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Saturday, October 31, 2020

The Week in Review - Halloween Edition

Good morning from Maine where it's so cold you'd think it was the last day of December not the last day of October. It's Halloween and my daughters are excited even though trick o' treating is going to be severely curtailed this year. They're excited to wear the costumes that they've been talking about for months! I hope that you have something on your weekend schedule that gets you as excited as my daughters are for Halloween. 

As I do at this time every week, I've compiled a list of the week's most popular posts. Take a look and see if there's anything interesting that you missed during the week. 

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. 13 Google Forms Tutorials for Beginners and Experienced Users
2. Tools for Scheduling Parent-Teacher Conferences and Other Meetings
3. Two Ways to Create Your Own Online Memory Games
4. Five Screencasting Tools Compared and Ranked - Fall 2020
5. How to Simultaneously Caption and Translate Presentations
6. Five Last Minute Resources for Teaching About the Electoral College
7. Three Ideas for Stop Motion Video Projects to Make With Cloud Stop Motion

On-demand Professional Development:
Through Practical Ed Tech I'm currently offering an on-demand course called A Crash Course in Making & Teaching With Video.


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 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 30, 2020

Learn About Exploration and Compasses by Making Your Own

Today, many of us just use an app on our smart phones when we need to get directions and navigate from point A to point B. Most of our students have never experienced getting directions in any other way. So they may be surprised to learn that we used to use maps and compasses to find our way from point A to point B. How compasses work and how you can make your own is the topic of a SciShow Kids episode released earlier this week

Make Your Own Compass explains to kids what a compass is, how it works, and how they can make their own with common household products. 



Applications for Education
Making a compass could be a great little project for kids to do at home with their parents. After making the compass students and parents can test it out with a backyard or neighborhood "expedition."

Building a compass could also be a fun project to incorporate into an in-class lesson about explorers and explorations like those of early polar explorers Amundsen and Peary. 

How to Create QR Codes to Share Google Forms

Back in September I wrote about and made a video about how I'm using Google Forms as a sign-in/sign-out sheet for my classroom. Some of my colleagues are doing the same thing. One of my colleagues, Erin, had the good idea to create QRs code for the forms that students use the most and post them on the classroom wall. That way students students don't have to filter through Google Classroom to find the sign-out form or lunch form when they need it. Of course, this only helps if your students are allowed to use their mobile phones in school as mine are. 

There are a lot of free tools for making QR codes. Some have more features than others but they all do essentially the same things. The tool that I use for making QR codes is QRCode Monkey. QRCode Monkey lets you adjust the resolution of your QR codes before downloading and printing them. QR Code Monkey also lets you change the QR code's color and shape. In the following short video I demonstrate how to use QRCode Monkey to create a QR code for a Google Form. 

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Witeboard - A Simple Online Whiteboard

Last week a reader named Donna sent me an email asking me what I knew about Witeboard. It was a new tool for me so I gave it a try. 

Witeboard is a collaborative online whiteboard. To use it just head to the site and start drawing. Witeboard has some basic drawing tools and text tools. To share your Witeboard whiteboard all you have to do is give someone the URL that's assigned to it and they can start drawing on it. 

It is possible to create an account on Witeboard but you don't need to create one. The benefit of creating an account is that you can save your work and access it from multiple devices. 

In the following video I demonstrate how to use Witeboard. 



Applications for Education
There are a lot of whiteboard tools on the market today. I use Google's Jamboard almost daily in my classroom. If Jamboard's not your jam, Witeboard is a nice alternative to try. 

Like all collaborative whiteboard tools, Witeboard could be handy to use when you need to sketch a concept for students during a virtual meeting (I made one today to explain port forwarding). It's also a handy tool for students to use to show you their sketches of a concept. 

Five Screencasting Tools Compared and Ranked - Fall 2020

The launch of Vimeo Record earlier this week made me think that perhaps it was time to write a comparison of popular screencasting / screen recording tools. For this comparison I selected the five options that pop into my head whenever I'm asked about screencasting (which has been almost daily since March). With the exception of Flipgrid all of the tools in this comparison have free and paid options. This comparison only addresses the features that are available to educators for free. If you'd like to see the comparisons in a chart format, I have embedded a chart at the end of this post (if you're reading this in email or RSS you'll need to click through to the website to see the chart). 

Common Features for All Five Tools
All of these tools allow you to download your videos as MP4 files which you can then upload to YouTube, Google Drive, OneDrive, or any other video file hosting service of your choice.

All of these tools allow you to record your screen and your webcam although Flipgrid doesn't allow that to happen simultaneously (more on that below). 

My Rankings

1. Screencastify 
In the interest of disclosing my bias, I kind of didn't want to put Screencastify at the top because I'm still a little sour about getting rejected for a job with them. But after comparing of all these options objectively, Screencastify came out on top. 

Screencastify has the most integrated sharing options of the five tools in this comparison. The ease of integration with Google Classroom and EDpuzzle is particularly nice. What pushes it to the top are the drawing tools and editing tools that are available for free. There are some convenient tools for drawing on your screen while recording. That function is great for emphasizing a particular item on your screen or creating a whiteboard video with Jamboard. In the free version of Screencastify's editor you can overlay text on your video. That function is, again, great for emphasizing or clarifying what students are seeing. 

2. Loom
Loom offers a very generous package of features to verified teachers through their Loom for Education program. Those features include recording for up to 45 minutes per video, unlimited storage, viewing insights, and password protection of your videos. Loom also has a fantastic Gmail add-on that lets you record and send screencasts right from your inbox. If Loom had just a couple more editing tools (the ability to draw on screen would be great as would overlaying text) I'd put it ahead of Screencastify. 

3. Flipgrid/ Flipgrid Shorts
I have to clarify that for this comparison I only focused on the screen recording element of Flipgrid. Flipgrid has many other wonderful features that aren't directly related to screen recording. If you want to know more about Flipgrid's other uses, take a look at this playlist of videos

The nice thing about Flipgrid's screencasting tool is that you have access to it whenever you launch the Flipgrid recorder for any other video that you might make. You can also combine a screencast with a simple webcam video or whiteboard video that you make in Flipgrid. The downsides to Flipgrid's screencasting tool are that you can't use the drawing tools while recording your screen, there isn't a cursor highlighter, and you can't capture your webcam at the same time as your screen. 

4. Screencast-o-matic
I use the paid version of Screencast-o-matic for nearly all of the videos that appear on my YouTube channel (an overview of the paid version is available here). The free version, however, doesn't measure up that well against the free offerings of Screencastify, Loom, and Flipgrid. 

The recording length limit on Screencast-o-matic's free plan is a generous fifteen minutes. And the cursor highlighting is fantastic. The ability to reposition the webcam cutout is also handy.

The shortcomings of Screencast-o-matic's free plan are found in the sharing and editing options. While you can download your video as an MP4, the only integrated sharing options are YouTube and Screencast-o-matic's hosting service. The post-recording editing options are also limited to just trimming your recording. 

5. Vimeo Record
This one only made the list because it was fresh in my mind after its launch earlier this week. It's so new that it might not be fair to even try to compare it to the well-established tools on this list. Vimeo Record doesn't have any editing tools, drawing tools, or integrated sharing options other than hosting on Vimeo itself. But at least you can download your videos as MP4 files. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Three Ideas for Stop Motion Video Projects to Make With Cloud Stop Motion

Last month I published a video about how to use Cloud Stop Motion to make a stop motion video. Stop motion provides a good way to make simple animations and time lapse videos. Here are three ideas, including one from a current student of mine, for stop motion video projects for students. 

Showing Network Activity

This idea came from one of my students. They had an assignment last week in which I asked them to create short videos to explain a variety of concepts that we covered in the first two months of the school year. I let them decide the format for their videos. Some made screencasts, some acted out concepts, some did voiceovers on slides, and one student made an animation to explain how data travels through small wireless LAN. The animation was essentially a stop motion video of the movement of packets of data. 

Time Lapse of Making Cake (or anything else that's time-consuming)

This idea was inspired by a conversation with one of the culinary arts teachers at my school. Anyone who has baked and decorated a cake knows that it doesn't happen quickly. But you can show the process quickly through the use of stop motion. To do that just take pictures during the process then put them into order in Cloud Stop Motion and play it back at the speed you like.

Illustrate Concepts That are Hard to See

Pick a concept in biology, physics, or chemistry that is hard to see with the naked eye and then make a stop motion video to illustrate it. It might be an concept that's hard to see because it happens so quickly or it might be a concept that's hard to see because it's so small. A classic example of this is a golf ball bouncing off a cement floor. You can't see the ball compress with your naked eye. Using stop motion is a good way to illustrate how a ball compresses and bounces. 





Disclosure: Cloud Stop Motion is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com.

Time to Fall Back - Short Lessons About Daylight Saving Time and Timezones

This weekend we have Halloween and the end of Daylight Saving Time (in most of the U.S. and Canada). Hopefully, my kids will take advantage of the "extra" hour of time for sleeping. 

As I do almost every time Daylight Saving Time begins or ends, I have gathered together a handful of short video explanations about why we have Daylight Saving Time. Take a look and see if there is one that can help you explain Daylight Saving Time to your students. 

National Geographic has two videos titled Daylight Saving Time 101. The first one, published in 2015, is a bit more upbeat than the second one that was published in 2019. Both versions are embedded below. 





The Telegraph has a 90 second explanation of Daylight Saving Time. The video doesn't have any narration so it can be watched without sound.



CGP Grey's video explanation of Daylight Saving Time is still a good one even if it isn't as succinct as the videos above.



TED-Ed has two lessons that aren't specifically about Daylight Saving Time but are related to the topic. First, The History of Keeping Time explains sundials, hourglasses, and the development of timezones. Second, How Did Trains Standardize Time in the United States? explains the role of railroads in the development of the timezones used in the United States (and most of Canada) today.



Tuesday, October 27, 2020

How to Edit the Captions in Your YouTube Videos - Fall 2020 Update

Last spring I published a video about how to adjust the captions that are automatically generated for the videos that you upload to your YouTube account. Recently, YouTube made some changes to the way that the caption editing process works. Those changes are for the better as they've made it easier to adjust the correlation between timestamps and your edited captions. In the following video I demonstrate how to edit the captions and adjust the timing of the captions on your YouTube videos. 


On the topic of video editing, take a look at my Practical Ed Tech course titled A Crash Course in Making & Teaching With Video

Vimeo Record - Another Screencasting Tool

Vimeo is one of my top alternatives to using YouTube to host instructional videos. Now you can use it to record as well as host your videos. 

Today, Vimeo launched a new screen recording tool. The new tool is simply called Vimeo Record. Vimeo Record is available as a free Chrome extension that you can get right here

Once you've installed Vimeo Record in Chrome it works just like the dozens of other screencasting tools available to Chrome users. Just click the extension's icon in Chrome then choose whether you want to record your screen with or without your webcam turned on. (I recommend turning your webcam on because it helps to make a better connection with students when they can see your face). When you're done recording your video will save into your Vimeo account. 

Vimeo offers free and paid accounts. The free plan limits you to 500Mb of uploads in a week and 5GB total storage. In the free account you can make your video private or public. The free plan also lets you restrict embedding of your video. 

Applications for Education
Unless you're already using Vimeo to host your instructional videos, I don't see a compelling reason to switch to using Vimeo Record as your screen recording tool in place of Loom, Screencast-o-matic, or Screencastify. If you are using Vimeo to host your instructional videos then Vimeo Record might streamline your recording and publishing process.

Five Last Minute Resources for Teaching About the Electoral College

We're one week away from the U.S. Presidential election. While citizens cast their votes next week, the final selection happens in the Electoral College in December. That's a concept that can be tricky for some students to understand. If you're looking for some last minute resources for teaching about the Electoral College, take a look at this small collection. (Related note, I think I need this Electoral College tee shirt). 

DocsTeach is one of my favorite sites for history teachers. It contains tons of online activities built upon primary sources. The activity about the Electoral College asks students to evaluate six primary sources and put them into the correct sequence. The purpose of the lesson is to help students understand the steps taken in the Electoral College process of choosing a President. 

Does Your Vote Counts? is a TED-Ed lesson that offers a short explanation of the Electoral College by answering the question, "does your vote count?" The video for the lesson is embedded below.


How the Electoral College Works from C.G.P. Grey gives a nice overview of the Electoral College. The video isn't perfect, I wish the producer had included that the number of Electoral votes a state receives is tied to the number of Senators and Representative it has. Instead the video simply stated that the number of Electoral votes is tied to population. Overall, it's not a bad summary of the Electoral College.


Electing a US President produced by Common Craft provides a concise overview of the election process. The version embedded below is an update to the original that Common Craft released and I used in my classroom during the 2008 election.


Keith Hughes produced two videos about how the Electoral College was developed and how it works. The first video below is just one minute long. The second video, The Electoral College for Dummies, goes into much more depth.



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

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. 

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

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