Sunday, February 28, 2021

Annotations, Games, and Audio - The Month in Review

Good evening from Maine where the sun is setting on February. It turned out to be a great weekend with snow on Saturday and sunny skies today. Getting outside to play was the perfect way to end what felt like an exceptionally long February. 

I'm going to start March with a couple of webinars. On Tuesday on Practical Ed Tech I'm hosting Five Google Earth & Maps Projects for Social Studies. On Thursday I'm co-hosting Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff. I hope you'll join me for one or both of these webinars. 

These were the month's most popular posts:
1. How to Create Your Own Online Board Game
2. Video - How to Annotate Your Screen in Google Meet
3. Two Ways to Create Your Own Online Memory Games
4. Musical Explorers World Map
5. Ten Time-savers for G Suite for Education Users
6. Whiteboard.chat - Create Online Whiteboards You Can Share and Monitor
7. Three Easy Ways for Students to Make Short Audio Recordings - No Email Required
8. Some of my Favorites - Creating Green Screen Videos
9. Magnetic Poetry With Google Jamboard and Google Classroom
10. Spaces - Digital Portfolios With Asynchronous Breakout Rooms

Thank you for your support! 
  • More than 300 of you have participated in a Practical Ed Tech course last year. Those registrations help keep Free Technology for Teachers and Practical Ed Tech going. I couldn't do it without you!
  • BoomWriter is hosting a unique creative writing contest for kids. Check it out!
  • Spaces takes a new approach to digital portfolios. Give it a try!
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 34,000 subscribers watching my short tutorial videos on a wide array of educational technology tools. 
  • I've been Tweeting as @rmbyrne for thirteen years. 
  • The Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page features new and old posts from this blog throughout the week. 
  • And if you're curious about my life outside of education, you can follow me on Instagram or Strava.

My Most Popular Tutorial Videos in February

My YouTube channel now has more than 34,000 subscribers. According to the analytics that YouTube provides, more than half of all of the views of my videos happen through embeds on my blog. YouTube also provides analytics of what was watched the most over the last month. In case you're curious, here's a list of my tutorial videos that were watched the most in February. 

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Changes, Chat, and Spring - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where today it's going to snow, but tomorrow is going to sunny and will be almost spring-like. It's going to be perfect for skiing today and riding my bike outside tomorrow. I need some time outside after a long week. It clears my head and rejuvenates me. I hope that you also get time for the same this weekend. 

This week my school changed schedules for the umpteenth time this year. There's nothing to do but roll with the changes (cue REO Speedwagon). 

I haven't hosted a new Practical Ed Tech webinar yet this year. That's going to change next week when I host Five Google Earth & Maps Projects for Social Studies. If you're curious about how you can use Google Earth and Maps in your social studies lessons for more than just "looking at stuff," this webinar is for you. 

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. How to Make Sure Students Aren't Unsupervised in Google Meet Video Calls
2. Whiteboard.chat - Create Online Whiteboards You Can Share and Monitor
3. A Tour of Google Arts and Culture for Teachers
4. How to Create a Google Slides Template
5. Some of my Favorites - Creating Green Screen Videos
6. Ten Time-savers for G Suite for Education Users
7. Three Easy Ways for Students to Make Short Audio Recordings - No Email Required

Thank you for your support! 
  • Registrations for my Practical Ed Tech webinars is one of the primary ways that I am able to keep this blog and my email newsletters going. More than 300 of you have participated in a Practical Ed Tech course last year. I couldn't do it without you!
  • BoomWriter is hosting a unique creative writing contest for kids. Check it out!
  • Spaces takes a new approach to digital portfolios. Give it a try!
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 34,000 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. 
  • And if you're curious about my life outside of education, you can follow me on Instagram or Strava.

Daddy, What Are Hiccups?

My youngest daughter had hiccups twice this week. On Friday morning she asked, "what are hiccups?" Fortunately, I knew the answer. Unfortunately, I didn't have a great way of explaining involuntary muscle contractions to a three-year-old. I did my best and told her that it's part of her body's way of growing and getting stronger (hey, you try explaining it to a toddler). If she was a little older, I might have turned to the TED-Ed lesson, Why Do We Hiccup?

Why Do We Hiccup? explains what causes hiccups and why hiccups are more common in children than in adults. The video also dives into attempt to explain why humans hiccup but other exclusively air-breathing animals don't. 

Friday, February 26, 2021

It's Maple Syrup Time, Yay!

Here in Maine we're starting to notice that the days are getting a little longer and the sun is a little higher in the sky during the day. That means, as a few of my friends pointed out on social media this week, it's time to start tapping maple trees for syrup season. 

The process of collecting sap and turning it into maple syrup provides some great science lessons for students. The process of creating maple syrup can teach students lessons about why maple sap is easiest to collect in late winter/early spring, what makes the sap run, and it teaches students about evaporation. 

Here are a few video lessons about making maple syrup: 

Ever Wonder How Maple Syrup is Made? is a video from Highlights. The succinct video shows a mix of the old way of using buckets to collect sap and the modern method of using hoses.



My friend Gardner Waldeier AKA Bus Huxley on YouTube collects maple sap to make maple syrup. He does it the old fashioned way and he made a video about the process. Gardner's video shows viewers how he collects maple sap and turns it into maple syrup. In the video he explains why maple sap is collected at this time of year, how much sap he'll collect from a large tree, and just how much sap it takes to make a gallon of maple syrup. You also get a nice tour of Gardner's woodlot.



Maple Syrup the Modern Way is a three minute video about the process commercial producers use to make syrup.


On a related note for my friends who like to run or bike and might be looking for a new energy bar or  gel, take a look at the Untapped Maple products. I just bought a sample pack a couple of weeks ago and I love it! It's so much easier to eat an Untapped Maple waffle than a Clif Bar in the middle of a hard workout. The Untapped Maple gels are way easier to choke down than anything else I've tried over the years. I'm planning to use the waffles and gels as part of my fueling strategy for the Unbound Gravel 200 in June. 

Build a Solar Oven - Hands-on Science Project

This week SciShow Kids released a new video about a favorite hands-on science project, building a solar oven. As you might expect, the video explains the science of using solar energy and explains the basics of how to build a solar oven. However, the video isn't quite detailed enough to be the only source that you or your students consult when building a solar oven. Fortunately, NASA, the US Department of Energy, and the Lawrence Hall of Science all offer detailed directions. 

NASA provides two sets of detailed, written directions for building solar ovens. This set of directions (link opens a PDF) was created for students in 7th through 9th grade. This set of directions (link opens a PDF) for building a solar oven was written for 6th through 8th grade students and culminates with students attempting to make s'mores with their ovens. 

Cooking With 'Sol (link opens a PDF) was published by the US Department of Energy. It was written for students in 5th through 8th grade to follow directions to create a solar oven. 

DIY Sun Science is a free iPad app from The Lawrence Hall of Science. The app features directions for hands-on lessons about the sun. The lessons are a mix of activities that students can do on their own and activities that they should do with adult supervision. All of the activities use common household goods. Some of the activities that you will find in DIY Sun Science are measuring the sun, making UV detectors, detecting solar storms, and cooking with a solar oven.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

How to Record a Video in Gmail

Sometimes it is easier to reply to an email with a video than it is to write out a reply. For example, when a colleague asks me for help with Google Classroom I could write step-by-step directions or I could record a short screencast that would accomplish the same thing. Loom's Chrome extension makes it easy to do that. 

With Loom's Chrome extension Gmail users can reply to email by simply clicking the Loom icon and recording a video. The video is then instantly uploaded to your Loom account and inserted into the body of your email. In this short video I demonstrate how to record a video right from your Gmail inbox. 


Yes, there are other tools for making screencast videos. And you could use one of those to make a screencast for a colleague, but I think Loom's Chrome extension streamlines the process better than other screen recording tools. 

Applications for Education
Besides being helpful when answering help requests from students or colleagues, Loom's Chrome extension could be useful in having students explain exactly what they need help with when they send you an email. Sometimes students don't know exactly how to phrase their requests in writing so giving them the Loom option could be a good way to get a better understanding of what they're asking. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Why Do We Use Filler Words? - And a Tool to Help You Eliminate Them in Presentations

TED-Ed recently published a new video that addresses the question of why we say "like" and other filler words in our conversations. The video is full of interesting pieces of information about why we use filler words and how they can serve a purpose in conversations. For example, saying "like" is often serving the same purpose as an "um" in conversation. Another neat thing I learned from the video is that a filled pause can help toddlers identify uncommon or new words. The video is titled Why Do We, Like, Hesitate When We, Um, Speak? and you can see it with its associated lesson on this TED-Ed page
 


Watching this TED-Ed lesson reminded me of a good tool for practicing presentations so that you don't use too many filler words. That tool is Microsoft's Presenter Coach which is available in the online version of PowerPoint. Presenter Coach will give you feedback on the pacing of your presentations, your use of filler words, and your use of sensitive phrases. In this video I demonstrate how to use Presenter Coach in PowerPoint. 

Kahoot Acquired Whiteboard.fi - What Could That Mean for You?

Last spring I got quite excited about a new online whiteboard tool called Whiteboard.fi. A lot of other people did, too. This blog post that I wrote about Whiteboard.fi had more than 100,000 hits! The success of Whiteboard.fi didn't go unnoticed by other educational technology companies as evidenced by the announcement that Kahoot has acquired Whiteboard.fi.

The announcement that Kahoot published was short on details on about what the acquisition of Whiteboard.fi means for both services going forward. Initially, it appears that Whiteboard.fi will continue to operate as normal. My guess is that Kahoot plans to integrate some or all of the functions into of Whiteboard.fi into the Kahoot game platform. 

If Kahoot were to integrate Whiteboard.fi into its game platform we could see options for teachers to use a whiteboard function to draw or write math problems and or diagrams. We could see options for students to reply to questions with free-hand drawings and writing on individual whiteboards. I'm curious to see what the engineers at Kahoot and Whiteboard.fi develop together for teachers and students. 

Here's a short video overview of how Whiteboard.fi works today. 

How to Install and Manage Chrome Extensions

In this week's Practical Ed Tech Newsletter I outlined the things that I look for when I am considering installing a new browser extension or add-on. At the end of the newsletter I included directions for installing and removing extensions in Chrome, Firefox, and Microsoft Edge. Those directions were provided as a series of screencast videos. The one about installing and removing Chrome add-ons is available to view here and as embedded below.  


On a related note, here's the difference between signing into your Chrome profile and your Google account. 

How to Install Microsoft Edge Add-ons

In this week's Practical Ed Tech Newsletter I outlined the things that I look for when I am considering installing a new browser extension or add-on. At the end of the newsletter I included directions for installing and removing extensions in Chrome, Firefox, and Microsoft Edge. Those directions were provided as a series of screencast videos. The one about installing and removing Microsoft Edge add-ons is available to view here and as embedded below.  

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

How to Make Sure Students Aren't Unsupervised in Google Meet Video Calls

Google Workspace for Education users finally have a way to make sure that students aren't hanging out in a Google Meet without a teacher. 

Yesterday afternoon Google announced that teachers can now end Google Meet calls for all participants at once. Now when hosts leave a Google Meet call they will see an option to let others stay in the meeting or end the meeting for everyone. Students will be automatically disconnected when a teacher (host) chooses to end the meeting for everyone. 

If you use meeting nicknames in conjunction with the new option to end the meeting for all participants, you can ensure that students aren't hanging out in a Google Meet call without your supervision. 



As is usual with new features in Google Workspaces, this new Google Meet option is available to some users right now and will be available to all Google Workspaces for Education users in the next couple of weeks. It's important to note that this feature is only available to Google Workspaces for Education users and not to those using other versions of Google Workspaces (formerly known as G Suite for Education).

Add Voice Notes to Your Email With Mote

Last month I featured a new Chrome extension called Mote. Mote lets you add voice comments to Google Classroom, Slides, and Docs. As of yesterday it lets you add voice comments to Gmail messages. 

If you already have Mote installed in your Chrome web browser you should already have access to using Mote in your Gmail. (You might have to relaunch Chrome and approve Mote for it appear in Gmail). When you compose an email in Gmail you should see the Mote icon appear in the menu next to the "send" button. Click the Mote icon to record a message and have it automatically inserted into the email you're composing. 

Mote recordings in Gmail can be played by anyone who receives your email. Recipients don't need the Mote extension in order to hear your message. Recipients who do have Mote installed will be able to reply to your voice message with voice messages of their own. 


Applications for Education
For some people recording a voice note might be a quicker way to respond to students' email messages. I like the voice option because it provides an easy way to use inflection and tone when giving students feedback on their work or when responding to their questions. 

A Tour of Google Arts and Culture for Teachers

Last week Google introduced Learn With Google Arts and Culture. Learn With Google Arts and Culture is a collection of lesson plans, Street View imagery, and virtual tours based around the content found in Google Arts and Culture

Other than the collection of lesson plans, there isn't anything in Learn With Google Arts and Culture that you couldn't find on your own by just going to the main Google Arts and Culture website. In fact, in some cases I found it easier to find what I was looking for by just going to the main site instead of going through the learning page. 

The lesson plans are what make Learn With Google Arts and Culture worth bookmarking. There are two dozen detailed lesson plans available through Learn With Google Arts and Culture. The lesson plans are very detailed and include links for students and teachers to follow. Much of each lesson plan that I reviewed could be completed by students working independently. 

In this new video I provide an overview of Learn With Google Arts and Culture. The overview includes:

  • How to access the lesson plans. 
  • How to share specific portions of Google Arts and Culture in your Google Classroom. 
  • How to create collections of artifacts from Google Arts and Culture to share with your students. 

How to Install Firefox Add-ons

In this week's Practical Ed Tech Newsletter I outlined the things that I look for when I am considering installing a new browser extension or add-on. At the end of the newsletter I included directions for installing and removing extensions in Chrome, Firefox, and Microsoft Edge. Those directions were provided as a series of screencast videos. The one about installing and removing Firefox add-ons is available to view here and as embedded below.  

Monday, February 22, 2021

What's New in G Suite for Education - It's Not Called That Anymore!

Last week was a vacation week for my school and many others in New England. If you were on vacation or you just don't obsessively follow all things Google like I do, you may have missed that Google has changed the name of G Suite for Education to Google Workspaces for Education. For the most part, the name change doesn't have an impact on the day-to-day use of Google products by teachers like you and me. 

If you're curious about what's new with Google Workspaces for Education and the various versions of it, watch this short video in which I provide a run-down of the changes. I also made a short slideshow about the changes. You can see those slides here or as embedded below. 


How to Create a Google Slides Template

A couple of weeks ago I published directions for creating and editing master slides in Google Slides. Last week I received a follow-up question regarding using those edited master slides as a template for other presentations. If you're using Google Slides in a G Suite for Education Google Workspaces for Education account, there is a fairly easy way to turn your master slides into a template for you and your students to use and re-use. In this video I demonstrate how that process works to create a Google Slides template. 



Applications for Education
Creating a template is a great way to use consistent branding of presentations and it's also great for helping students follow guidelines for presentations. For example, I have a rule that font must be at least 28 points with no more than three lines per slide. Having a template for students to follow is a good way to help them follow those basic guidelines.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Recordings, Whiteboards, and Snow - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where a fresh coat of snow fell last night. It's just enough to make for good sledding and skiing, but not so much that it's a pain to clear from the walkways and driveway. 

This week I was school vacation week here in Maine. I took most of the week off from writing new blog posts. I did, however, publish a few new videos on my YouTube channel. The rest of the week I spent mostly tinkering around the house, riding my bike, and doing a little skiing. Now I'm ready for school to start again on Monday. 

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Three Easy Ways for Students to Make Short Audio Recordings - No Email Required
2. Whiteboard.chat - Create Online Whiteboards You Can Share and Monitor
3. Some of my Favorites - Creating Green Screen Videos
4. Video - How to Annotate Your Screen in Google Meet
5. Ten Time-savers for G Suite for Education Users
6. Some of my Favorites - Flipgrid Whiteboard
7. Some of my Favorites - DIY Common Craft Videos

Thank you for your support! 
  • More than 300 of you have participated in a Practical Ed Tech course last year. Those registrations help keep Free Technology for Teachers and Practical Ed Tech going. I couldn't do it without you!
  • BoomWriter is hosting a unique creative writing contest for kids. Check it out!
  • Spaces takes a new approach to digital portfolios. Give it a try!
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 33,000 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. 
  • And if you're curious about my life outside of education, you can follow me on Instagram or Strava.

Some of my Favorites - Geocaching!

This week is school vacation week here in Maine. I usually take this week off to go ice fishing on Moosehead Lake. Unfortunately, that's not happening this year. Instead I'll be "staycationing" and working on some projects around home. While on my staycation I'll be sharing some of my personal favorite tools.

Geocaching is one of the things that I spend a good bit of time talking about in both my workshop 5 Ways to Blend Technology Into Outdoor Learning. Geocaching is a great activity to do to get kids outside for hands-on learning experiences. Here are five things that you can teach through geocaching activities.

Geospatial Awareness
The core of geocaching activities is locating hidden caches. This can be done through the use of GPS (either on a phone, a smartwatch, or on a dedicated GPS unit) or in an "old school" method of using maps. Finding a cache can require students to have an understanding of the distance between two or more places.

Cardinal Direction
Do your students know in which direction to turn if you tell them to walk north? Teach them about cardinal direction through geocaching activities. You can set up geocaching activities in and around your school yard that don't require students to use any electronic devices. Simply make a map or make a list of clues that give students information about the directions and distances they need to go in order to find a series of caches.

Earth Science
Let students test use their knowledge of rock types or plant types as they seek geocaches. You can incorporate a little civic duty into the lesson by asking students to pick up litter they find while geocaching.

Citizenship
If you or your students use the official Geocaching website to find caches in your area, you may find some that border on private property. This is an opportunity to teach students about respecting the property of others. Another opportunity to teach a lesson about citizenship is found in playing by the rules of geocaching. For example, students shouldn't move caches they've found.

Digital Citizenship
As with any activity that incorporates an online, public-facing component participating in official Geocaching activities provides us with a good opportunity to review the basics of good digital citizenship. Students who are placing caches for inclusion on the public listings of Geocaches need to be mindful of not including personally identifying and other sensitive information in their descriptions and hints.

Bonus item: It's hard for me to talk about geocaching without thinking about a couple of classic "geography songs." Enjoy!


Friday, February 19, 2021

Some of my Favorites - Create Labeling Activities in Google Drawings

This week is school vacation week here in Maine. I usually take this week off to go ice fishing on Moosehead Lake. Unfortunately, that's not happening this year. Instead I'll be "staycationing" and working on some projects around home. While on my staycation I'll be sharing some of my personal favorite tools and blog posts.


In the video that is embedded below I demonstrate how to use Google Drawings to create a labeling activity and then distribute it to students through Google Classroom. In the video I used the example of creating an activity in which students drag state names onto a blank map of New England. A variation on that activity would be to have students using the arrow tools in Google Drawings to draw connections between the labels and the states. Watch the video below to see how the whole process works including how students complete the activity in Google Classroom.

Make Sign-in/ Sign-out Sheets With Google Forms or Microsoft Forms

This week is school vacation week here in Maine. I usually take this week off to go ice fishing on Moosehead Lake. Unfortunately, that's not happening this year. Instead I'll be "staycationing" and working on some projects around home. While on my staycation I'll be sharing some of my personal favorite tools.

In the past, I've always been fortunate that I didn't have "wanderers" who signed-out for the bathroom and never re-appeared. That's largely due to the fact that my classes are electives that kids choose to attend to begin with. So I never kept great records of when kids signed-out and signed-in from trips to the bathroom. But this year, for contact-tracing purposes, I have to keep much better records of when students leave my classroom than I have in the past. Rather than keeping a paper sign-out/ sign-in sheet, I'm using a Google Form that I have posted as a material in Google Classroom.

In the following video I demonstrate how I created a sign-out/sign-in sheet in Google Forms, how I post it in Google Classroom, and how students utilize it. In the video I also provide a possible modification of the Form.



It is possible to the same thing with Microsoft Forms. In this video I demonstrate how to create a sign-in/ sign-out sheet with Microsoft Forms. In the video I also explain variations on the form and how students complete the form. 

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Some of my Favorites - DIY Common Craft Videos

This week is school vacation week here in Maine. I usually take this week off to go ice fishing on Moosehead Lake. Unfortunately, that's not happening this year. Instead I'll be "staycationing" and working on some projects around home. While on my staycation I'll be sharing some of my personal favorite tools and tips.

Nearly fourteen years ago Common Craft introduced the world to a new style and new way of producing explantory videos. This style uses simple cutouts on a blank white background and a well-scripted voice-over.

Early Common Craft videos like this one about wikis used actual paper cutouts that were moved by a hand that you see in the video. Later ones like this one about podcasting use digital cutouts and you don't see a hand in the video. Both versions are effective in communicating big ideas.

You can make your own Common Craft-style videos by using slides and a screencasting tool. In this video I demonstrate how to use Google Slides and Screencastify to make Common Craft-style videos, but you could accomplish the same thing with PowerPoint and Screencast-o-matic.

Some of my Favorites - Jamboard in Google Meet

This week is school vacation week here in Maine. I usually take this week off to go ice fishing on Moosehead Lake. Unfortunately, that's not happening this year. Instead I'll be "staycationing" and working on some projects around home. While on my staycation I'll be sharing some of my personal favorite tools. The integration of Jamboard into Google Meet was one my favorite new things to start this school year.


The old method that I used to combine Google Jamboard and Google Meet was fine, but the new integration is so much easier. In the following video I demonstrate how to launch and use Jamboard in Google Meet. 



Applications for Education
There are a lot of ways to use this new integration of Jamboard and Google Meet. Here are a few of my initial thoughts about it. First, even if only you use Jamboard during the Meet you can still share the Jamboard afterward with your students. Doing that would give them access to view and review any sketches or diagrams that you shared during the Meet. Second, this new integration could be great for students to participate in collaborative mind-mapping or diagramming sessions. Third, you could use the Jamboard to have students share pictures and then conduct a virtual gallery walk in Meet.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Some of my Favorites - Creating Green Screen Videos

This week is school vacation week here in Maine. I usually take this week off to go ice fishing on Moosehead Lake. Unfortunately, that's not happening this year. Instead I'll be "staycationing" and working on some projects around home. While on my staycation I'll be sharing some of my personal favorite tools and tips.


Making green screen videos can be a good way to engage students in researching and planning. That research and planning is fundamental to making a good video. The video is the reward at the end of the process. There are many things that students can do with green screen video production tools. Here are three green screen video projects to consider having your students complete. 

Student Newscasts
This might be the most common use of green screens. Students can create a newscast complete with weather forecast set in front a weather map.

Step Inside a Book
Take the concept of a book trailer video one step further by using green screen production tools. Have students place themselves in front of various backdrops that are representative for settings, scenes, and characters in a favorite book. This is a particularly good strategy for fiction/ fantasy books because students can draw their own backgrounds and characters to use on the green screen. 

Guided Tours of the World
Have students research a collection of places around the world then gather pictures or video clips of those places. Students can then use those pictures and clips in the background as they highlight and narrate the tour.


Free Tools for Making Green Screen Videos
iMovie for Mac and iPad. If you have an iPad or a Mac, you probably already have access to iMovie. It's a great tool for making green screen videos. If you've never tried it, watch this tutorial for the iPad version and this tutorial for the Mac version.





Through the combination of Zoom's virtual backgrounds and Adobe Spark Video it is possible to create green screen videos without actually using a green screen. Watch this tutorial to learn how to do that.



Finally, in the paid version of WeVideo there is an option to create green screen videos. Here's my tutorial on how to use WeVideo to make a green screen video.

Some of my Favorites - Historic Maps in Google Earth

This week is school vacation week here in Maine. I usually take this week off to go ice fishing on Moosehead Lake. Unfortunately, that's not happening this year. Instead I'll be "staycationing" and working on some projects around home. While on my staycation I'll be sharing some of my personal favorite tools and blog posts.


In Google Earth Pro (the free desktop version of Google Earth) you will find the Rumsey Historical Maps collection listed in the gallery of layers on the left hand side of your screen. When you turn on that layer you'll see map icons appear all over the map. Zoom-in and click on those icons to view the historical maps and see them layered over current Google Earth imagery. Watch my short video below to see how this process works.



Applications for Education
Layering historical maps over current imagery is one of my favorite uses of Google Earth. Doing this gives students a better view and understanding of how the geography of a city or a geographic area has changed over time.

Some of my Favorites - Grackle Slides & Docs

This week is school vacation week here in Maine. I usually take this week off to go ice fishing on Moosehead Lake. Unfortunately, that's not happening this year. Instead I'll be "staycationing" and working on some projects around home. While on my staycation I'll be sharing some of my personal favorite tools.

Grackle Slides is a Google Slides add-on that will evaluate the accessibility of your presentation and give you suggestions on how to improve the accessibility of your presentation. Watch the short video below to see how it works.



Grackle Slides is a companion to the Grackle Docs add-on for Google Documents that I featured last December. Watch my video about Grackle Docs as embedded below.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Join Me for a Free Webinar This Thursday - Two Ed Tech Guys Take Question & Share Cool Stuff

This Thursday at 4pm ET Rushton Hurley and I are hosting Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff. You can register for free right here.  Just like the title implies, during the webinar we answer questions from anyone who attends as well as questions that have been sent to us in advance. You can email me or Rushton with your questions. In each episode we also share a couple of interesting apps, websites, or videos that we've found during the last few weeks. 

Watch our last episode to get a sense of what the webinar is all about.

Some of my Favorites - Flipgrid Whiteboard

This week is school vacation week here in Maine. I usually take this week off to go ice fishing on Moosehead Lake. Unfortunately, that's not happening this year. Instead I'll be "staycationing" and working on some projects around home. While on my staycation I'll be sharing some of my personal favorite tools. Flipgrid's new whiteboard tool was one of my favorite new things in 2020.

The option to make a whiteboard video with the Shorts function in Flipgrid is now found in the "effects" menu that is present next to the record button after you launch the Shorts recorder. I made the following short video to demonstrate how to make a whiteboard video in Flipgrid.

Some of my Favorites - Talking With Mr. D!

This week is school vacation week here in Maine. I usually take this week off to go ice fishing on Moosehead Lake. Unfortunately, that's not happening this year. Instead I'll be "staycationing" and working on some projects around home. While on my staycation I'll be sharing some of my personal favorite tools and blog posts. Chatting with Gerry Dee in December was one of my favorite moments in 2020
.

Mr. D The Gym Teacher is a show available on Amazon Prime in the U.S. On Amazon Prime the show is called Mr. D The Gym Teacher instead of just Mr. D as it was on the CBC. The show is loosely based on the stories of teacher-turned-comedian Gerry Dee. Yes, it's a sitcom about teachers, principals, and school librarians. And yes, it's hilarious!

Mr. D lasted eight seasons which is far longer than any other sitcom about teachers that I can remember. That was possible because the show featured an actor and writer who actually spent years teaching instead of just relying on some clichΓ© Hollywood ideas of teachers. You can watch some snippets of the show on Gerry Dee's Facebook page and Twitter account

We all need something to look forward to that we can do at home these days. Flipping on Mr. D The Gym Teacher and having a good beer or wine cooler (a joke you'll get if you watch the show) after my kids go to bed is what I'm looking forward to on Saturday night. If you don't have Amazon Prime you can get a 30 free trial right here

In December I got the chance to talk to the star of the show, Gerry Dee. Gerry was a history and physical education teacher for ten years before his stand-up comedy career took off. We chatted about his teaching experiences and how they contributed to creating a sitcom about teaching that is really enjoyable to watch as a teacher. I was super-excited and nervous to talk with Gerry but I enjoyed it and I hope that you enjoy the recording of our conversation. You can watch it right here on my YouTube channel or as embedded below. 


Monday, February 15, 2021

Some of my Favorites - Canva Comics

This week is school vacation week here in Maine. I usually take this week off to go ice fishing on Moosehead Lake. Unfortunately, that's not happening this year. Instead I'll be "staycationing" and working on some projects around home. While on my staycation I'll be sharing some of my personal favorite tools. Canva's release of new comics templates was one of my favorite new things in the fall of 2020. 

Canva's comic gallery contains templates for making comics in a variety of layouts and formats. All of the templates can be customized to your heart's content. 

If you are a current Canva for Education user, you may already know that your students can now collaborate online on any graphics. That's just one of the many good features available when making comics in Canva. In this video I demonstrate how to create comics in Canva and outline five key features of creating comics in Canva. 

Five Key Features of Making Comics in Canva

  • Online, real-time collaboration on comic strips. 
  • Customize hundreds of pieces of artwork/ drawings/ clip art. 
  • Customize the size, spacing, and number of frames per comic. 
  • Publish comics as stand-alone websites. 
  • Publish comics as PDFs and images. 


Applications for Education
In my Practical Ed Tech Newsletter I outlined five ideas for incorporating comic strip creation into your classroom. Those ideas included illustrating vocabulary words, illustrating favorite stories, creating timelines, making digital greeting cards, and illustrating original writing.

Some of my Favorites - Knowt!

This week is school vacation week here in Maine. I usually take this week off to go ice fishing on Moosehead Lake. Unfortunately, that's not happening this year. Instead I'll be "staycationing" and working on some projects around home. While on my staycation I'll be sharing some of my personal favorite tools. Knowt is one of my favorite new tools of the last 18 months.

Knowt is a free service for turning documents into flashcards, quizzes, and other review activities. When it was initially launched it was created for individual use. Since then Knowt developed a teacher platform that you can use to develop activities to directly share with your students. 

I made a short video overview of how Knowt's teacher platform works. Here are some highlights of the Knowt platform to note before watching my video. 

  • You can create online classrooms for your students to join. It is possible to import Google Classroom rosters. 
  • Knowt will generate flashcards based on the documents that you create or import (I just copied and pasted a Google Doc into Knowt). 
  • Knowt will generate quizzes based on your documents. 
    • Quiz question formats include multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, matching, true/false, and sequencing. 
  • Quizzes can be graded or ungraded activities. 
Here's my short video overview of Knowt's free teacher platform. 

Some of My Favorites - MIT App Inventor

This week is school vacation week here in Maine. I usually take this week off to go ice fishing on Moosehead Lake. Unfortunately, that's not happening this year. Instead I'll be "staycationing" and working on some projects around home. While on my staycation I'll be sharing some of my personal favorite tools. The first is the MIT App Inventor

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

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

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Music, QR Codes, and Cold - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where we're going to have another cold and snowy weekend. Every morning this week was below zero (Fahrenheit) when I let our dogs out. This morning is the same. Fortunately, it should warm up to about 20F by the middle of day. It'll be nice for a little bit of skiing and then some fun indoor activities like assembling jigsaw puzzles (if our cat can stay off of them). I hope that you also have something fun planned for your weekend. 

This week was another week of 100% online instruction for my high school computer science students. We've now had more online days than in-person days this year. If ever there was a year to illustrate the point that school is much more than just academics, this is the year. My students clearly miss having in-person interactions. I'm trying to make it fun when I can, but it's still not the same as in-person classes. Next week is a vacation week and then we'll be back in-person. I can't wait!

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Video - How to Annotate Your Screen in Google Meet
2. Fun Activities for Snowy Days
3. The Easiest Way to Create QR Codes for Google Forms
4. Musical Explorers World Map
5. How to Edit Master Slides in Google Slides
6. Ten Time-savers for G Suite for Education Users
7. Filters, Captions, and Other Zoom Features You Might Have Missed

Thank you for your support! 
  • More than 300 of you have participated in a Practical Ed Tech course last year. Those registrations help keep Free Technology for Teachers and Practical Ed Tech going. I couldn't do it without you!
  • BoomWriter is hosting a unique creative writing contest for kids. Check it out!
  • Spaces takes a new approach to digital portfolios. Give it a try!
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 33,000 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. 
  • And if you're curious about my life outside of education, you can follow me on Instagram or Strava.

Three Easy Ways for Students to Make Short Audio Recordings - No Email Required

Earlier this week I answered an email from a reader who was looking for suggestions for tools that her elementary school students can use to make short audio recordings. Since most elementary school students don't have active email addresses, I suggested some tools that don't require any registration or log-in. In the video included at the end of this blog post I demonstrate how to use the following free tools to create short audio recordings. Those tools are Vocaroo, Online Voice Recorder, and Twisted Wave. 

Vocaroo
I've been using Vocaroo for more than a decade. It's incredibly simple to use. Just head to the site, click the record button, and start talking. When you're finished recording hit the stop button. You can listen to your recording before downloading it as an MP3. If you don't like your recording you can create a new one by just refreshing the Vocaroo.com homepage and starting again.

Online Voice Recorder
Online-Voice-Recorder.com offers the same simplicity of Vocaroo plus a couple of features that I've always wished Vocaroo had. One of those features is the ability to pause a recording in progress and resume it when I want to. The other feature is the option to trim the dead air at the beginning and end of a recording.

Twisted Wave
Twisted Wave offers many more features than either of the tools mentioned above. But at it's most basic level you can still just head to the site, launch the recorder, start talking, and then export your recording as an MP3 all without creating an account on the site. For those who are looking for a way to save audio directly into Google Drive, Twisted Wave offers that capability. 

Watch this video for a short overview of all three of the services mentioned above. 

Friday, February 12, 2021

Whiteboard.chat - Create Online Whiteboards You Can Share and Monitor

Back in September I wrote a review of a new online whiteboard tool called Whiteboard.chat. I like it because it allows teachers to create whiteboards for their students. Teachers can then remotely monitor the whiteboards to see what their students are doing on those whiteboards. It's great for doing things like asking students to solve a math problem and then watch as students work out the solutions on their whiteboards.

Since my initial review of Whiteboard.chat back in September, the folks behind the service have been steadily adding more features to the service. Some of those new features include:

  • More background choices including options for sheet music, lined paper, and graphing paper. 
  • New symbols and clipart including cute alphabet animals. 
  • Templates for flowcharts and mind maps. 
  • Virtual math manipulatives.
  • Recording audio and video notes to add to whiteboards.
  • Inclusion of Microsoft's Immersive Reader to provide read-aloud capabilities. 
Just as before, Whiteboard.chat can be used by you and your students without having to register or sign into an account. You can learn more about how Whiteboard.chat works, including the teacher and student views in my new video about the service. 



See my earlier review of Whiteboard.chat in this video.

ClassTools Wikipedia Timeline Generator - Create and Edit Timelines

Russel Tarr, a history teacher and developer of ClassTools.net, recently released a new template called the Wikipedia Timeline Generator. This free tool will take a Wikipedia article and generate a timeline based on that article. That's not all it does. You can edit the entries on the timeline to correct dates, to edit the information associated with the dates, delete entries on the timeline, and add new dates to the timeline. Timelines created with the Wikipedia Timeline Generator can be embedded into web pages and or shared with the unique URL assigned to your timeline.

In this short video I demonstrate how to use the Wikipedia Timeline Generator hosted by ClassTools. 



Applications for Education
The ClassTools Wikipedia Timeline Generator could be a good tool to use to create an easy-to-read summary of a biography or a historical event. I might consider having students use Wikipedia Timeline Generator as a starting point for an assignment in which I ask them to provide more details in each timeline entry or ask them to fact-check the entries in a timeline.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

How to Customize Video Playback in PowerPoint

Whether it's to illustrate a point, to tug at heart strings, or to provide comic relief a good video clip can help move a presentation along. But that's not the case if you have to spend time searching for a segment of a video in the middle of your presentation. That's why you should try to set a specific playback marker when inserting videos into your PowerPoint slides. 

You can customize video playback in PowerPoint when you use videos that are stored on your computer as well as when you use videos that are hosted on YouTube. When you use a video that is hosted on your computer you can specify a start and end time for the video clip. When you use a video that is hosted on YouTube you can specify a start time. If you have the choice between using a video clip that is stored on your computer or one that is hosted on YouTube, use the one that is stored on your computer. In this short video you can see why that matters. 

In this video I demonstrate how to insert videos into your PowerPoint slides and how to customize the playback of those videos.