lack of understanding of how copyright and the Internet works. 



For those who can't see the embedded Tweet, this is the text of it: "Well no problem but you need to stop saying I stole it because it was free to use from your website free tech teaching so that’s not stealing or using and I will get them remove it no problem"

Just because you can read something for free on the Internet even if it is on blog called Free Technology for Teachers (a title that has been a blessing and curse over the years) doesn't mean you can do whatever you want with it. 

Resources to help your colleagues understand copyright.
I've shared all of these at various times in the past. They're still good so take a look. 

Copyright for Teachers was a free webinar that Dr. Beth Holland and I hosted a few years ago. We addressed a slew of copyright questions and scenarios during presentation. You can watch the recording here

As mentioned above, Stanford University Library's Measuring Fair Use is a great resource for teachers, librarians, and students who have questions about what is and isn't a fair use of a copyrighted work. 

In Three Lessons to Learn From the $9.2m Copyright Ruling Against Houston ISD I summarized what went wrong and how to avoid making the same mistakes. 

If you have a Common Craft subscription (disclosure, I have an in-kind relationship with them), you have access to a few excellent video explanations of copyright, creative commons, and fair use. 

A few years ago the Crash Course YouTube channel did an entire course about intellectual property. The third segment in the course was about fair use. You can watch that segment here

Finally, if you'd like to read a book about getting permission to use copyrighted works, Richard Stim, a major contributor to the Stanford site mentioned above, has a book called Getting Permission: How to License & Clear Copyrighted Materials Online & Off

How to Use Immersive Reader in Microsoft Forms

A couple of days ago I wrote about recently discovering that Immersive Reader works in Microsoft Forms. Immersive Reader is Microsoft's free accessibility tool that enables students to hear text read aloud. It also enables students to see text in larger size, in greater contrast, and in greater spacing. When used in Microsoft Forms Immersive Reader lets students hear quiz questions and answer choices read aloud. 

Watch my short video to see how to enable Immersive Reader and how it works in Microsoft Forms. It's important to note that anyone can use Immersive Reader and it works in Chrome as well as in Edge.

How Prevent Weird Formatting in Your Blog Post Editor

A couple of weeks ago during Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff someone asked why her blog posts don't appear correctly when copying from a Word document into the blog post editor. Similarly, formatting gets weird when copying from a Google Document into a blog post editor. The reason for this is that both Word and Google Docs include some additional "hidden" information along with the text that you actually see in your blog post editor. 

The solution to the weird formatting problem that occurs when copying from Word or Google Docs into a blog post is to use your blog editor's HTML or Text mode instead of the Compose or Visual mode. When you do this you'll be inserting just text into your blog post editor. You'll have to then manually insert any links that you want to appear in the blog post. Likewise, you'll have to manually insert any spacing or indentations that you want to appear in the blog post. 

In the following video I demonstrate how to copy text from Google Docs into Blogger and into Edublogs without creating weird formatting issues. 


Applications for Education
There are some good reasons why you might be copying from Word or Google Docs into a blog post editor. One of those is having students write essays or short articles that you want to include in a classroom blog without having to give students editing access on the blog. 

Another reason you might be writing a blog post in Google Docs or Word is because you're writing where your Internet connection is spotty. For example, there's a picnic table at a little park that I like to sit at to write when the weather in nice. The trouble is that cell phone coverage is poor there and wi-fi is completely unavailable so I'll write in offline mode in Google Docs then copy and paste into my blog post editor when I do have Internet access. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Three Silent Videos About COVID-19

One of my students came ranting into class today because of a conversation she'd had with another student about facemasks and social distancing. The person she was talking with didn't think that social distancing did anything. "Mr. Byrne, how else can I explain it to her?" was the question that my student had for me. My recommendation was to share this visual made by Common Craft

Why Social Distancing Matters is one of three silent videos that Common Craft published earlier this year to help people understand how they can help to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 


The other two videos that Common Craft produced in this series are Why Masks Matter and What is Contact Tracing?

Create and Conduct Polls in Google Slides

Poll Everywhere is a polling tool that I've used off and on throughout the past decade. It's a great tool for gathering questions from an audience, polling an audience, and seeing word clouds of sentiment from an audience. People can respond to your poll questions from their laptops, tablets, and phones. 

You can use Poll Everywhere as a stand-alone tool or you can integrate it into Google Slides. When you use it in Google Slides you can seamlessly transition from your regular presentation into a polling slide. In the following video I demonstrate how to use Poll Everywhere in Google Slides. 


Applications for Education
Tools like Poll Everywhere are great for quickly assessing whether or not your students are "getting it." I like using the word cloud option in Poll Everywhere to get a sense of how my students are feeling. In fact, the slide that you see in the video above is one that I'll be using this morning to ask my virtual and in-person students how they're feeling after the long weekend. 

Get the Poll Everywhere Chrome extension here

Talking Instead of Reading

It has been nearly fifteen years since I first tried my hand at making instructional videos for my students. The first ones were not good. In fact, in response to one of my first attempts I had a student say "Mr. Byrne, please don't do that again." But I did try again and again and again. When I finally got better at it was when I dropped the script and just started talking into the camera instead of reading into the camera. 

Today when I make videos for my YouTube channel or for my students, I don't have a script at all. Instead, I just have some bullet points in a notebook (yes, a physical notebook) that I refer to while recording. 

I'm sharing this tip today because I'm seeing a lot of people try to make instructional videos for the first time this fall. Similarly, a lot of teachers are using webinar tools extensively for the first time this fall. If you're reading off of a script, your students will tune you out very quickly and or just try to "get the notes" from a classmate without having to watch your video or webinar. Keeping it short and sweet while talking to your students instead of reading to your students can go a long way toward getting them to actually watch your video. 

And don't be afraid to show some personality and or mess-ups. We're teachers, not video producers so don't feel like it has to be perfect every time you publish a video lesson for your students to watch. 

If you want some more tools, tips, and instruction on how to make and teach with video, consider enrolling in A Crash Course in Making & Teaching With Video

Monday, October 12, 2020

Ten Resources for Learning About U.S. National Parks

Last week TED-Ed published a new lesson about national parks. The lesson explains the origins of the U.S. National Parks system and concludes with explanations of the challenges facing national parks managers around the world. The lesson also explains how parks managers try to balance access and conservation while also respecting the rights of indigenous people whose land is often included with national parks. Overall, it's a very interesting lesson that could lead to a lot of good conversations with students. 

Other good resources for teaching and learning about national parks:

The National Parks Service's Digital Image Archive is an excellent place to find images of U.S. National Parks. You can search the archive by park and or subject. All of the images are free to download as they are in the public domain. The National Parks Service also offers a b-roll video gallery. The videos in the galleries are in the public domain. The b-roll video gallery can be searched by park, monument, building, or person. All of the videos can be downloaded. Some files are quite large so keep that in mind if your school has bandwidth limits and you have all of your students searching for videos at the same time.

Google Earth offers a great way for students to view national parks in the United States and beyond. Your students can explore imagery in Google Earth to learn about the topography of a national park. In a lot of cases there is Street View imagery available within national parks and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Your students might also benefit from viewing tours within Google Earth.To locate a tour you can refine a Google search by file type to .KMZ and then launch the tours that appear in your search results.

National Parks virtual tours are available in the Google Arts & Culture apps for Android and iOS. If you have VR headsets available to you, take a look at Google Expeditions virtual tours of the "hidden treasures" of National Parks.

Over the years PBS has produced many videos about the National Parks. You can view some of those videos in their entirety on the PBS video website. Search on the site for "national parks" and you'll have a big list of videos to view. Here's a list to get you started.

The Travel Film Archive is a collection of hundreds of travel films recorded between 1900 and 1970. The films were originally recorded to promote various places around the world as tourist destinations. In the archives you will find films about US National Parks, cities across the globe, and cultural events from around the world. The videos are available on The Travel Film Archive website and on YouTube.

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.

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 fun little guessing games in which students see a baby animal and then 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 NPS 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).

Practical Ed Tech Webinar - Fun Formative Assessments for Virtual and Hybrid Classrooms

Like many of you, I have to teach students who are online and students who are in my classroom. Sometimes I have to do both at the same time! Getting students to interact and getting a sense of whether or not they’re “getting it” is a challenge in a hybrid or virtual classroom. Tomorrow, at 4pm ET I'm hosting a webinar in which I'll share the tools and techniques that I'm using for formative assessment in my virtual and hybrid classroom.

In Fun Formative Assessments for Virtual and Hybrid Classrooms I’m going to share the tools and techniques that I’m using to get students to interact and to gauge their understanding of the day’s lesson as well as the current unit as a whole.

In this webinar you will learn how to use free tech tools to create and conduct fun, engaging, and informative formative assessments. Whether you teach elementary school, middle school, or high school, you will come away from this webinar with fun formative assessment activities that you can do tomorrow.

Fun Formative Assessments for Virtual and Hybrid Classrooms addresses the needs of teachers who are trying to find new ways to engage students in learning and sharing in virtual and hybrid environments.

Five Things You Can Learn In This Live Webinar:
1. What makes a formative assessment valuable to you while also fun for students.
2. How to create fun formative assessments for virtual and hybrid classrooms.
3. Why you should leverage students’ picture-taking habits for formative assessment.
4. Development of engaging formative assessment activities that use a variety of question formats.
5. How to include students in the creation of formative assessments.


When is it?
  • Live on Tuesday, October 13th at 4pm ET!
  • It will be recorded for those who register but cannot attend the live session.

What’s included?
  • Live webinar
  • Q&A
  • Access to the recording.
  • Certificate


About the cost:
I announce the Practical Ed Tech webinars on this blog because the registrations from the webinars go to keeping the lights on at Free Technology for Teachers. I use GoToWebinar to for hosting the webinars and recordings. GoToWebinar is not cheap, but it is the best webinar platform out there (I've tried them all over the years). And while all the tools featured in the webinars are available for free, my time for teaching isn't free.

Bibcitation - Easily Create Citations in a Wide Variety of Styles

Last week I shared a tutorial on how to use the new citation generator that is built into Google Docs. One of the complaints I've already heard about it is that it only supports a few citation styles. If that's your complaint about it, you might want to try Bibcitation instead. 

Bibcitation is a free tool that I learned about from Larry Ferlazzo. Bibcitation supports dozens of citation styles. To use Bibcitation select the type of resource that you're citing and then enter the requested information. In many cases, just entering the title of a book or a webpage URL will fill-in all of the other required information for you. 

After you have entered into Bibcitation all of the resources that you need to cite, a list of the citations will be generated for you. You can then download all of the citations in your preferred style as a document, as HTML, or as BibTex. 

Applications for Education
Bibcitation could be a great resource for students who need to create citations and bibliographies to include in their research papers or presentations. One thing that some students will need help doing is taking the text from the RTF document that Bibcitation provides and then reformating it to look correct in Word, Google Docs, or another word processing program.

Immersive Reader in Microsoft Forms - Quiz Questions Read Aloud

Over the weekend I read Microsoft's announcement that Immersive Reader will soon be available in PowerPoint ("soon" was left undefined in Microsoft's announcement, that usually means a couple of months). What I also learned from the announcement is that Immersive Reader is now available in Microsoft Forms. Apparently, it has been there for a little while and I've overlooked it. 

Immersive Reader in Microsoft Forms is easy to overlook as it's in a little menu that is easy to overlook. In the header of the Microsoft Form that you're viewing there is small "three dot" menu in the lower-right corner. Click on that menu to enable Immersive Reader. 


Applications for Education
Immersive Reader in Microsoft Forms will read aloud questions and answer choices for students. After reading the questions and answer choices aloud Immersive Reader will prompt students to close Immersive Reader to input an answer. Students have to open and close Immersive Reader for each question on the form. Other than that minor annoyance, Immersive Reader makes Forms accessible to more students. 


Saturday, October 10, 2020

The Week in Review - Maps, Docs, and Games

Good morning from Maine where it is cold, but clear. The leaves are rapidly changing color and falling to the ground. There is a significant amount of raking time in my near future. The only good thing about having to rake leaves is that my daughters love to jump in leaf piles. Earlier this week they dragged their Little Tikes slide to a leaf pile and slid into it. 

Before I go make leaf piles, I have this week's list of the most popular posts to share with you. The list features some updates about G Suite for Education, cool maps activities, and a way to make your own online games. 

These were the week's most popular posts:

Thank you for your support!

  • More than 300 of you have participated in a Practical Ed Tech course or webinar this year. Those registrations help keep Free Technology for Teachers and Practical Ed Tech going. I couldn't do it without you!
  • Pixton EDU is a great tool for creating comics and storyboards. 
  • Cloud Stop Motion makes it easy to create a stop motion video in your web browser. 

Other Places to Follow Me

  • The Practical Ed Tech Newsletter comes out every Sunday evening/ Monday morning. It features my favorite tip of the week and the week's most popular posts from Free Technology for Teachers. 
  • My YouTube channel has more than 30,000 subscribers watching my short tutorial videos on a wide array of ed tech tools. 
  • I've been Tweeting at @rmbyrne for thirteen years. 
  • The Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page features new and old posts from this blog throughout the week. 
  • And if you're curious about my life outside of education, you can follow me on Instagram or Strava