Thursday, December 31, 2020

How to Create Your Own Online Memory Games

As I do every year, I'm taking this week off from writing new blog posts. This week I'll be re-running a few of the most popular posts in 2020. 

Last week I was asked if it's possible to use the MIT App Inventor to create a matching game. It certainly is. In fact, I have a student who is working on doing that right now. It's a great exercise through which she's learning about all of the variables and parts of the app that need to be designed. If you're a little more pressed for time than my student is and you just want to quickly generate some matching games for your students to play, there are easier methods than programming your own app.

Educandy is a game builder that I reviewed last fall. Since then a couple of more game templates have been added. One of those is a matching or memory game template. To use the template you simply provide a list of words or terms and Educandy does the rest. Your game will be assigned its own URL that you can distribute to your students.


Matching Game is one of the many Google Sheets templates that Flippity offers. Like all Flippity templates you can make a copy of the template, modify it by adding your own words or terms, and then clicking the activity URL provided by Flippity. Try a sample Flippity Matching Game here and get the template here.

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

As I do every year, I'm taking this week off from writing new blog posts. This week I'll be re-running a few of the most popular posts in 2020. 

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

How to Make Digital Bookshelves in Google Slides

As I do every year, I'm taking this week off from writing new blog posts. This week I'll be re-running a few of the most popular posts in 2020. 

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

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



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

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

How to Play Kahoot Games in Google Classroom

As I do every year, I'm taking this week off from writing new blog posts. This week I'll be re-running a few of the most popular posts in 2020. 

This is the time of year when many of us are looking for fun ways to conduct end-of-year review sessions with our students. Playing Kahoot quiz games is one of the most popular means of doing that. Kahoot games are fun to play in a classroom and you can also use them for remote learning activities by using the "challenge" mode.

The challenge mode in Kahoot enables you to assign games to your students to play at home on their schedule. There are many ways that you can distribute the challenges to your students. If you're a Google Classroom user, you can distribute your challenges through your Classroom just like you would any other announcement or assignment. Your students then just click on the link to your Kahoot game to start playing it.

In the following video I demonstrate how to distribute Kahoot games through Google Classroom and how students can play those games right from the Announcements stream in Google Classroom.

Five Easy Ways to Improve Your Videos

As I do every year, I'm taking this week off from writing new blog posts. This week I'll be re-running a few of the most popular posts in 2020. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rubrics for Assessing Videos, Podcasts, Blogs, and More

As I do every year, I'm taking this week off from writing new blog posts. This week I'll be re-running a few of the most popular posts in 2020. 

Over the years I've referenced the University of Wisconsin Stout's collection of rubrics for multimedia projects. It has been a few years since I last featured it so I think it's time to highlight it again.

UW Stout's collection of rubrics is organized by task or project type. There are sections in the collection for presentations, eportfolios and websites, social media, group work, graphic organizers, videos, games, writing, and the research process.

The section containing rubrics on the research process is new since the last time that I wrote about UW Stout's collection of rubrics. In the section on research process there are rubrics appropriate for elementary school, middle school, and high school students. There is even a link to Joyce Valenza's question brainstorming template that students can use to help them refine their searches.

Applications for Education
What prompted me to revisit UW Stout's collection of rubrics was the need for a podcast rubric. Sure enough, there is one right at the top of the presentation section in the collection. The rubric isn't a perfect fit for my needs, but it does provide me with a great starting point for making my own podcasting rubric.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Use Zoom and Adobe Spark to Make Green Screen Videos

As I do every year, I'm taking this week off from writing new blog posts. This week I'll be re-running a few of the most popular posts in 2020. 

This year more of us used Zoom than ever before. As is the case with many tools, the more that I used Zoom and answered questions about Zoom, the more I developed new ways to use it. One of those ways was to take advantage of the custom backgrounds option to make green screen videos. In the following video I demonstrate how you can use Zoom and Adobe Spark together to create a green screen video.

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

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


How to Use Flipgrid to Make Screencast Videos

As I do every year, I'm taking this week off from writing new blog posts. This week I'll be re-running a few of the most popular posts in 2020. 

On Wednesday afternoon Flipgrid announced the launch of a new recording feature for teachers and students. You can now create screencast videos within Flipgrid. The feature is kind of hidden so I made a screencast video to show you where Flipgrid's screen recording tool is found and how it works.

As I demonstrate in the following video you can combine screencast videos with regular webcam video clips in Flipgrid. You can also combine screencast videos with whiteboard videos in Flipgrid. And you can combine all three video types into one video in Flipgrid. Best of all, you don't have to install any browser extensions or download anything in order to use Flipgrid's screen recording tool! Watch my video to see how this is done.



Applications for Education
As soon as I saw this feature I thought of an old colleague of mine who used to have her students create screencast videos to explain how various pieces of software on their laptops worked. She used to have to then organize those videos in a Google Drive folder. Now that same thing can be done in Flipgrid. The other nice thing about Flipgrid's new screen recording function is that you don't have to install any browser extensions or download any software.

Three Neat Things to Create With Google Sheets

As I do every year, I'm taking this week off from writing new blog posts. This week I'll be re-running a few of the most popular posts in 2020. 

Earlier this week my friend Beth asked me for some tutorials on Google Forms for beginners. As a follow up to that I've selected three Google Sheets tutorials from my library. These tutorials are for doing some interesting things with Google Sheets besides just looking at information collected through Google Forms.

Create a Random Name Picker in Google Sheets.


Create a Progress Tracker With Google Sheets


Create a Map of Spreadsheet Data

Monday, December 28, 2020

By Request - How to Create Timed Quizzes in Google Classroom

As I do every year, I'm taking this week off from writing new blog posts. This week I'll be re-running a few of the most popular posts in 2020.

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

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



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

Create Video Lessons Without Making Your Own Recordings

As I do every year, I'm taking this week off from writing new blog posts. This week I'll be re-running a few of the most popular posts in 2020. 

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

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

The Difference Between Signing Into Chrome and Signing Into Your Google Account

As I do every year, I'm taking this week off from writing new blog posts. This week I'll be re-running a few of the most popular posts in 2020.

Last week my friend Beth Still asked me if I had a video that showed people how to sign into Chrome and switch between Chrome profiles. She mentioned it because she was helping some people who were confused about the difference between signing into Chrome versus signing into their Google accounts. The differences are small, but significant. In the following video I demonstrate signing into your Chrome profile versus signing into a Google account.


Applications for Education
As I explained in the video, signing into Chrome makes it easy for students to take their bookmarks and personalized Chrome settings with them from computer to computer. It's also important to note that students should sign out of their Chrome profiles if they are sharing computers and don't have separate user accounts for the shared computers.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Five Ways to Make Whiteboard Instructional Videos in Your Web Browser

As I do every year, I'm taking this week off from writing new blog posts. This week I'll be re-running a few of the most popular posts in 2020. 

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

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



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



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



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



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


5 Google Classroom Tips You Might Have Overlooked or Forgotten

As I do every year, I'm taking this week off from writing new blog posts. This week I'll be re-running a few of the most popular posts in 2020. 

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

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

Featured in the slideshow:
  • Posting announcements to multiple classrooms at the same time. 
  • Scheduling announcements to appear at a later date.
  • Creating topics to organize assignments.
  • Scheduling assignments.
  • Using Google Classroom to send bulk email to students and parents.

5 Helpful Google Classroom Tips for Teachers by richardbyrne

A Few Interesting Ways to Use Google Slides Besides Making Presentations

As I do every year, I'm taking this week off from writing new blog posts. This week I'll be re-running a few of the most popular posts in 2020. 

Google Slides was once a bare-bones alternative to PowerPoint and Keynote. I can still remember when the option to add a video was big news. Fast forward to today and there are lots of things that you can do with Google Slides besides make basic slideshow presentations. Here are three of my favorite ways to use Google Slides for something other than making a presentation.

Create a Jeopardy-style Game 
By inserting a table into your cover slide then using the slide-linking feature in Google Slides you can create a Jeopardy-style game to play in your classroom. The steps for doing that are outlined in the video below.


Create a Multimedia Timeline in Google Slides
A couple of years ago Google added some diagram templates to Google Slides. These templates can be inserted into any of your slides. A timeline is one of the templates that you'll find in the diagrams menu. Watch the following video to learn how to create a timeline in Google Slides.


Make a Common Craft-style Video
You can make simple animated videos with a bit of clip art, the animation tools built into Google Slides, and a free screen recording tool like Screencastify. In the following video I demonstrate how to do that.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good morning from Maine where my kids are still basking in the glow of Santa's visit yesterday. We have a full day of unplanned fun ahead of us. I hope that you also have a fun ahead of you. 

I didn't write or publish any blog posts yesterday and I won't be writing anything new next week. I always take the last week of the year off from writing new blog posts. Next week I'll be re-running some of the most popular posts that I published in 2020. Speaking of popular posts, take a look at this week's list below. 

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. My Current Hybrid Classroom Arrangement and Equipment
2. How to Create Your Own App With the MIT App Inventor
3. My Two Go-to Places for Free Sound Effects and Music
4. Quickly Create Polls and Quizzes in Google Meet With Edu-pal
5. Best Job Ever - National Geographic Stories About Interesting Jobs
6. Vintage Travel Posters and Google Earth
7. Five Ideas for Online Breakout Room Activities

Professional Development Opportunities 
Through Practical Ed Tech I'm currently offering two on-demand learning opportunities:
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. 
  • Wakelet is a great tool for making collections of resources, recording video, and more!
  • GAT Labs offers a great, free guide to using Google Workspaces in online classrooms.  
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 32,000 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.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

How to Create Crossword Puzzles With Google Sheets

My grandmother was a middle school and high school language arts teacher for decades. She loved crossword puzzles. I know that many other teachers still like to use them in one way or another too. If you would like to create your own crossword puzzles for your students or you want them to create crossword puzzles, Flippity has a free Google Sheets template for that purpose. In the following video I demonstrate how to make a crossword puzzle with Flippity's Google Sheets template. 

How to Quickly Create a Transcript of a Google Meet Meeting

CaptionSaver Pro for Google Meet is a free Chrome extension that anyone can use to save a transcript of what is said during a Google Meet meeting. When the extension is installed it will automatically enable captioning of your meeting and it will automatically generate a transcript of those captions. It's easy to install and use. I made this short video to demonstrate how it works

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Fun Facts About Reindeer

My daughters are at the age that they believe in Santa Claus. For weeks they've been talking about snacks for Santa and his reindeer. They're a little too young for this SciShow Kids video about reindeer, but if you have kids who are in elementary school you might want to show them 4 Facts to Know About Reindeer. 

4 Facts to Know About Reindeer explains why reindeer are called caribou in North America. The lesson also teaches students how reindeer have adapted to find food and stay warm in cold weather. The video concludes with an explanation of why reindeer migrate.


Older kids and adults who want to learn a bit more about reindeer should watch this clip from BBC Earth. The video explains how reindeer stay warm in the coldest of conditions. 

How to Remake and Reuse a Padlet Wall

Padlet has been one of my go-to multimedia tools for more than a decade. I've used it for everything from discussion prompts and backchannels to digital portfolios and image galleries. This week a reader sent me a question about reusing Padlet walls. Like a lot of questions, the answer is easier to explain in a screencast video than it is in text. That's why I created this new video about how to remake and reuse Padlet walls. 

The "remake" feature in Padlet lets you copy everything from one Padlet wall and reuse it on another with just one click. The remake feature can also be used to copy just the layout and color scheme of an existing Padlet wall without copying the notes that are on the wall. In this video I demonstrate how to use the remake feature in Padlet so that you can reuse a wall in its entirety. 


Applications for Education
The example that I gave in the video is remaking a wall of discussion prompts to use the same prompts for two different sections of class. 

If you're new to Padlet, you can learn more about all of its features in this playlist of Padlet tutorial videos. One of my favorite features is the option to create multimedia maps as is demonstrated here

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Get the Wiggles Out With Sworkit Kids

Sworkit Kids is a free app that I've been using and recommending for a few years. It provides prompts for one to five minute physical activities that kids can do in their classrooms or at home relatively small spaces. These activities are great for short brain breaks or to "get the wiggles out" during a long class. Recently, I discovered that you can use Sworkit Kids without installing the app on your phone

Whether you use Sworkit on your phone or in your web browser at https://app.sworkit.com/collections/kids-workouts the content is the same. You can choose from nineteen categories of activities. The categories are arranged by age group and activity type. After you've selected a category you can then choose the length of the activity. Once you've made those two selections Sworkit will show a demonstration of the physical movement to be done and set a countdown timer for doing the activity. If you've chosen an activity length of more than a minute you'll be shown a few different physical movements to complete. 


Applications for Education
The activities in Sworkit Kids are great for students of all ages, but are particularly good to use with elementary school students who need a break during a Zoom session. Consider using a Sworkit activity as the transition between two topics or tasks during a Zoom session. 

Future Me - A Good End of 2020 Activity

The end of the year is near and, if my scrolls through social media are an indicator, many of people are ready to put 2020 in the rearview mirror. Before kissing 2020 goodbye consider taking a few moments to write out what you want to accomplish in 2021. Of course, you could have your students do the same. FutureMe is a service designed to get people to write down what they want to do and where they see themselves in a year, three years, or five years from now. 

FutureMe is a free service that anyone who has an email address can use to write a letter to their future selves. When you write the letter you can pick a delivery date in the future. Then on that date you’ll get an email on that date with the letter you wrote to your future self. 

Letters that you write in FutureMe can be completely private or you can choose to have them added to a gallery of public, but anonymous letters. My choice is to keep them private. 

Applications for Education
Generally speaking, 80% of New Year’s Resolutions are abandoned by the end of January. Using FutureMe could be one way to help yourself and your students stick to a New Year’s resolution goal. Since most students change teachers between spring and fall, I’d have students in my classroom now write letters to be delivered at the end of the spring.

FutureMe could easily be replicated by using the scheduled send feature that is built into Gmail/ G Suite email. That feature is demonstrated in the video below.

Monday, December 21, 2020

My Two Go-to Places for Free Sound Effects and Music

Some of my students are currently using the MIT App Inventor to create their own Android apps. It's a great way for students learn some programming concepts and have a working app at the end. I figured that some other teachers would like to know how it works so I published this tutorial last week. In that tutorial I demonstrated using Sound Bible to find free sound effects to use app projects and other multimedia projects. 

Sound Bible is one of my two go-to resources for free audio files. The other is Dig CC Mixter. My students use both of these resources to find music and sound effects to use in their projects. 

Sound Bible is a good place for students to find all kinds of free sound effects recordings. Students can download files as MP3 or WAV files. And best of all, students don't need to register on the site in order to download the files. But they do need to remember to cite the source of the sound effects as most are labeled with a Creative Commons license. Learn more about Sound Bible in my short video embedded below.



Dig CC Mixter offers thousands of songs that are Creative Commons licensed. The site is divided into three main categories. Those categories are Instrumental Music for Film & Video, Free Music for Commercial Projects, and Music for Video Games. Within each category you can search according to genre, instrument, and style. Here's a little video overview of Dig CC Mixter


Vintage Travel Posters and Google Earth

The Library of Congress offers thousands of historical images and maps that students can download and reuse for free. Most of the images and maps are found in these digital collections. Some of those images are arranged in collections on the LOC site in a section appropriately titled Free to Use and Reuse Sets. It's in that section that I found this collection of vintage travel posters

The vintage travel posters set on the LOC's website features twenty-one posters for destinations including national parks, New York City, Chicago, Bermuda, and Puerto Rico amongst other popular destinations. Most of the posters were produced in the 1930's and 40's. Clicking on a poster in the collection will reveal information about when it was produced and who created it. When you click on a poster you can download it in a variety of sizes and formats including JPEG and GIF. 

Applications for Education
When I first came across these vintage travel posters I immediately thought of using them in placemarks in Google Earth tours. I'd have students choose a few posters they liked then research a few activities that people liked to do in the areas featured in the posters. Then I'd have students put those posters into placemarks in Google Earth along with their writing about the popular activities in the area at the time the posters were produced.

Here's a video about how to put images like those in the vintage travel posters set into placemarks in Google Earth. 

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Breakouts, Outages, and Cool Jobs - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where it is nice and chilly. Okay, chilly is an exaggeration. It's downright cold! It was another interesting week of conducting hybrid and online classes. More COVID-19 cases in my community meant fewer students in class and more online. If nothing else, this school year has made me more flexible than ever. I hope that you're also finding something positive in this unusual school year.

Before I head outside to play in the snow with my kids and my dogs, I have just enough time to write this week's list of the most popular posts of the week. Not surprisingly, a couple of the most popular posts dealt with issues related to the outage of Google Classroom and Drive on Monday morning.

These were the most popular posts of the week:
1. My Current Hybrid Classroom Arrangement and Equipment
2. How to Create Freehand Drawings in Google Slides
3. How to Find "Lost" Items in Google Drive
4. Five Ideas for Online Breakout Room Activities
5. What is a DDos Attack? - A Simple Explanation
6. Best Job Ever - National Geographic Stories About Interesting Jobs
7. How to Create Breakout Rooms in Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet


Professional Development Opportunities 
Through Practical Ed Tech I'm currently offering two on-demand learning opportunities:
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. 
  • Wakelet is a great tool for making collections of resources, recording video, and more!
  • GAT Labs offers a great, free guide to using Google Workspaces in online classrooms.  
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 32,000 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.

Five Interesting Lessons About Winter Weather

There is no doubt that winter has arrived here in Maine. The temperature was in the single digits (Fahrenheit) most mornings this week and we had our second significant snow fall this week. The chill in the air and the snow on the ground prompted me to look back at some of my favorite videos for learning about winter weather. Here they are...

How windchill is calculated:
The windchill was -20F last night at my house. The following video explains how windchill is calculated. The video comes from Presh Talwalkar.

 

The psychology of extreme weather:
Television news reporters like to use the word "extreme" whenever we have a lot of rain or snow in a short amount of time. Is the weather really "extreme" or is that just our impression of it? The following Minute Earth video takes on the topic of how extreme weather affects our thinking about weather patterns in general. I found the video to be interesting from a psychology perspective. The video is embedded below.

 

How snowflakes are created:
The following episode of Bytesize Science embedded below explains how snowflakes are created.

 

Thundersnow!
Thundersnow is a video from UNC-TV that explains how thunder sometimes, though rarely, coincides with snowstorms. PBS Learning Media has a set of corresponding lesson materials that you can use with this video.

Winter Moon
Why the Full Moon is Better in Winter explains how the combination of the position of the moon relative to Earth and snow on the ground make the moon appear brighter in the winter than in the summer. Take a look at the video as embedded below. 

Friday, December 18, 2020

Three Ways to Create Year-in-Review Videos

This is the time of year when just about every media company is publishing some kind of year-in-review video. Asking students to create year-in-review videos can be a good way for them to recall their best moments of the year or to recall the most important news stories of the year. Students can use the following free tools to create year-in-review videos.

Adobe Spark Video

Adobe Spark is a good choice for creating year-in-review videos because students can record voice-overs to explain the significance of each image or video clip that they use to summarize the year. A simple formula for students to follow is to have them add one image or video clip for each month of the year. Learn how to use Adobe Spark by watching this tutorial. Adobe Spark supports real-time collaboration so students can work together to develop students remotely.


Microsoft Photos with Built-in Search

Microsoft Photos includes a video creation tool for making short audio slideshow-style videos. You'll find this by just opening the native photos app in Windows 10. Within the editor there are tools for adding animated effects to still images, insert your existing video clips into a video project, and tools for adding audio to your video. There's also a great option to search for Creative Commons licensed images and insert them directly into your video project. The best part of that feature is that attribution information is automatically added onto the images you choose through the built-in search tool. 

In the following video I provide a demonstration of how to create a video in Microsoft Photos in Windows 10. 

Canva Video Creation Tools

Canva offers a couple of options for creating videos. You can use a slideshow template then add music to it. Follow the directions here to use that method. The other option is to record a voiceover over a set of slides in Canva. Here's a video with directions on how to do that. 



Save the Captions from Your Google Meet Calls

CaptionSaver Pro for Google Meet is a new Chrome extension that launched on Product Hunt earlier this week. CaptionSaver Pro does two important things for Google Meet users. First, it will automatically turn on captions when you start or join a Google Meet call. Second, it will automatically create a text file containing the captions. That text file can then be downloaded to your computer or sent to your Google Drive. 

The free version of CaptionSaver Pro for Google Meet will capture the transcript of the captions and then you have to manually save the transcript. The paid version will automatically send the transcript to your Google Drive as a text file. 

Applications for Education
CaptionSaver Pro for Google Meet could be a good extension for anyone who needs to have a record of what was said during a Google Meet call. The marketing for CaptionSaver Pro for Google Meet indicates that in the near future there will be an option to have timestamps corresponding to the transcript.

Fifteen New Primary Source-based Lessons from Docs Teach

DocsTeach has been one of my go-to resources for U.S. History lessons for many years. DocsTeach offers more than 1,500 primary source activities to use in elementary, middle, and high school history lessons. Additionally, DocsTeach provides tools for creating your own online lessons using primary sources from the National Archives of the United States. 

This week DocsTeach published fifteen new activities across three themes in U.S. History. Those themes are Industrialization, Immigration, & Progressive Reforms, World War II and Holocaust Refugees, and The Revolution, New Nation, & Expansion. Within these themes there are new primary source-based lessons for elementary, middle, and high school students. 

You can learn more about how to use DocsTeach by watching this video overview that I recorded last year. 

Thursday, December 17, 2020

How to Create Your Own App With the MIT App Inventor

The MIT App Inventor is a free app development tool that has been available for free for the last decade. It's a great tool to use to introduce students to some programming concepts while letting develop apps that they can actually use on their phones. While it might seem complicated at first glance, after they have mastered a few basic concepts students can create some amazing applications through the MIT App Inventor. 

This morning I used part of my snow day to create a video tutorial on how to create your first Android application through the MIT App Inventor. Watch the video then try making your first app. Or watch the video in one tab while following my instructions with App Inventor open in another tab. 

Applications for Education
My 9th grade students are currently using it to create quiz game apps. One of them is trying to create a "personality quiz" application (what kind of cat are you?). I've personally used the App Inventor in the past to create a study guide for a U.S. History course that I taught. And I've seen 6th and 7th grade students use App Inventor to create scavenger hunt games.

Tozzl, Tozzl, Tozzl, Tozzl, Tozzl - How to Search for a Trademark

Back in October I received an email from the owner(s) of the domain Tozzl.com. It was a cease and desist notice for using the word "Tozzl" in some of my old blog posts and videos. Today, I received a second one from them. In both cases I'm telling them to take a flying leap...here's why. 

There is a lesson in Trademark, Copyright, and Fair Use here for anyone who cares to continue reading. 

Years ago the domain Tozzl.com was owned by an independent developer who created a nice backchannel tool. I wrote quite a few blog posts about various ways to use it classrooms. I also made a tutorial video about it. Unfortunately, it no longer exists and the new owners of the domain are upset because blogs like this one rank higher in search engines than the new Tozzl website does. 

The email that I received in October and again this morning threatened a lawsuit if I didn't remove all references to Tozzl. According to them it is their trademarked term. Unfortunately for them, Tozzl isn't actually a registered trademark in the U.S. Trademark database. Furthermore, using the word Tozzl in an editorial context is a fair use. 

I responded to Tozzl's email in October by pointing out that their claim had no merit and that they should get lost. This morning I responded a bit more strongly by threatening to sue them for harassment and emotional distress. Then, as I always try to do, I decided to turn this into a teaching moment and made a video about how to search the U.S. Trademark database know as TESS. You can watch that video on my YouTube channel or as embedded below. 

My Current Hybrid Classroom Arrangement and Equipment

Last Friday I posted this picture on Instagram. It prompted a few questions on Instagram and in my inbox. The picture is of my current hybrid classroom equipment arrangement. Back in August I published a rundown of my hybrid classroom arrangement. It's changed a bit since then to meet my changing needs and those of my students. Here's a rundown of my current hybrid classroom equipment and arrangement. 

Two laptops = Mr. Byrne x 2!

I use two laptops during Zoom meetings. I sign into one of them to initiate the meetings then on the other one I sign in and become a co-host. By doing this I can screen-share from one laptop while using the other to monitor chat, check Google Classroom, check email, or do other things that I don't want to have students see. 

My school provides every teacher with a MacBook Air to use for Zoom and or other tasks. I also have laptops assigned to my classroom for student use. And I bring my personal laptop to school. Most days I use the MacBook Air and one of the classroom laptops. 

Positioning!

If you look at the picture, I have my MacBook Air on top of a stack of text books which is on top of an old rolling cart (wheels are locked). I do that so that the camera is eye-level. That MacBook is also hooked up to a FiFine microphone, a Bose Bluetooth speaker, and to my LCD projector. That's the computer that I primarily use for screen-sharing. Students who are in the room see exactly what I'm showing to the kids who are at home. 

The second laptop is on a small rolling podium. I use the rolling podium so that when my in-person students are working on something that I want their at-home classmates to see, I can quickly roll it over and show them. Again, most days I use one of the classroom laptops for this, but on Monday I used a MacBook Air for this. Which device is where isn't as important as having two relatively mobile devices. 

In the picture above I had three in-person students working on a switch and router configuration activity and three at-home students helping them. The at-home students were able to see what the students in class were doing. All six students were talking to each other to work through the configuration activity together. 

Sound! 

It turns out that my voice carries quite well (not only do I have a face made for radio, I also have voice for it) so I haven't needed to use my wireless microphone for my at-home students to hear me when I wander away from my laptop. The FiFine microphone that my school purchased has been sufficient. That said, when some of my quieter in-person students speak I do have to ask them to speak up in order for their at-home classmates to hear them. 

Bottom Line

As you can see from my pictures, I don't have the fanciest set-up or a Pinterest-worthy classroom. What I have focused on is making sure that everyone can see and hear what needs to be seen and heard during class. I'm also doing my best to make sure that at-home students and in-person students can interact during class. 

Finally, it is infinitely easier to teach when all students are in one place. 100% online and 100% in-person is a heck of a lot easier to manage and make meaningful than a 50/50, 40/60, or 10/90 split (yes, I have one class in which only one student comes into school). 

Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions & Share Cool Stuff - Episode 29

Last week Rushton Hurley and I hosted the 29th episode of Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff. We're taking a break from hosting those webinars until January. We'll be back on January 21st at 4pm ET/ 1pm PT. You can register here to join us for that episode. In the meantime, you can watch last week's episode and the twenty-eight others right here



Some highlights from the last episode include:
  • A new Amazon Prime show about teachers. 
  • Keeping Kids in Motion
  • Cookies for Tanzania
  • The Whiteboard Blog
  • Padlet & Wakelet
  • Books by Rushton

Quickly Create Polls and Quizzes in Google Meet With Edu-pal

Edu-pal is a new Chrome extension developed by students for teachers and students to use with Google Meet. The extension was recently featured on Product Hunt and I gave it a try earlier this week. It worked as advertised and is an extension that I'd recommend to any teacher who is looking for a quick and easy way to create polls or quizzes in Google Meet. 

Edu-pal provides an easy way to quickly create multiple choice, true/false, and free response questions to distribute to your students to answer during a Google Meet call. You can create your question at anytime during your call by simply selecting it from the Edu-pal menu that appears in your Google Meet when you have the extension activated. Students receive a notification in Google Meet that you've posted a question for them to answer. You can see their answers in real-time in Google Meet. 

For Edu-pal to work you and your students need to have it installed in Chrome. And it will only work if when using the browser version of Google Meet and not the Google Meet mobile apps. 

Applications for Education
At this time there isn't a way to save all of your students' responses to the questions you share through Edu-pal. That said, it is easy to use and could prove to be a convenient tool to use to quickly take the pulse of your online class. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Best Job Ever - National Geographic Stories About Interesting Jobs

National Geographic's YouTube channel is one of my favorites because of the variety of interesting playlists it offers. One of  those playlist is called Best Job Ever. The playlist features short stories about people who have interesting jobs that are primarily in the outdoors. These are primarily jobs incorporating some kind of conservation and or awareness missions.




National Geographic Kids also has a playlist called Best Job Ever. It's much like the Best Job Ever playlist on the main National Geographic channel. The difference is the that content is tailored to an elementary school audience. 


Applications for Education
These videos, particularly the ones from Nat Geo Kids, could be good for helping students discover that there are careers and jobs that don't fit in the typical "career guidance" books. I'd consider using these videos as a jumping-off point to have students do some more research into the jobs that interest them that are featured in the playlists. 

Book Creator Has a New Color Selection Tool

A couple of weeks ago Book Creator introduced some new shapes and fonts to use in the creation of multimedia ebooks. This week Book Creator added a new color selection tool that will help you apply the exact color you want to use on those shapes and other page elements. 

Book Creator now offers the option to use color hex codes to choose colors instead of just selecting a color from a paint palette. Using a hex code gives you the finest level of control over color selection. If you're not sure what a hex code is or what the hex code for a particular color is, HTML Color Codes is a handy reference site to consult. 


Make Offline Copies of Important Files in Your Google Drive

Monday's little Google services outage was a bit of an "oh, crap!" moment for many people who have come to rely on Google to create, store, and access all kinds of important files. While I was able to get by without Google Drive for an hour on Monday morning, it was a good reminder to make offline copies of important files a little more often. If find yourself feeling the same way, take some time this week to create offline copies of the important files you have in Google Drive. This little video shows you a few methods for making offline copies of Google Docs and other files in your Google account. 
 

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

When Will It End?

I'm tired, you're tired, our students are tired, we're all tired. I'm tired of switching from in-person classes, to online classes, to hybrid classes, back to in-person classes, back on online classes, back to hybrid classes, and starting every Friday wondering what the format for the next week will be. Yes, we're all adapting and making the best of it, but it has to end at some point, doesn't it? 

The distribution of the first COVID-19 vaccines provides some hope that the pandemic will end sooner than later. There's still a long way to go until we're "back to normal." So when does a pandemic end? I know I'm not the only one to ask that question. My students have asked the question and I'm sure some your students have asked the same question. Six months ago TED-Ed released a video to address that question. If you haven't seen it, now is a good time to watch it and share it with your students. 



Yes, we will eventually get "back to normal." Until then, hang in there.

Five Ideas for Online Breakout Room Activities

Breakout rooms in Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Google Meet provide a good way to get students talking and working in small groups. For some students, talking to a couple of classmates in a small breakout room is a lot less intimidating that talking to you "in front" of the whole class. Small breakout rooms give students a chance to talk and test ideas with a couple of classmates before subjecting their ideas to the silent or spoken criticism of the whole class. There are lots of other ways to think about using breakout rooms, here are some of my ideas for using breakout rooms with students. 

1. Digital Scavenger Hunts/ Digital Breakout Games

Get students working together to solve problems as part of a digital scavenger hunt that unlocks little rewards. If you have a Breakout EDU account, you might find some good digital challenges there. Otherwise, consider using Flippity's online scavenger hunt template to create a game in which students solve problems to unlock each part of the game.

2. Peer Review

We often associate peer review with writing. There are plenty of other areas in which peer review is an appropriate activity. I'm having students conduct peer review of the apps they're designing in my class. You might have students conduct peer review of short videos they've created. 

3. Three Color "Quiz"

A couple of years ago I was doing some reading on formative assessment methods and came across a paper published by the University of Nebraska Digital Commons (link opens a PDF of the paper). In that paper was the outline for an activity called a three color quiz. I started using that activity in my classroom and found it quite useful in determining which of my students knew material on their own and which ones needed help. The premise is that students spend a few minutes writing about a topic on their own in one color. Then they spend a few minutes writing while consulting a couple of classmates. That writing appears in a second color. Finally, they spend a few minutes writing while consulting classmates, their notes, and textbooks/websites. That writing appears in a third color. 

4. Project Planning/ Progress Monitoring

One of my classes is working on year-long independent and small-group projects. I use a SMART project planning and monitoring framework with them to try to keep them moving on the projects. Using breakout rooms is a good way to give students a time and place for discussions about their projects. 

5. Virtual Social Time

One of the things that a lot of kids are missing right now is the experience of social interactions with classmates. Yes, many of them are Snapping, TikTok-ing, and texting their friends. But that doesn't replace having a conversation with classmates who aren't in their current circle of friends. Consider giving your students 5-10 minutes for casual conversations to interact with classmates they might not otherwise be communicating with.