Saturday, September 18, 2021

Forms, Games, and Files - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where it is going to be a great early fall weekend for apple picking, bike riding, and enjoying the great outdoors. I hope that wherever you are this weekend that you also have some fun things planned. 

This week I hosted a webinar all about search strategies for students. If you missed it, a recording will be available next week on Practical Ed Tech. Next month I'll be hosting a new webinar about video projects for students. Subscribe to my weekly Practical Ed Tech newsletter to be notified when registration opens for that webinar. 

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Save Google Forms Responses in Progress
2. Five Fun Breakout Games for Online and In-person Classrooms
3. How to Make Chrome Run a Little Faster
4. Student Video Project - Timelapse of Fall
5. The Way of a Ship - Historical Math Problems
6. Searching by File Type Solves Another Mystery
7. 700+ Free Typing Games for Kids

On-demand Professional Development
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 37,000 subscribers watching my short tutorial videos on a wide array of educational technology tools. 
  • I've been Tweeting as @rmbyrne for fourteen years. 
  • The Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page features new and old posts from this blog throughout the week. 
  • If you're curious about my life outside of education, you can follow me on Instagram or Strava.
This post originally appeared on FreeTech4Teachers.com. If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission. Sites that steal my (Richard Byrne's) work include CloudComputin and WayBetterSite. Featured image captured by Richard Byrne.

Two EdTech Guys Take Questions - Recording and Next Webinar Registration

Last week Rushton Hurley and I resumed our regular series of free webinars plainly titled Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff. If you missed it, you can watch the recording right here and view all of the associated resources here



The next live episode will be on Thursday, September 23rd at 4pm ET/ 1pm PT. You can register here to join us. We'd love to answer your questions. You can send those questions to us via email or by entering them into the form right here on the Next Vista for Learning website.  

Friday, September 17, 2021

Ziplet - A Good Way to Share Digital Exit Tickets

Ziplet is a service for gathering feedback from your students in a variety of ways. The simplest way is to create an exit ticket by using one of the dozens of pre-written questions provided by Ziplet. Back in July I published a video about how to use Ziplet. Since then it has been updated to no longer require students to have accounts to respond to exit ticket questions. Now your students can simply enter an exit ticket code that you give to them before they answer the question. 

What Ziplet offers that is somewhat unique is the option to respond directly to individual students even when they are responding to a group survey. The purpose of that feature is to make it easy to ask follow-up questions or to give encouragement to students based on their responses to a question posed to the whole group.

Applications for Education
Ziplet fits in a gap between tools like Kahoot and Google Classroom. For that reason it could be a good tool for engaging students in discussions about assignments, course topics, or the general feeling of the class. Ziplet does offer a Google Classroom integration as well as an Office 365 integration.


Five Helpful Google Keep Features for Students

Google Keep is a great tool for middle school and high school students to use to create assignment reminders, bookmark important research findings, organize information, save images, and re-use notes in their research documents. All of those features and more are demonstrated in my new video, Five Google Keep Features for Students

Five features of Google Keep that students should know how to use.

➡Reminders
➡Labels
➡Bookmarks
➡Images
➡Inserts

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Great Reads from Great Places - An Interactive Map from the Library of Congress

Great Reads from Great Places is an interactive map produced by the Library of Congress for the National Book Festival. The purpose of the map is twofold. First, to help visitors find National Book Festival-related events in their states. Second, to help visitors find books that are connected to their states. Those connections could be that the author wrote the book in that state or the story takes place in that state. 


Applications for Education
Great Reads from Great Places could be a useful tool for students to use to find a new-to-them book to read. It's a good model for having students create their own interactive maps.

Following the model of Great Reads from Great Places students could use a tool like Padlet or Google's My Maps to create interactive maps featuring their favorite books aligned to states, provinces, cities, or countries. Here's a demo of how to create a multimedia map with Padlet.

An Idea for Using Padlet for Self Reflection in K-2

I get a lot of questions sent to me throughout the week. Some of them are very specific and the answers only apply to one person. Others have the potential for a broader appeal. One of those came to me earlier this week when a reader asked, 

"What’s the best interactive tool that we can use to help kids (K-2) to self-reflect on learning? We’d like them to be able to use the touch display to ‘pull’ their names into a column that reflects where they are in their learning."  

My suggestion was to try using Padlet with columns in the background. Students would have their own notes with their names on them to drag and drop into a column that reflects how they feel about the day's lesson or their overall progress. In this short video I go into a little more detail about how to create that kind of Padlet activity for your students. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

It's the Last Year for Weebly for Education

More than a decade ago Weebly was one of the first DIY website builders that recommended to teachers. I helped countless teachers and their students create classroom websites with Weebly for Education. This morning I got the news via email that Weebly (now owned by Square) has decided to shutter Weebly for Education in 2022. This will happen on August 1, 2022. If you're using Weebly for Education right now, you have plenty of time to plan for what you'll use as a replacement (I recommend Edublogs or Google Sites). 

Weebly for Education hasn't had any updates in a few years so it's not surprising that it is being closed down. I always liked the service and found it to be a good way for teachers to build their own websites. More importantly, it provided a good way for students to create their own websites that teachers could actively monitor. But all good things come to an end. Thanks for the good service for all the years, Weebly for Education. 

Now that Weebly for Education is closing and Google has officially excluded Blogger from Google Workspace for Education (for those under 18), the only good blogging option for students that I can recommend now is Edublogs unless you want to go the route of self-hosting. And if you were using Weebly for Education for digital portfolios I'd recommend taking a look at Google Sites, Spaces, or Seesaw.

Influenza Archives - A History Lesson

Monday's featured artifact on Today's Document from the National Archives was "Nurse wearing a mask as protection against influenza. September 13, 1918." As is often the case with items in the daily feed there was a link to additional information about the image. In this case the additional information was a National Archives collection of images and documents about the influenza epidemic of 1918

The Influenza Epidemic collection on the National Archives includes ten documents and six images including the one that I included in this blog post. As I looked through the images and documents I couldn't help but think of similarities between today's current pandemic situation and that of 103 years ago. 

Applications for Education
As I read the documents (they're all short) and viewed the images in The Influenza Epidemic I started to think of questions that I would ask students to think about while they reviewed the artifacts. Here's a short list of those questions:
  • How long do you think it took for people in Maine (where we live) to learn about the seriousness of the influenza epidemic?
  • How do think people living in 1918 felt about wearing masks
  • What are the similarities between the 1918 influenza epidemic and the current COVID-19 pandemic?
  • How did the U.S. goverment respond to the 1918 influenza epidemic? How is that similar or different from the response to the COVID-19 pandemic?

A Good Explanation of the Slippery Slope Fallacy

About a month ago I published a collection of resources for teaching students about logical fallacies and cognitive biases. Since then TED-Ed published another good video to add to that collection. The video is Can You Outsmart the Slippery Slope Fallacy?

Can You Outsmart the Slippery Slope Fallacy? centers around the Vietnam War and makes an analogy between the slippery slope fallacy and the domino theory as it was applied to the idea of stopping the spread of communism. Overall, the video does a decent job of explaining the concept of the slippery slope fallacy and how it is or can be used by politicians. My one criticism of the video is that the end of it shows a map that makes it appear as though communism went away on its own in many countries rather than explain how it happened. 


Applications for Education
After watching this video I would have history students try to identify other examples of slippery slope arguments used throughout history. In other settings I'd ask students to try to think of examples from their own lives of slippery slope arguments being used to justify an action or decision. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

The Way of a Ship - Historical Math Problems

A couple of weeks ago I picked up an interesting book at my local library. It's titled The Way of a Ship and it follows the journey of Benjamin Lundy as he sails around Cape Horn in 1885 in one of the last square-rigged commercial sailing boats. 

The Way of a Ship is full of interesting facts about life on a four mast sailing vessel in the late 19th Century. It's also full of information about navigational practices used by captains to try to maintain a course and not run aground. And early in the book there's a great explanation of why sailing vessels were used for transporting coal around the world when steam-powered ships were already in service. As I read through those explanations I couldn't help but think of a list of questions based on the book, and 19th Century sailing in general, that could be brought into a mathematics class. In no particular order I've listed those questions below. 

  • Why were sailing ships used to transport coal if steam engine-powered ships (that burn coal) were available?
  • How efficient does a steam engine have to be in order to make be able to carry enough coal to cross the Atlantic ocean while also being able to transport additional cargo? (Answer is in the book. Or email me if you want to know). 
  • What is the equivalent land distance of one minute of latitude?
  • Why was it harder to calculate longitude than latitude?
  • How did ship captains account for the difference between magnetic north and true north?
  • How was speed calculated? What's the difference between 1 knot/hour and 1 mile/hour?
  • If a late 19th Century commercial sailing vessel wanted to cover 300 nautical miles in a day, how strong of a tailwind would it need? 
  • Why was it less expensive for merchants to store coal on sailing vessels than in warehouses on shores?
All of these questions have multiple possible answers. The point is to get students thinking about how mathematics was used in commercial sailing and is still used in sailing today. It's also fun for history teachers (as I was for years) to bring some mathematics in a history lesson. 

Five Fun Breakout Games for Online and In-person Classrooms

Disclosure: Breakout EDU is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com. 

Like a lot of teachers, one of my biggest challenges last year was building a sense of community in my classroom. Without having more than half of my students in my physical classroom for more than a few days before we went back to online or hybrid instruction, it was hard for students to get to know each other. That said, there was one thing that helped build community more than any other. That was having students work together to solve challenges. At times I did that through game play and other times through completing troubleshooting challenges.

Breakout games, specifically Breakout EDU games, provide fun challenges for students to solve together. In solving those challenges together students begin to learn about each other and a sense of community and collaboration begins to build.

What is Breakout EDU?
Breakout EDU is a platform for finding and playing collaborative problem-solving games. There are Breakout EDU games that can be played in-person and games that can be played online.

Breakout EDU started as a service that offered kits of physical lock boxes that students would unlock by solving challenges. Those are still offered by Breakout EDU and you can find them on the Breakout EDU website by searching for games that have the “Kit” label.

Today, Breakout EDU also offers digital games. These are the games that you’ll want to try if you don’t have a physical Breakout EDU kit and or you’re searching for games your students can play online. You’ll find those games by selecting the “Digital” label when browsing through the games available on Breakout EDU. Take a look at my short video here to learn how to find Breakout EDU games for your students to play.

Whether your students play online or in-person versions of Breakout EDU they’ll have to use their best logical reasoning skills to solve the challenge of the game. All games start with a story or a premise for a series of challenges. The challenges are to unlock the locks (physical or digital) by cracking a code to find the numerical combination and or word that unlocks the locks. You should try to crack the codes yourself before assigning the games to your students. But if you need a little help, Breakout EDU does provide answer sheets for you to consult.

How to Use Breakout EDU
Breakout EDU’s digital games can be distributed to your students through an online classroom. You can create a Breakout EDU online classroom by importing your Google Classroom roster or by manually making a list of student names. Either way, students will have a class code to enter to join your classroom and they don’t need email addresses in order to play the digital Breakout EDU games.



Five Fun Breakout EDU Games for Team Building
Breakout EDU has an entire category of games designed for team building. Within that category you’ll find forty games designed for online play by elementary school, middle school, and high school students. Here are my picks for digital Breakout EDU games for team building.

Breakout the Zoom is a digital game that can be played by elementary, middle, and high school students. The premise of this game is that students are stuck in Zoomland where they can neither get into nor out of a Zoom meeting. Students have to figure out the solutions to scenarios to get the Zoom meeting working again.

Raiders of the Lost Locker will strike feelings of nostalgia into any teacher who grew up watching movies in the 1980’s. In this game designed for middle school and high school students players try to open student lockers that have been stuck shut for 60 years. After the game use the discussion questions to get your students thinking and talking about what they think school was like for their grandparents or great-grandparents.

Mission Nutrition is a digital Breakout EDU game for elementary school and middle school students. Solving the challenges of the game reinforces concepts about creating healthy, balanced meals. I like this game because it puts a fun spin on a topic that some students might otherwise find kind of boring.

Breakout the Beat is another digital Breakout EDU game that might stir some feelings of nostalgia in you as you assign the game to your students. In this game for elementary and middle school students they have to find the clues hidden in a teacher’s collection of “oldies” music to unlock some modern dance tunes. You could have your students play this game as is or you could copy and modify it to include some “oldies” of your own (young teachers, even the music you listened to in high school is “old” to your students today).

Spidey Goes to Class is made for early elementary school students to try their hand at playing Breakout EDU. In this game students work together to help “Spidey” unlock the things that he needs to put in his backpack for school.

Register for Breakout EDU Today!
You can try out all of these Breakout EDU games and hundreds more when you register for a free account. During the first two weeks you can try all of the games. After that you can access them all with a subscription to Breakout EDU.

Make Multimedia Mind Maps in Padlet

A few weeks ago I published a list of fifteen tools for creating mind maps and flowcharts. Padlet was one of the tools that I mentioned in that list. Since then Padlet's user interface was updated. The update makes it even easier than before to create a mind map or flowchart in Padlet. In this new video I demonstrate how it works. 




Applications for Education
Padlet's canvas format (demonstrated in video above) and capacity for inclusion of videos, text, hyperlinks, images, and audio recordings make it a great tool for students to use to show connections between resources that they've found in the course of conducting online research. It's also a good tool for simply creating text notes that are connected around a central idea.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Five Places to Find Dozens of Constitution Day Lessons

This Friday is Constitution Day in the United States. According to federal law all schools that receive federal funding have to teach some type of lesson about the Constitution on this day. C-SPAN, DocsTeach, and the National Constitution Center all offer either lesson plans or resources for building your own Constitution Day lesson plans.

Constitution Day Lesson Plans from C-SPAN Classroom
C-SPAN Classroom offers free lesson plans and Bell Ringers (discussion prompts) that were either designed for Constitution Day or can be used to meet the requirements of Constitution Day. All of the lesson plans incorporate short video clips addressing topics like enumerated and implied powers of Congress, interpretation of the Constitution, and checks and balances. You can find all of the lesson plans and additional resources in this Google Doc.

Constitution Hall Pass
The National Constitution Center offers an online program called the Constitution Hall Pass. The Constitution Hall Pass is a series of videos mostly featuring scholars discussing elements of the Constitution and issues relating to it. There are also a few "discussion starter" videos that are intended to get students thinking about how the Constitution can have a direct impact on their lives. I know from experience that this Freedom of Expression video and accompanying questions will get high school students talking.

Interactive Constitution
The Constitution Center's website features the U.S. Constitution divided into easily searchable sections. From the main page you can select and jump to a specific article or amendment. What I really like about the site is that you can choose an issue like privacy, civil rights, or health care and see how those issues are connected to the Constitution. 

DocsTeach
DocsTeach is a National Archives website that all middle school and high school U.S. History teachers should have in their bookmarks. DocsTeach lets you build online activities based upon curated collections of primary source documents. DocsTeach also provides some pre-made activities that you can give to your students. DocsTeach has twenty pre-made Constitution Day activities that you can use today. An additional 166 documents and artifacts about the Constitution can be found through a quick search on DocsTeach.

TED-Ed Lessons
TED-Ed offers a bunch of lessons that are appropriate for Constitution Day. Those lessons are linked below.

The Making of the American Constitution.



Why is the US Constitution So Hard to Amend?



Why Wasn't the Bill of Rights Originally Included in the US Constitution?



How is Power Divided in the US Government?



A 3-Minute Guide to the Bill of Rights


How do Executive Orders Work?



What You Might Not Know About the Declaration of Independence

Webinar This Thursday - Search Strategies Students Need to Know

This Thursday at 4pm ET I'm hosting the new version of my most popular Practical Ed Tech webinar, Search Strategies Students Need to Know

The updated version of this webinar includes new handouts for you and your students. These include templates for formulating lessons to teach search strategies and templates for students to follow when conducting online research. 

Other highlights of the webinar include alternatives to Google search (and why students should try them), how to build your own school-safe search engine (great for K-5 teachers), and tools and tips for helping students organize their research findings. 

This is a live webinar and there will be time for Q&A. The webinar will be recorded for those who register in advance but cannot attend the live session. Register here!

A Simple Trick to Make Audio Editing Easier

In this week's Practical Ed Tech Newsletter I featured five podcasting tips for students and teachers. One of those tips was to "clap and pause." That tip is demonstrated in the short video that is embedded below. 

Editing an audio recording is much easier if you make a loud clap before a brief pause and then begin speaking. The same is true if you need to pause while recording. That clap will be easy to hear and will be easy to see in audio editing tools. In audio editing tools like Audacity and GarageBand that clap and pause will be identified by a big visual spike followed by a steep drop. You won’t need to listen through the whole recording to find the places you need to edit because you’ll see them in the audio editor.

How to Find Image Metadata

Behind every digital image that you capture there is a bunch of information that isn't visible to the naked eye. That information is called metadata and it includes information like when and where the image was taken, what kind of camera was used, and the original size and color scheme of the image. Much of that information is passed along when the image is published online. 

Image metadata can be used as part of the process to solve a research challenge. For example, in this video I demonstrate how to use image metadata to discover what used to standing where I took the picture that is posted below. 




The tool that I demonstrated in the video above is called Jeffrey Friedl's Image Metadata Viewer

On Thursday I'm hosting a webinar all about teaching search strategies. The use of image metadata is one of the topics I'll be covering in more depth during the webinar. You can register for it right here

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Student Video Project - Timelapse of Fall

The fall is my favorite season of the year. I love waking up to cold, crisp mornings then enjoying mild days outside. In fact, that's what I'm planning to do tomorrow morning. This time of year always reminds me of one of my favorite uses for time-lapse video creation tools. The outline of my time-lapse of autumn project is included below.

The idea is to take one picture every day to document the changes in the foliage as we progress through autumn from the first few orange leaves to full-blown autumn foliage colors to the drab brown we see after in the winter.

Here's how your students could create their own autumn foliage timelapse videos.

1. Take one picture per day of the same view or of one singular tree. 
Using a cell phone is probably the best tool for this because students rarely go anywhere without one.

2. Upload the pictures to a Google Drive folder. 
It only takes one tap to move photos from a phone to a Google Drive folder labeled "Fall foliage." If This Then That has a recipe for doing this automatically from Android phones and from iPhones. Or simply use Google Photos and then move the photos into a folder at the end of the month. 

3. After four weeks, upload photos to Cloud Stopmotion or Stop Motion Animator and create your timelapse. 
Cloud Stopmotion is a video editing program that works in your web browser. You can easily adjust the duration of each frame and easily add a soundtrack to your video. Click here for a video about using Cloud Stopmotion. Stop Motion Animator is another free tool for creating stop motion movies. Here's a demo of how it works. 

How to Make Chrome Run a Little Faster

There was a time when Google Chrome was the new kid on the block and promised faster browsing and faster page load time. That hasn't been the case for many years now. In fact, now when I hear colleagues, students, or others complain about their computers or Chromebooks running slowly the first thing I do is check their Chrome settings. 

There are two little Chrome settings that can make it run faster on your Windows 10 computer or on your Chrome book. Those settings are found under "system" in the "advanced" menu. Those settings are:

  • Continue running background apps when Google Chrome is closed.
  • Use hardware acceleration when available.
The speed with which Chrome runs should improve if you turn off the two options listed above. In the video below I demonstrate how to find those settings. 

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Typing, Blurring, and Captioning - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where the sun is shining on what should be a gorgeous early autumn day. I would be remiss not to mention that today is the 20th anniversary of terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. I remember it like it was yesterday, part of what I remember is that the weather was strinkingly similar to today's weather. For all of our students 9/11 is now a history lesson. For ideas on teaching about the events of September 11, 2001, take a look at the list of resources Larry Ferlazzo has put together.

On a cheerier note, I hope that you had a great school week and that you have something fun planned for your weekend. We're heading to Story Land for one more day of fun before it closes for the year. 

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. The Difference Between a Chrome Profile and a Google Account 
Live Webinar Next Week!
On Thursday at 4pm ET I'm hosting a new version of my popular Practical Ed Tech webinar, Search Strategies Students Need to Know. Learn more and register here!

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 37,000 subscribers watching my short tutorial videos on a wide array of educational technology tools. 
  • I've been Tweeting as @rmbyrne for fourteen years. 
  • The Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page features new and old posts from this blog throughout the week. 
  • If you're curious about my life outside of education, you can follow me on Instagram or Strava.
This post originally appeared on FreeTech4Teachers.com. If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission. Sites that steal my (Richard Byrne's) work include CloudComputin and WayBetterSite. Featured image captured by Richard Byrne.

The 2021 Fall Foliage Map - And Explanations of Why Leaves Change Colors

The 2021 Fall Foliage Prediction Map is a feature of the SmokyMountains.com website. The map displays a week-by-week prediction of when leaves in the continental United States will be changing colors from now through the end of November. You can see the predictions change by moving the timeline at the bottom of the map.

On the same page as the 2021 Fall Foliage Prediction Map there is a graph of average temperatures in the United States since 1900. The graph is accompanied by a short explanation of why leaves change colors in the fall and the relationship to air temperatures.

Applications for Education
The 2021 Fall Foliage Prediction Map doesn't tell the whole story of why leaves change colors at different times in different parts of the country. I'd use the incomplete nature of the map's explanation as a jumping-off point for students to hypothesize and investigate why leaves change colors at different times in different parts of the country. I might also have them investigate why some trees have brighter leaves than others in the fall. 

Additional Resources for Teaching and Learning About Fall Foliage
Ten days ago I shared a handful of videos that explain why leaves change colors in the fall. A couple of those videos are included below.



For an explanation of why leaves change colors that elementary school students can understand, watch the following SciShow Kids video.



Friday, September 10, 2021

Save Google Forms Responses in Progress

About a month ago Google announced that they were finally adding an autosave option to Google Forms. This new features lets students leave a Google Form and then come back to it later to finish answering the questions on it. The option to save work in progress in Google Forms is rolling out to all users over the next few weeks. If you haven't seen it or tried it, take a look at my short video to see how it works. 



Applications for Education
Saving Google Forms responses in progress has been a feature that teachers have requested for as long as I can remember (and I've been teaching with Google Forms longer than most middle school students have been alive). Students will no longer have to start over if they get disconnected from the Internet or the bell rings to end class before they've finished answering all of the questions on a Google Form.

There are some situations in which you may not want students to be able to come back to a Google Form to finish it after they've started. For example, a student intentionally taking a long time to answer quiz questions so that he/she can return to it later after looking up answers. In that case you can disable the autosave option on that particular form.

More Google Forms Tutorials



US News Map - A Great Way to Explore Newspaper Archives

Earlier this summer I shared some ideas for encouraging students to do research in digital archives. The U.S. News Map produced by Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia offers another interesting way to encourage students to explore digital archives.

The U.S. News Map is based on the Chronicling America newspaper collection hosted by the Library of Congress. When you search on the U.S. News Map the results of your search will be displayed on an interactive map. Clicking on a placemarker the map will take you to a list of articles from newspapers in the area around the placemarker. You can then select an article from the list and read it on the Chronicling America website where you can also download a copy of the article. The U.S. News Map will let you search for articles published between 1789 and 1964.

In this short video I provide a demonstration of how to use the U.S. News Map to find historical newspaper articles.

C-SPAN's StudentCam Contest is Back

Every year C-SPAN hosts the StudentCam video contest for middle school and high school students in the United States. The 2021/22 version of the contest has been announced and this year's topic is "How does the federal government impact your life?"

The StudentCam contest is open to students in sixth through twelfth grade. There is a category for middle school (grades 6-8) and high school (grades 9-12). Students can submit individual work or work in teams of up to three members. All videos must be between five and six minutes in length. The incoporation of C-SPAN footage is encouraged. 

The StudentCam contest is open to students in the United States. The contest deadline is January 20, 2022. All videos must include some C-SPAN footage. This year more than $100,000 in prizes will be awarded. Complete contest rules can be found here and the prize list can be found here. There are prizes for students as well as for teachers. 

Applications for Education
This year's contest prompt is a great one to incorporate into a government and or U.S. History class. Even if your students don't enter the contest, the question is a good one to ponder. It can also be used ot introduce ideas about state vs. federal powers.

C-SPAN offers some excellent resources to help teachers help their students prepare entries for the StudentCam contest. Those resources include research templates, video script templates, and project checklists. You can find all of the teacher resources here

Thursday, September 9, 2021

700+ Free Typing Games for Kids

TypeTastic is a site that offers more than 700 free typing games for students of all ages. I first reviewed TypeTastic a few years ago shortly after it was launched and only offered thirteen games. Since then it has obviously added hundreds of more games and many more features. Just like when it launched a few years ago, TypeTastic's games are all optimized to work well on a laptop, desktop, or tablet. Although one might argue that learning to type on a tablet makes it more difficult to develop touch typing skills.

TypeTastic is designed for students to work through units of games. Before each game there is an introduction to a new skill and or a review of a previous skill. Each game within each section contains multiple levels for students to work through. Each game could take students an hour or more to completely master.


TypeTastic is divided into sections for K-2, upper elementary, and middle school/ high school. For K-2 the games start with basic skills like identifying the letters on a keyboard and build up to touch typing skills. The upper elementary games begin with learning and practicing the homerow before progressing through learning to touch type numbers and symbols. The middle school/ high school section has the same progress as the upper elementary section but has a greater emphasis on speed. The games are also a little more complex than the elementary school games.

Applications for Education
TypeTastic offers two free versions. There is an ad-supported version that anyone can access and a basic schools version. The schools version is free for teachers who register with a verified school email address. The schools version removes advertising and gives you an access code that you can share with your students to access the ad-free version of the games. There are also paid plans that give teachers access to reporting on the progress of their students. 

Create, Reflect, Outline, Create - A Video Creation Process

On page 76 of Invent To Learn Stager and Martinez write, "The movie can be done without a storyboard or script, the 3D object may not be the most precisely planned out, but the point is to create something that can be shared and talked about." Later in the same chapter they advise avoiding overteaching planning as it can stifle creativity in some students.  

For years now my outline for student video projects has been influenced by reading that passage in Invent to Learn.  

We're well aware that most students when given some time will figure out how to use a video editing tool. We don't need to spend lots of time teaching that as most of our kids will be biting their tongues as we fumble with things they already know how do or at least feel confident that they can do. Therefore, I skip the "how to use iMovie" with students and jump right to the creation phase. The whole process is outlined below. (Bear in mind, this is a process for videos that will have a finished length of five minutes or less).

1. Create - let the kids have a crack at making their videos. If some students have a nature inclined to planning first, let them. If others want to jump into the process right away, that's great too. When I make screencast videos I don't always plan them first, I just make them. If the first attempt doesn't result in a polished work, that's okay because now I know what I need to change for the next attempt.

2. Reflect - take a look at what was made. What is good about it? What needs to be changed?

3. Outline - create that outline or storyboard now that you know what to keep and what to change.

4. Create - this is the second attempt at the video.

5. Revise - take a look at what the second attempt at creation yielded. Revise the outline again for the next round of editing or re-shooting.

6. Create - this is the second round of editing or it could be a complete re-shoot of a video.

7. Share - when you're happy with your video (it may take many more rounds of steps 5 and 6) share it with the world. Share it on Next Vista for Learning, YouTube, your classroom blog, or anywhere else that there is a potential audience for your work.

Tinkering With Arduino in Tinkercad

Tinkercad is a free service that I used for the last two years to introduce my students to designing and building Arduino-powered circuits, cars, and simple machines. As I wrote back in January, Tinkercad was great for introdcuing Arduino in a pandemic. Besides the Arduino aspect, Tinkercad is also a great place to find inspiration for makerspace activities. 

Later today Tinkercad is hosting a free webinar for educators who want to learn how to get use all of what Tinkercad offers. The webinar is at 7pm ET/ 4pm PT. 

If the timing of Tinkercad's webinar doesn't work for you, don't worry. Tinkercad's YouTube channel is full of recordings of previous webinars. It also contains a great playlist of tutorials for learning about Arduino in Tinkercad



Applications for Education
My favorite benefit of using Tinkercad to introduce Arduino is that students don't risk breaking any physical products while learning important lessons about circuits. Students can use Tinkercad to learn about Ohms Law and the use of resistors without the risk of actually burning out an LED or other element of an Arduino circuit. Once they've used Tinkercad to master the basics of Arduino then they can safely move on to using physical Arduino products.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Blur Faces and Objects in Screencastify Videos

Disclosure: Screencastify is currently an advertiser on my sites. 

Earlier this week I published a post about Screencastify's new feature for adding interactive questions into your videos. That's not the only new thing that Screencastify offers in its updated video editor. Another great feature is the option to blur faces and objects in your Screencastify videos. 

To blur things in a Screencastify video simply record your video as usual then save it and open it in the Screencastify video editor. In the editor you can highlight the area of your video that you want to blur. The blur can appear for as little as one second or as long as the entire length of your video. You choose the amount of time that the blurring appears for by simply dragging the timeslider in the Screencastify video editor. It is also possible to blur multiple objects in the same scene. All of these options are demonstrated in this short video overview of the Screencastify video editor



Applications for Education
The option to blur things in your videos is a great way to protect your and your students' privacy when publishing a video. Besides blurring faces you may also want to blur names or email addresses if they appear in a screencast video.

How to Quickly Create a Bibliography in Word

In my previous post I wrote about why every fall I revisit how to cite sources and create bibliographies. In that post I also included directions for using inline citation and bibliography generator in Google Docs. Microsoft Word has a very similar tool that students can use. 

In this short video I demonstrate how to insert citations and create a bibliography in Microsoft Word documents.

  

Applications for Education
Whenever I write blog posts or publish videos about tools like these I get emails from readers who like to point out that bibliography tools make it "too easy" or that there is some discrepancy between the tool and the latest minor update to MLA or APA. My point in getting middle school and high school students to use these tools is to help them build the habit of citing their sources. When they reach the point that they have a college professor who is a stickler for bibliography formats or they're submitting research papers to journals then they can worry about the minutia of the bibliography standards of academic research papers. 

How to Cite Sources in Google Docs

At the beginning of every school year I like to revisit some topics with my students to which they always say, "we learned this last year." One of those topics is citing the sources of the information that they use in their writing and in their presentations. It never hurts to review this information with students even if they say they "already learned it." There's always something they forgot over the summer or that their previous teacher(s) didn't require the them that I require when they cite their sources. 

Google Docs makes it relatively easy for students to create inline citations and bibliographies. In the last year it has undergone a few little changes. I made this new video to demonstrate how to create inline citations and bibliographies in the current version of Google Docs. Please feel free to share it with your students. 

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

How to Generate Captions for Any Video

YouTube will automatically generate captions for almost any video that you find. Likewise, it will automatically generate captions for videos that you upload to your account. That's great if you want to use YouTube. But if you have a video that isn't on YouTube and you need to display captions with it, there is a solution built into Chrome. 

In Chrome you can enable captions for any video that is played on a webpage. This will work with videos that are embedded into websites and will even work with videos that are played from your Google Drive. In this short video I demonstrate how to enable captioning in Chrome. 




Applications for Education
Enabling captions for videos that you display in your classroom (whether online or in-person) makes the content accessible to all students. Even students who you might not think need the captions enabled can benefit from having the captions displayed on screen. That is particularly true when the speaker in a video is pronouncing a difficult word or a word that is hard to hear clearly. 

How to Quickly Create Comics With Make Beliefs Comix

Disclosure: Make Beliefs Comix is currently an advertiser on this site. 

Make Beliefs Comix is a good tool for creating comic strips for all kinds of purposes including teaching empathy, practicing writing in a new language, and telling fun stories. Last week I outlined those ideas and more in this blog post

The best thing about Make Beliefs Comix is that you don't need to be able to draw in order to create a great comic strip. That's because you can use the pre-made artwork to create your comic strip. Simply select a category of artwork then choose a background, characters, decorations, and speech bubbles for your comic. You can then write your comic in one of fourteen languages supported by Make Beliefs Comix. 

In this short video I demonstrate how to quickly create a comic strip with Make Beliefs Comix. 

Combine Canva and Google Drawings to Make Graphic Organizer Activities

Last fall I published some videos about using Google Drawings and Google Jamboard to create labeling activities, mapping activities, and some graphic organizer activities. Those all relied on using the drawing tools built into Google Drawings and Jamboard. The aesthetics of the activities was limited by your imagination and what you could do with the drawing tools. For folks like me, that meant the visuals weren't always as pretty as we'd like. Fortunately, Canva has a hundreds of beautiful graphic organizers that you can import into Google Drawings to create online activities for your students. 

In this video I demonstrate how to find a graphic organizer template in Canva and then import it into Google Drawings. After importing the template into Google Drawings I demonstrate how to turn that template into an online activity for your students to complete. 

Monday, September 6, 2021

Two Ed Tech Guys Return! - Free Webinar This Thursday

My pal Rushton Hurley from Next Vista for Learning and I are starting the second season of Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff! The first episode of the new season is this Thursday at 4pm ET/ 1pm PT. We'd love to have you join us! You can register for the session right here

In every episode we answer questions from readers and viewers like you. We also share some cool and interesting things that we've found around the Web. Rushton tends to share cool videos and pictures while I tend to share cool tech tools. And we both try our best to give helpful answers to your questions about all things educational technology. 

For the new season we're (mostly me because I'm the rambler) going to try to be a little more concise in our answers so that we can answer more questions in each episode. Please join us! And feel free to email me in advance with your questions. 

The Difference Between a Chrome Profile and a Google Account

This morning as I was starting to get caught up on a backlog of email I answered a question from a reader who wanted to know if I had a video about Chrome profiles that she could share with her staff. I do, here it is. In the video I demonstrate and explain the difference between signing into a Chrome profile and signing into your Google account. The video is embedded below. 


The key points to remember are:

  • Your Chrome profile handles all of your Chrome browser preferences and settings including the extensions you like to use, bookmarks, saved passwords, and display settings (default fonts and color schemes). 
  • Signing into your Google account is how you access things like Gmail and Google Docs. 
  • Whenever you're done using a shared computer, you should sign out of both your Chrome profile and your Google account. 
On a related note, I find it helpful to use a different profile icon for each of my Google accounts. It provides a visual reminder of which account I'm currently using. Doing that helps me avoid creating a work document in a personal account or trying to send a personal email from a work account. Here's a little video about that

How to Build Questions Into Screencastify Videos

Disclosure: Screencastify is currently an advertiser on my sites. 

A couple of weeks ago Screencastify announced the launch of some new features in their video editor. One of those new features is the ability to add interactive questions into your videos. You can do this with videos that you record with the Screencastify Chrome extension or with videos that you upload into your Screencastify account. Whichever type of video you choose to use, you can add multiple choice questions into the timeline of the video. In this short video I demonstrate how to add questions into your Screencastify videos. 



After you've added questions to your Screencastify video you can share it with your students via Google Classroom or by sharing a direct link to your video. If you share via Google Classroom, you can use all of the standard Google Classroom options to see which of your students have completed the assignment. If you share with a direct link to your video, you'll need to require that students sign-in with an email or username in order to keep track of which students have completed the assignment. Either way, students must answer the questions in order to watch the next segement of your video. As soon as they answer a question students do know if they answered correctly or not.

The new version of the Screencastify editor is rolling out over the next couple of weeks. If you don't see the new version in your account right now, sign-up here to be notified when it is available in your account.

Applications for Education
Adding interactive questions into your instructional videos is a great way to make sure that students actually watch your lesson all the way through. It's also a good way to determine if you need to re-teach something or alter your explanation of a concept. You can do that by looking to see if there is a pattern to the answers your students choose while watching your video.

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Fish, Moose, Jam, and Drawings - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where we're getting ready for a day of outdoor fun. My youngest daughter wants to go catch a fish and my oldest daughter wants to see a moose. Fortunately, a little time in the boat on Mooselookmeguntic Lake provides a great opportunity to make both of my daughters happy. I hope that you have a happy weekend as well.

As I do early every Saturday morning, I've compiled a list of the most popular posts of the week. Take a look and see if there's something new or interesting that you can apply to your classroom.

These were the most popular posts of the week:
1. Five Ideas for Using Google Jamboard This Fall
2. Five Google Forms Refreshers for the New School Year
3. Five Benefits of Conducting Mind Mapping Activities
4. 11 Search Tips and Tools for Teachers and Students
5. Add Your Voice to Google Forms
6. Five Ideas for Using Google Earth & Maps for More Than Social Studies Lessons
7. Five Ideas for Using Google Drawings This Fall

On-demand Professional Development
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 37,000 subscribers watching my short tutorial videos on a wide array of educational technology tools. 
  • I've been Tweeting as @rmbyrne for fourteen years. 
  • The Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page features new and old posts from this blog throughout the week. 
  • If you're curious about my life outside of education, you can follow me on Instagram or Strava.
This post originally appeared on FreeTech4Teachers.com. If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission. Sites that steal my (Richard Byrne's) work include CloudComputin and WayBetterSite. Featured image captured by Richard Byrne.