Thursday, April 9, 2020

How to Create a Tech Help Site With Google Forms

This afternoon I hosted a free webinar titled Strategies for Remote Instructional Technology Support (the recording will be available later this evening). One of the strategies that I talked about and demonstrated in the webinar was using Google Forms to create a tech help resource to share with your colleagues. This can be done by using branching logic otherwise known as "go to section based on answer" in Google Forms.

Create a tech help site with Google Forms start by adding an opening multiple choice question that asks people to pick the topic that they need help with. Then create a section in the Google Form for each topic that is listed in the opening question. Within each section you can include video tutorials and links to additional resources. At the end of each section put in another question that lets visitors return to the home screen or exit from the Form. The "go to section based on answer" feature of Google Forms will let you direct people to the appropriate section based on how they answer the first question on the Form. Watch my video below to see how the whole process works. You can see my demo Form right here.



Once you've built your tech help Google Form you can embed it into your existing website or simply email it to people who could benefit from using it.

You'll notice in the video above that I included a section in my Form for "something else" in which people can book an appointment with me via Google Calendar. That is done with Google Calendar appointment pages. This video can show you how to do that.

Save Time With This Google Calendar Scheduling Tip

Here's a little tip that I passed along to a colleague yesterday morning that might help some of you too. When you're scheduling meetings that are going to happen on a consistent schedule you can go into the "more options" for the event on your calendar and set a custom, repeating schedule. This saves you the step of having to manually add every event in a sequence.

I used this method to schedule all of my Google Hangout Meetings for my computer science students for the rest of the year. If you need to add video conferencing to your event, you can do that in the same place that you set your repeating schedule and have the meeting link automatically added to every event in the sequence. Watch my short video below to see how this works.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Create Online Art Galleries With Wakelet, Padlet, and Google Sites

In last week's episode of The Practical Ed Tech Podcast I answered a question from a reader who was looking for a way for students to be able to submit examples of their artwork and have them displayed in a public gallery. The suggestion that I made on the podcast was to try using Wakelet or Padlet to gather and display examples. I made a couple of videos to show how both of those services can be used to create online art galleries. Both services let you embed your galleries into Google Sites and other website builders. In the following videos I demonstrate how to use Wakelet and Padlet to create online art galleries.

The advantage of Padlet is that is has more design options than Wakelet does. Padlet also has more content moderation options than Wakelet does. The advantage of Wakelet is that you can make as many collections as you like for free whereas Padlet limits you to three for free.



Free Webinar Tomorrow - Strategies for Remote Instructional Technology Support - Take 2!

Yesterday afternoon I hosted a webinar titled Three Strategies for Remote Instructional Technology Support. The software that I used to host the webinar did not work as planned and practiced. And the recording did not come out well either. Therefore, tomorrow at 1pm ET I'm going to host the webinar again, but this time it will be back on old, reliable GoToWebinar.

If you were in Three Strategies for Remote Instructional Technology Support, thank you for putting up with the clunkiness and the screen sharing not working. If you were waiting to see the recording, it came out so poorly that I'm not going to distribute it. I'm going to host Three Strategies for Remote Instructional Technology Support again tomorrow at 1pm ET. It will be run through GoToWebinar. You can register here. A recording will be available afterwards.

A few highlights of tomorrow's webinar will include:
  • Keeping IT human.
  • Managing & prioritizing requests. 
  • Developing self-support resources.
The webinar will include theory as well as step-by-step demonstrations. 

Sometimes It Pays to Pay - Or When a Webinar Crashes to a Halt

Much of my online reputation is built on free technology for teachers. That said, there are services I do pay to use because I've not found other options that are as good. Case in point, I pay $200 per month to license GoToWebinar because I've never found anything to be as reliable. In almost ten years of using it for hundreds of live events, it has only failed me twice. Which is why I feel a little foolish for trying a different service for a free webinar that I hosted yesterday. That other service failed miserably during the webinar that I ran yesterday. I'm going to run the webinar again tomorrow, but it will be back on GoToWebinar where I know all of the functions I need will work reliably.

The last 18 months have been pretty lean around here so I've been looking for ways to cut costs. One of the ways that I thought I could do that was by trying another webinar service. My GoToWebinar subscription and my ConvertKit subscription (the service I use for email mailing lists) are the biggest costs of keeping Free Technology for Teachers and Practical Ed Tech running. The service that I tried yesterday offered a free trial and was 75% cheaper than GoToWebinar on a monthly basis. It even had slick templates for making registration pages! Lesson learned, again, sometimes what looks good and cheap is just cheap.

If you were in yesterday's live webinar, Three Strategies for Remote Instructional Technology Support, thank you for putting up with the clunkiness and the screen sharing not working. If you were waiting to see the recording, it came out so poorly that I'm not going to distribute it. I'm going to host Three Strategies for Remote Instructional Technology Support again tomorrow at 1pm ET. It will be run through GoToWebinar. You can register here. A recording will be available afterwards.


Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Video Puppet Turns Your PowerPoint Presentations Into Narrated Videos

Video Puppet is a new tool that you can use to quickly turn your PowerPoint presentations into narrated videos. If you have less than twenty slides in your presentation you don't even need to create an account on the site to turn your slides into a narrated video.

To use Video Puppet simply head to the site and click "create a video." You'll have the option to upload a set of PowerPoint slides or upload a written transcript. After you upload your slides you can customize your video by choosing the voice that you want to narrate your video, background music, and the aspect ratio of your video. When your video is done you can download it to post on your favorite video sharing sites or just save it in your favorite cloud storage service.

Applications for Education
Video Puppet could be a good tool to use to quickly create some short instructional videos from your existing PowerPoint slides. Google Slides users, don't forget that you can download your slides as PPT files that you could then use in Video Puppet.

Before you try Video Puppet for the first time you should know that it works best with slides that have speaker notes including in them.

How to Use Google Forms With Students Who Don't Have Email Addresses

This afternoon someone Tweeted at me at to ask how elementary school students who don't have active email addresses can view the results of quizzes that they take in Google Forms. There are three ways that that can be accomplished. I made a new video to demonstrate how those methods work.

In the following video you can see how you can create quizzes in Google Forms and how your students can see their results even if they don't have active email addresses.

Five highlights of the video:
  • Quiz settings that let students instantly see their results. 
  • Using Flubaroo to distribute quiz grades via Google Drive even if a student doesn't have an active email address. 
  • Creating and distributing quizzes through Google Classroom. 
  • Returning quiz grades to students via Google Classroom. 
  • Student view of their quiz grades in Google Classroom. 


Watch the video below for an overview of Google Forms question types.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Three Ways to Make Whiteboard Videos on Your Chromebook

Last week I published a video on how to make a simple video on a Chromebook without installing any extensions or apps. That video was fairly popular and it prompted some follow-up questions from readers and viewers who wanted my recommendations for making whiteboard videos on a Chromebook. Besides just recording in front of an actual whiteboard (I have a small one like this at home that I use) here are the three recommendations that I have been making.

#1 - Make a Whiteboard Video in Flipgrid
Last fall Flipgrid added an option for creating whiteboard videos. That feature lets you start video using just your webcam then transition into using a built-in whiteboard function to teach a lesson. This feature has also been integrated into the Flipgrid video tools that are available in Wakelet. Watch my videos below to see how you can make whiteboard videos in Flipgrid.



#2 - Make a Whiteboard Video in Seesaw
Seesaw offers a recording tool that you can use to draw and talk at the same time. To do this just create a new announcement or assignment then select the "draw" option when attaching an item. In "draw" you'll find a microphone icon that you can click to start recording while drawing. The recording and drawing will sync together. Students can watch the recording in their Seesaw accounts.

#3 - Use the Drawing Tools in Screencastify
Screencastify had already made most of their features free to teachers before the COVID-19 pandemic. Now they offer all of them for free. To record a whiteboard style video with Screencastify first open a blank white Google Slide then start recording. While recording use Screencastify's built-in drawing tools to draw over that slide while you're recording your video.

Five Search Tools Students Often Overlook

In our new remote teaching and learning environments students may find themselves having to look things up online more than ever before. Even if you're hosting online class meetings in Zoom, Google Meet, or Microsoft Teams there will still be lots of time when students need to do some research on their own. This is a good time to remind students about some basic search strategies like creating a search checklist and consulting vocabulary lists as part of the search process. Once they've done those basics it might be time for them to try some other search tools that often get overlooked.

Google Books
My favorite feature of Google Books is the option to search within a book. You can do this with any book that is listed by Google Books as free or in the public domain. You can also do this with many of the books that are listed as "preview only." All of the free books can be read online and or downloaded as PDFs. Watch the video below for an overview of how to search within Google Books.


Google Scholar
High school and college students can use Google Scholar to find court rulings, articles from academic journals, and patent filings. Using Google Scholar can get some students off of the hamster wheel of sorting through pages of lower-quality articles discovered through a typical Google.com search.



Dataset Search
Dataset Search is a tool that Google launched in beta around this time last year and made fully available in late 2019. Dataset Search does exactly what the name implies, it helps you find publicly available datasets on a wide variety of topics. Many of those topics are related to economics and demographics.



Refine Google Results by Date
Depending on the topic, the recency of an article can play a significant role in its current accuracy. Refining search results by date is a good way for students to find the most recent information about a topic. Similarly, if they're trying to see how information about a topic has changed over the years, students might restrict results to a set of prior dates.



Refine YouTube Search Results
Depending upon the day and the source, YouTube is often one of the three most-visited and searched sites in world. My comp sci students have been using it a lot lately when they need a little coding tutorial and I'm not available. Depending upon the topic, your students may also be doing a lot of searches on YouTube. They can refine their results by date of publication as well as length of video.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good morning from Maine where the April showers and wind arrived in earnest on Thursday and didn't stop until late last night. Thankfully, it looks like today will be a nice day for playing outside and doing a bit of spring yard work. The governor of Maine issued a stay-at-home order this week so playing in the yard is the extent of our travel for a while. I've never appreciated having a backyard more than right now. I hope that wherever you are that you can get outside a bit this weekend too. After a week of online teaching and learning we all need some fresh air.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Now You Can Use Flipgrid to Make Screencast Videos
2. Learn How to Use These 5 Time-saving Gmail Features in 2020
3. An Option for Making Sure Students Know They Have Google Classroom Assignments
4. Create Video-based Lessons a Little Faster With This Chrome Extension
5. Schedule Individual Online Office Hours Meetings via Google Classroom
6. A Map Coloring Challenge
7. How to Create Simple Videos on a Chromebook - No Apps or Extensions Needed

Online PD With Me!
I've been hosting professional development webinars for a decade. My most popular webinars are available on-demand right here. If you prefer live webinars, I am planning to host some in April so stay tuned for more information about those soon. And I'm always available to schedule custom, online PD for your school.

Thank You for Your Support!

Other Places to Follow My Work
Besides FreeTech4Teachers.com and the daily email digest, there are other ways to keep up with what I'm publishing. 
  • Practical Ed Tech Newsletter - This comes out once per week (Sunday night/ Monday morning) and it includes my tip of the week and a summary of the week's most popular posts from FreeTech4Teachers.com.
  • My YouTube Channel - More than 18,000 people subscribe to my YouTube channel for my regular series of tutorial videos including more than 350 Google tools tutorials. 
  • The Practical Ed Tech Podcast is where I answer questions from readers, share news and notes, and occasionally talk to interesting people in education. 
  • Facebook - The FreeTech4Teachers.com Facebook page has nearly 450,000 followers. 
  • Twitter - I've been Tweeting away for the last twelve years at twitter.com/rmbyrne
  • Instagram - this is mostly pictures of my kids, my dogs, my bikes, my skis, and fly fishing.

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

On Friday afternoon Rushton Hurley and I hosted the second episode of Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions & Share Cool Stuff. It's a half-hour webinar that we do to, you guessed it, answer tech questions and share some interesting tools that we've found on the web. This week we answered some of the questions we answered included privacy in online meetings, copyright, and pesky problems with microphones.

The webinar recording, slides, and links to additional resources can be found here.

Friday, April 3, 2020

A Random Name and Image Picker

Wheel of Names is a free random name picker website that I learned about from Tony Vincent in one of his Tweets earlier this week. There are plenty of random name pickers available on the web. Wheel of Names is a little different than most because it not only lets you enter names, it lets you upload images to be chosen at random. Wheel of Names also lets you create a free account that you can use to save a series of wheels. That option could be helpful if you have multiple classes and don't want to enter names whenever you need to pick a name at random.

In the following video I provide an overview of how you can use Wheel of Names. Highlights of the video include:
  • Uploading images for random selection. 
  • Customizing the playback of the random selector wheel. 
  • Saving and accessing multiple random selector wheels. 



Applications for Education
Besides using Wheel of Names to pick names, you could use it to pick images or words at random. In that sense you could use it as a tool to give random writing prompts to students.

The Practical Ed Tech Podcast - Episode 40 - For Real This Time

In this episode share some new and neat things from the world of ed tech, share a new way to support my work (if you want to), and answered some questions from readers, viewers, and listeners like you. The complete show notes can be found here.

Shout-out to Tony Vincent and Mr. Charlwood for a couple of the cool tools.

You can listen to episode 40 of The Practical Ed Tech Podcast right here or on your favorite podcast network.




Listen to all episodes of the podcast here or find them on the following podcast networks:

How to Use PDFs in Google Classroom

On Thursday afternoon a reader asked me about using PDFs in Google Classroom. She was having a little trouble with students not being able to access the PDFs she was trying to share. I made the following video to help guide her and anyone else in the same situation through the process of sharing PDFs in Google Classroom.

In this video:
  • How to attach PDFs directly to announcements in Google Classroom. 
  • How to upload PDFs to Google Drive. 
  • How to distribute PDFs as assignments in Google Classroom. 


There are a few reasons why someone might want to use PDFs instead of Google Docs in Google Classroom. First, if you are new to Google Classroom and don't have time to recreate some of your resources attaching PDFs is quick and easy. Second, you may not want students editing the contents of the document. A PDF doesn't mean a student can't edit it at all, it's just a lot more difficult for them to do that. Third, the item you're sharing was designed as a PDF and will lose some important formatting if it's converted into Google Docs or Word format.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

How to Create Simple Videos on a Chromebook - No Apps or Extensions Needed

One of my colleagues asked me if I could provide directions on how to create a video on our school-issued Chromebooks. I was happy to oblige and created one specifically for our school. I then created a second one that can be used by anyone who has a Chromebook and is looking for a quick and easy to create a video without having to install any Chrome extensions or Chrome apps.

In the following video I demonstrate how to create a simple video on a Chromebook. The key points of the video are:
  • How to access the camera on your Chromebook. 
  • Where to find your video file. 
  • How to share your video file with students. 



Update:
Many people asked if I could provide screenshots of the process. I put together a set in the slides that are embedded below.

A Few Short Lessons and Reminders About Email

Earlier this week I Tweeted a plea to try to remember to use basic niceties when sending emails seeking help from me or anyone else who is providing remote tech support right now. This morning I got a request from a friend on Instagram to re-post some of the videos and tips about email etiquette and email management that I've shared in the past. That's what you'll find listed below.

Before jumping into the videos below I want to acknowledge that we're all in a stressful situation right now. Many are being pushed out of their comfort zones right now. One way to help relieve a little stress for everyone is to just remember to do basic things like address people by name and say please and thank you. It will make the IT support person who has had a long day feel little more appreciated. As I saw someone Tweet yesterday, "IT support is done by people, not machines."

Emailing Your Teacher, With Captain Communicator is the cutest video about email etiquette that I've seen. The short video features two students demonstrating how to write an email to a teacher. It's well worth 90 seconds of your time.

The following video was made by a teacher for the purpose of sharing email etiquette tips with students. It's a bit more serious that the Captain Communicator video.



Watch Clear Email Communication by Common Craft to learn how to get a recipient's attention and how to get a response from that recipient.




Time-saving Email Tips
In the following video I highlighted five features of Gmail that teachers should know how to use. A few of these can be big time-savers for you.



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

The Arduino Design Project I'm Doing With Students Who Don't Have Materials at Home

Like a lot of other schools, mine closed without much more than a few hours notice. We went home on a Friday afternoon and Sunday evening we were told that we were not going back. My 9th grade computer science principles students were really starting to hit their stride with the various Arduino projects they were working on. Of course, I hadn't sent any materials home with my students.

For a couple of weeks I gave my students some lessons via EDpuzzle to keep the basic concepts fresh in their minds. When it became clear that we weren't going to be returning to our school I started to think of other ways to keep my students interested and challenge them a little bit. (Note, this is an elective course and most of my students would be working on these types of things even if we didn't offer a course about it).

What I'm doing this week and next week to try to keep my students interested and challenged is to give them a list of parts available then find or design a project that utilizes those components. They then have to write the code and directions for assembly. After they submit their project ideas and code I'm assembling the project in a Google Meet in front of them (I have a ton of materials in my home office). Below this paragraph you'll see the directions and parts list that I gave to my students this week.

Directions:
1. Find or design an Arduino project that uses some or all of the parts listed below. The project can only use the parts that are listed below. Your project must be more complex than the basic blinking programs that we did in class before school was closed. Yes, you can consult the Arduino Project Hub as well as YouTube or any other website you find that has Arduino project ideas.

2. In a Google Document write out the steps for assembling the project. At the end of the document include the code that needs to be used in order for the project to run correctly.

Parts Available:

  • 2 Arduino Unos
  • 2 Breadboards
  • 1 Potentiometer
  • 1 5V Relay
  • 1 IR Receiver
  • 1 Remote
  • 5 Buttons
  • 2 Buzzers
  • 1 Ultrasonic Sensor
  • 1 Stepper Driver Motor
  • 1 Power Supply Module
  • 1 Servo Motor
  • 1 Temperature and Humidity Sensor Module
  • 1 Tilt Switch
  • 2 NPN Transistors
  • As many jumper wires as needed (up to 100)
  • As many resistors as needed (up to 50)
  • 1 LCD Display Module
  • 1 Diode Rectifier
  • As many single color LEDs as needed (up to 100)
  • 2 RGB LEDs
  • 2 USB cables to connect Arduino to computer.

Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions & Share Cool Stuff - Free Webinar Tomorrow

Last Friday Rushton Hurley from Next Vista for Learning and I hosted a free webinar that we not-so-creatively titled Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff. By popular demand we're going to do it again tomorrow at 1pm ET/ 10am PT. You can register for tomorrow's free webinar right here. Feel free to submit questions in advance by sending me an email at richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com

The replay of last week's episode of Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff is available to watch here. Some of the resources we shared are listed here.

Rushton has also been hosting a series of free webinars with Susan Stewart. That series is called Activities Across Grade Levels. Information about those webinars including archived episodes are available here on Next Vista. The latest episode was called Activities Across Grade Levels: The Power of Voice.

Now You Can Use Flipgrid to Make Screencast Videos

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.

To learn more about how to use Flipgrid, take a look at my playlist of sixteen Flipgrid tutorial videos.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Use Read Receipts to Make Sure Students Know They Have Google Classroom Assignments

Last week I published a post in which I explained that you can use read receipts in your G Suite for Education email to make sure that students have at least seen your messages even if they don't reply to your messages. I do that when I email students to remind them that they have new assignments posted in Google Classroom. That way even if they have ignored the notification in the Google Classroom app or in the automated Google Classroom notification email, I can be sure of whether or not they know they have a new assignment. In the following video I demonstrate the method that I use to make sure students know they have new Google Classroom assignments.


This method isn't entirely foolproof because if a student opens his or her email, I won't get a read receipt. That said, I think it's worth the extra minute it takes me to do this to make sure that more of my students recognize when a new assignment or announcement is posted in Google Classroom.

On a related note, you can speed up this process by using contact groups.

Schedule Individual Online Office Hours Meetings via Google Classroom

A lot of us are hosting online office hours for our students these days. Based on what I've seen from my colleagues as well as folks posting on social media, a lot of people are scheduling an hour of time and just hanging out in a Google Meet or Zoom meeting waiting for students to drop-in to ask questions. There's nothing inherently wrong with doing that unless you have students who want to ask questions that shouldn't be discussed in front of other students. You may also find that when you schedule students for specific, individual meetings they are more likely to appear. That's been the case for me with two of my students.

One way to schedule individual online meetings with students is to use a combination of Google Calendar, Google Classroom, and Zoom. In the video that is embedded below I demonstrate how that works. In short, you create recurring meetings in Zoom then insert the links to those meetings into the details for appointment slots in Google Calendar. Then when students sign-up for a meeting through your Google Calendar appointment page they will have the link and the meeting time available in their own Google Calendars.


Tuesday, March 31, 2020

The Month in Review - What a March It Was!

Good morning from Maine where I'm sitting in my home office waiting for students to join into a Google Hangouts Meet for virtual office hours. It's hard to believe that at the beginning of the month COVID-19 was something that was affecting people "somewhere else" and now has nearly all of us working and teaching remotely. Only twice in the last three weeks have I been beyond the property of lines of my home.

I hope that all of you and your students are adjusting well to teaching and learning remotely. If I can help in anyway, please feel free to reach out to me. And on related note, Rushton Hurley at Next Vista for Learning has some great resources including recorded webinars that have been helpful to many people this month.

These were the most popular posts of the month:
1. The Cincinnati Zoo Launches Daily Virtual Zoo Visits
2. Cisco Makes Webex Free and Publishes Guides for Teachers and Students
3. Three Ways to Share Docs in Google Classroom - When to Use Each
4. 5 Google Classroom Tips for Teachers - Things You Might Have Overlooked or Forgotten
5. Tips and Tools for Teaching Remotely
6. Learn How to Use These 5 Time-saving Gmail Features in 2020
7. How to Schedule and Host Google Hangouts Meet Events - Video
8. How to Create Video Lessons Without Making Your Own Recordings
9. An Option for Making Sure Students Know They Have Google Classroom Assignments
10. Ten Fun and Challenging Geography Games for Students of All Ages

Online PD With Me!
I've been hosting professional development webinars for a decade. My most popular webinars are available on-demand right here. If you prefer live webinars, I am planning to host some in April so stay tuned for more information about those soon. And I'm always available to schedule custom, online PD for your school.

Thank You for Your Support!
Other Places to Follow My Work
Besides FreeTech4Teachers.com and the daily email digest, there are other ways to keep up with what I'm publishing. 
  • Practical Ed Tech Newsletter - This comes out once per week (Sunday night/ Monday morning) and it includes my tip of the week and a summary of the week's most popular posts from FreeTech4Teachers.com.
  • My YouTube Channel - More than 18,000 people subscribe to my YouTube channel for my regular series of tutorial videos including more than 350 Google tools tutorials. 
  • The Practical Ed Tech Podcast is where I answer questions from readers, share news and notes, and occasionally talk to interesting people in education. 
  • Facebook - The FreeTech4Teachers.com Facebook page has nearly 450,000 followers. 
  • Twitter - I've been Tweeting away for the last twelve years at twitter.com/rmbyrne
  • Instagram - this is mostly pictures of my kids, my dogs, my bikes, my skis, and fly fishing.

Monday, March 30, 2020

A Map Coloring Challenge

Last week Maps Mania shared a collection of online and printable map activities for kids and adults. At the bottom of that collection was a link to Mathigon's map coloring challenge. The challenge is to use as few colors as possible to color in all 50 U.S. states without the same color touching two states at the same time. For example, if I color New Hampshire purple, I can't use purple on Vermont, Maine, New York, or Massachusetts but I could use purple on Pennsylvania.

Mathigon's map coloring challenge can be completed online where they offer the same challenge for coloring maps of South America, England, and Germany. But if you send your students to that page they'll be able to quickly click to see the solution to the challenge. So what I'd do instead is print a blank map from a site like Printable World Map then have students try the challenge. Another option would be to upload an outline map to a service like Google's Jamboard to color the map online. Watch my video below to learn how that process works.

C-SPAN Classroom Offers New Lessons on the Economic Impact of COVID-19

C-SPAN Classroom is a free resource that anyone who teaches U.S. History or civics should have bookmarked. I've written about many of their great resources and programs over the years including their annual student video contest and annual summer workshops for teachers.

C-SPAN Classroom recently published a new lesson plan that includes a set of resources for helping students explore and learn about the current and possible future economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The resources include eight video clips, an analysis template, and a brainstorming activity for students to complete individually or in online groups.

Application in Online Classrooms
The lesson features eighteen vocabulary words that high school students have probably heard but will need to review in the context of the lesson and the current COVID-19 pandemic. I might use Google Classroom or Microsoft Teams to create a discussion forum in which students go beyond basic definitions and discuss the terms in current context. After that discussion takes place then I'd have students join me in an online meeting (Hangouts, Zoom, Teams would all be fine) to talk about the videos and or the brainstorming they did in the discussion forum.

Create Video-based Lessons a Little Faster With This Chrome Extension

A couple of weeks ago when I got the notice that my school would be closing I made a video about how to use EDpuzzle to create video-based lessons without having to create your own recordings. I first shared it with my colleagues and then included it in my Practical Ed Tech newsletter. One thing that I didn't mention in the video because I forgot about it, was the existence of an EDpuzzle Chrome extension.

EDpuzzle's Chrome extension lets you quickly jump from watching a video on YouTube to creating and editing a lesson in your EDpuzzle account. It even works if you use a different Google account for Chrome than you do for Google Classroom or EDpuzzle. With the EDpuzzle Chrome extension installed you will see a little "edit with edpuzzle" button appear next to the title of any video that you watch on YouTube. As soon as you click that button you'll be taken into the lesson editor in your EDpuzzle account. It's not a game-changing feature, but it is a convenient one. Watch my short video below for a demonstration of how the EDpuzzle Chrome extension works.


And here's my complete overview of how to use EDpuzzle.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Webinar Recording - Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions

Last Friday Rushton Hurley from Next Vista for Learning and I held the first episode of Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions (if you have a better idea for a title, please tell us). Lots of people came and lots more asked me about a recording. Rushton recorded it and put up a page of resources. The recording is embedded below and the slides from the session can be seen here.


If you're wondering why I'm looking away a lot, I had two computers going so that I could monitor chat and pull up questions.

Next Friday Rushton and I will host episode 2 of Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions - And Share Cool Stuff. Join us live at 1pm ET / 10am PT.

A Student View of Joining a Zoom Meeting on an Android Phone

A few days ago I got an email from a reader asking me what it looks like when a student tries to join a Zoom meeting on an Android phone. It was a good question because it is important to have an understanding of what a student experiences when he or she tries to use the technology that we're requesting them to use. I made the following short video to show what it looks like when a student joins a Zoom meeting on an Android phone.

It's important to note that students can join without installing the Zoom Android app. This video shows what it looks like when students join without installing the app.


On a related note, here's my overview of how to schedule and start a Zoom meeting as a teacher.

The Practical Ed Tech Podcast - Episode 39B - I'm Tired and Can't Count

On Friday I recorded the 39th episode of The Practical Ed Tech Podcast. You might be saying, "but Richard, last week wasn't last week the 39th episode?" You would be right because I called it that, but it turns out I lost track somewhere and skipped an episode so this is really the 39th episode.

This week's episode is a short one. I had a long week answering lots of questions from colleagues as well as followers of my blogs and YouTube channel. In this episode I answer questions from readers, share my thoughts about Google Hangouts with students, and shared a couple of neat do-at-home educational resources you might want to share with parents.

You can listen to episode 39B of The Practical Ed Tech Podcast right here or on your favorite podcast network. The show notes can be found here.


Listen to all episodes of the podcast here or find them on the following podcast networks:

Saturday, March 28, 2020

The Week in Review - Online Meetings, Baseball Cards, and Forts

Good morning from Maine where the birds are chirping and it feels like spring as I sip my coffee. We're going to spend the day playing in the yard. Spring has come a little earlier than normal here in Maine otherwise we might be going crazy isolating in the house. Rain is in the forecast for tomorrow so we'll probably be building some indoor forts. On a related note, my toddlers keep asking "when will all the sick people get better?" because they want to be able to go back to their gymnastics classes and their favorite playground.

This week I held some class meetings via Google Hangouts. The first one was a bit like herding cats, but the second and third ones went much better. How are your online class meetings going? How about online staff meetings?

Indulge me as I share one more personal note before jumping to this week's most popular posts. Every spring I look forward to opening day of baseball season. I usually make cook some hot dogs, get a cheap beer, and enjoy the first game the year. Opening day was supposed to be this past Thursday. Opening day being canceled prompted me to go up to my attic and look through old baseball cards. It was fun trip down memory lane that I shared on Instagram.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Three Ways to Share Docs in Google Classroom - When to Use Each
2. 5 Google Classroom Tips for Teachers - Things You Might Have Overlooked or Forgotten
3. An Option for Making Sure Students Know They Have Google Classroom Assignments
4. An Overview of How Students View and Return Assignments in Google Classroom
5. Two Collections of Hands-on Science Lessons Students Can Do At Home
6. A Solution to Zoom "Not Responding" on Windows 10
7. Knowt Will Turn Your Notes and Favorite Webpages Into Quizzes for You

Online PD With Me!
I've been hosting professional development webinars for a decade. My most popular webinars are available on-demand right here. If you prefer live webinars, starting April 6th I'm working with Ed Tech Teacher to teach Making Multimedia Social Studies Lessons - Audio, Video, and More.

Thank You for Your Support!
Other Places to Follow My Work
Besides FreeTech4Teachers.com and the daily email digest, there are other ways to keep up with what I'm publishing. 
  • Practical Ed Tech Newsletter - This comes out once per week (Sunday night/ Monday morning) and it includes my tip of the week and a summary of the week's most popular posts from FreeTech4Teachers.com.
  • My YouTube Channel - More than 17,000 people subscribe to my YouTube channel for my regular series of tutorial videos including more than 300 Google tools tutorials. 
  • The Practical Ed Tech Podcast is where I answer questions from readers, share news and notes, and occasionally talk to interesting people in education. 
  • Facebook - The FreeTech4Teachers.com Facebook page has nearly 450,000 followers. 
  • Twitter - I've been Tweeting away for the last twelve years at twitter.com/rmbyrne
  • Instagram - this is mostly pictures of my kids, my dogs, my bikes, my skis, and fly fishing.

How to Share Your Computer's Audio in Microsoft Teams

Whether it's the basics of how the technology works or "features" right now we're all learning a lot about hosting online meetings. For example, this week I learned about sharing system audio in Microsoft Teams meetings. Microsoft Teams isn't a service that I use on a regular basis so when I do use it there is a bit of fumbling around at first. I learned about sharing system audio in Microsoft Teams by watching this video produced by Mike Tholfsen.


Applications for Education
As Mike explained in the video, sharing system audio is the way to make sure that your students can hear the videos and audio files that you have included in presentation.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Free Course - A Teacher's Guide to Creating Common Craft Style Videos

For more than a dozen years Common Craft videos have been used by teachers to help students understand topics including digital citizenship, personal finance, and many big technology concepts. One of the things that makes Common Craft videos popular is the clear and concise manner in which information is presented using a whiteboard, simple cutouts, and voice over. That style has become known as the Common Craft style and many teachers including myself have had students make videos using that style. Now Common Craft offers their own free course for teachers who want to make Common Craft style videos in their classrooms.

A Teacher's Guide to Creating Common Craft Style Videos is a free self-paced course that contains five modules. The modules start with the key concepts of the Common Craft style before moving onto walk you through the tools you need (and don't need), the planning process (a downloadable template included), and the final production steps. Throughout the course there are examples of work done by teachers and students.

And if you have never seen a Common Craft video before, here's a good one to get started.


For those looking to do a little more reading about the Common Craft style, take a look at The Art of Explanation written by Lee LeFever.

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

Anchor Offers a New Way to Remotely Record Podcasts With a Group

Anchor is the service that I have been using since last August to produce my weekly Practical Ed Tech Podcast. I use Anchor because Anchor makes it incredibly easier to record, edit, and publish my podcast to all of the major podcast networks at once. In other words, with just a couple of clicks my podcast gets distributed to Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, and a handful of other networks. You can see my whole process outlined in this video and blog post.

Most of my podcast episodes are solo efforts, but I have done a handful with guests including this one with Scott McLeod and this one with LT Rease Miles. I used Zoom to record those episodes and then publish them through Anchor. While that process works, it could be easier. Fortunately, Anchor has introduced a new way to record podcasts with remote guests.

Anchor now lets you record with up to four remote guests even if they don't have Anchor accounts. To do this just open the Anchor app, click record, and then click "invite friends" to send them a link to join you in your recording. Guests can open the link in Firefox, Safari, Edge, or the Anchor app (Chrome support coming soon) and start recording with you. The whole process is demonstrated in this new video from Anchor.


Applications for Education
If you're looking for a way to have your students create podcasts while your school is closed, Anchor's new remote recording option could be just what you need. Anchor offers some ideas for podcast topics here or you could head to the Story Corps Great Questions page to look for some podcast topics.

How to Quickly Turn Any Document or Webpage Into a Practice Quiz

On Tuesday I wrote about the new version of Knowt that will let you import any of your Google Docs, Word docs, or any public webpage into a notebook. Once in your notebook it just takes one more click to have a practice quiz created for you. As I demonstrate in the following video, Knowt will generate quizzes with three question formats and will generate multiple quizzes from the same document or webpage.


Knowt has a product for teachers coming soon. The teacher version will let you create notebooks and practice activities to share with your students. You can register for early access to the teacher version right now.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

A Great Series for Introducing or Reviewing Arduino Programming Concepts

Arduino programming was one of the things that we were really starting to get rolling on just before school closed. Now that my school is closed and we're doing remote teaching and learning, I'm using EDpuzzle to create review activities for my students.

This week I used EDpuzzle to create lessons based on a great series of Arduino programming basics. The videos were produced by Bob at I Like to Make Stuff. In the three part series he covers the big, basic concepts of programming in general before moving into the specifics of Arduino programming. The final video in the series puts everything together for viewers. And if you're wondering what an Arduino is, Bob has that covered too. The first video in the series is embedded below and the rest can be found on I Like to Make Stuff.



If you're wondering what EDpuzzle is and how it works, I have that covered here.

Quick Tip - Apply Custom Colors to Google Slides

Regular users of Google Slides are probably familiar with the process of adding images to the backgrounds of their slides and changing the background color. There is one little background color option that is easily overlooked. That option is applying a custom color that isn't listed in the default color menu in Google Slides.

In Google Slides it is possible to use any color you like as the background for your slides. To do this simply open the background colors option then at the bottom of the menu click the little "+" icon to open another menu in which you can enter a color code or drag your cursor on a palette to select a custom color shade. The process is demonstrated in my video that is embedded below.


Applications for Education
This is certainly not a game-changing feature of Google Slides, but it might be pleasing to some teachers and students who want a little more control over the color schemes in their slides. 

Free Webinar Tomorrow - Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions

For the last few weeks Rushton Hurley, founder of Next Vista for Learning and a former virtual school principal, has been hosting free webinars all about making the transition to online teaching and learning. Tomorrow, I'm going to join him as a co-host for a webinar titled Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions.

As the title implies, during tomorrow's webinar we'll be taking questions and doing our best to answer them for you. We'll also share some of our favorite cool finds and pass along a few tips and tricks. The webinar will be live at 1pm ET/ 10am PT. You can register here.

Last week Rushton hosted a webinar with Susan Stewart that they called Activities Across Grade Levels: The Power of an Image. If you're an elementary  school teacher, this is a webinar for you. The recording is embedded below and you can get the slides and chat transcript here.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

An Option for Making Sure Students Know They Have Google Classroom Assignments

Yesterday afternoon a friend texted me to ask if there was a way to check to see if students have looked at announcements or assignments in Google Classroom. Unfortunately, there isn't a "read receipt" type of feature built into Google Classroom. That doesn't mean all hope is lost for determining whether or not students recognize that they have assignments or announcements to read in Google Classroom. Here's what I've been doing and recommending to friends and colleagues who ask.

To make sure that my students are acknowledging that they have new assignments and announcements in Google Classroom I've been sending out group emails that simply say, "You have a new assignment, please check Google Classroom. Please let me know that you've read this email." But I don't leave it at that. Before I send out the email I make sure that I've enabled "request read receipt" in the message settings. The screenshot below shows you where that option is found. By having read receipt enabled I can see if a student has opened the email even if he or she doesn't actually reply to me.


If you don't see the Read Receipt option in your G Suite for Education account, ask your domain administrator if he or she can turn it on. Domain administrators can turn it on for all users or for individual users.

On a related note, my video on how to create contact groups in Gmail is embedded below.

Two Ways to Find Free Ebooks to Download

Every day I'm hearing from teachers who can't get back into their classrooms because their school buildings are completely closed. My own school building has very limited access and only by administrative approval right now. These kind of closures have left some teachers searching for online alternatives to the books, particularly free reading time books, that are in their inaccessible classrooms. If that describes your situation, here are a couple of good places to search for free ebooks that you and your students can download.

Google Books
Google Books can be a great place to search for free ebooks. One of the features that I like best about Google Books is the option to search within a book for keywords and passages before you download it. In addition to downloading ebooks you can embed free ebooks from Google Books into blog posts and webpages.




The Internet Archive
Before you jump to the Internet Archive I have to give my usual disclaimer about it. There is a ton of educational materials available through the Internet Archive. However, there is also material that you probably wouldn't want younger students to stumble upon. Therefore, I always recommend searching the Internet Archive yourself and then just selecting and downloading materials to share without sending your students to the site directly.