Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Games, Transcripts, and Copyright - The Month in Review

Good evening from Maine where it was a beautiful day for bike ride after school. Jumping on my bicycle after school on a sunny spring day always makes me feel like a kid again. I hope that you also have an activity in your life that makes you feel like a kid again.

As the sun sets on the month of March I've compiled a list of the most read posts of the last 31 days. Take a look and see if your favorite post made the list or if there is something neat that you missed earlier this month.

These were the most popular posts of the month:
1. How to Create Your Own Online Board Game
2. Kahoot Now Displays Questions and Answers on the Same Screen - Finally!
3. How Does Artificial Intelligence Learn? - A TED-Ed Lesson I'm Using Today
4. Google Meet Transcripts Automatically Saved as New Google Docs
5. 27 Videos That Can Help Students Improve Their Writing
6. 5 Features of Google Advanced Search That Students Should Know How to Use
7. Why My Dogs Have Email Addresses and Your Dog or Cat Should Too
8. New Copyright Compliance Checks in YouTube
9. Jamboard Now Offers Version History
10. A New Option for Shortening Microsoft Forms Links

On-demand Professional Development at PracticalEdTech.com
The registrations for my Practical Ed Tech webinars and courses is what enables me to keep Free Technology for Teachers going. Right now there are three on-demand courses and webinars available.
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.
This post originally appeared on FreeTech4Teachers.com. If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission. Sites that steal my work include CloudComputin and 711Web.

A Fun and Educational Use of Cardboard Boxes

Instructables is a site that I've written about a couple of times during the last year. I love to visit the site for inspiration for all kinds of hands-on STEM projects for kids to do at home and or in their classrooms. On Instructables you'll find everything from complex Raspberry Pi projects to relatively simple projects developed with cardboard, glue, and other common craft materials. 

Just like they did at this time last year, Instructables is hosting a contest called the Speed Cardboard Challenge. As the name implies, you have to design and make something out of cardboard. You also have to publish directions that other people can follow to make your project. The contest runs through April 12th at midnight Pacific Time. There are nine prizes to be awarded to contest winners and runners-up. The top prize is a $250 gift card.

At the time of this writing there are not any entries into the contest! So you or your students have a good chance of winning. You can see some of last year's entries into the contest right here

Thanks to online shopping and quarantining there is an abundance of cardboard in my life. Projects like the ones on the Instructables Speed Cardboard Challenge provide a good way to put some of that cardboard to use. 

Applications for Education
Doing things like Instructables cardboard projects can be a good way to spark students' imaginations for STEM-related questions to explore. Depending upon the project and the age of your students they could come up with questions about PSI (pounds per square inch), calculating area and volume, or the structural integrity of various adhesives as they interact with cardboard.

This post originally appeared on FreeTech4Teachers.com. If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission. Sites that steal my work include CloudComputin and 711Web.

A Great Series of Videos for Those Who Have I.T. Career Questions

A couple of weeks ago I asked for help from my Twitter followers as I planned to help my students create resumes. Many of you were kind enough to take some time to offer really helpful advice. I passed that advice along to my students when we spent a day working on their resumes that they were developing for jobs in I.T. 

The other thing that I did on that day was share this video from a YouTube channel titled I.T. Career Questions. In the video, Types of I.T. Jobs in 2020, the host runs through a big list of job titles in the field of information technology. He categorizes the jobs and explains what the job titles mean, the career levels that correspond to the job titles, and the level of education that is expected in each type of job. 

The video was a great complement to and reinforcement of what I had already explained to my students. As we all know, you can explain something to your students as many times and ways as you like, but sometimes it takes a different voice for students to really "get it." That's exactly what this video did for me and my students. 

I.T. Career Questions has dozens of other videos explaining what it's like to work in I.T. They also host occasional livestreams during which viewers can ask questions about working in I.T. 


This post originally appeared on FreeTech4Teachers.com. If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission. Sites that steal my work include CloudComputin and 711Web.

Three Areas That Can Help Teachers Improve Hybrid Learning for All Students

This is a guest post from Hali Larkins (@HaliLarkins), communications intern at The Learning Accelerator and Master's student at Columbia Teachers' College.


Across the country, teachers, students, and families have been engaging in simultaneous learning (often referred to as hybrid learning, or “Zoom and Room”) for quite some time. A year into these practices, we have become more familiar with the unfamiliar, but there is still so much for us to learn. Some of the challenges that teachers face in simultaneous learning are related to questions around, “How can teachers equally engage, monitor, and support groups of students who are both in-person and at home ?” We know that this is not the optimal practice, but at The Learning Accelerator, we have identified some tips that can hopefully help to provide success in classrooms during this time.

  1. Make the plan and content visible. The use of tools such as virtual notebooks, online agendas, and communicating the plan, can provide consistent structures, routines, and access to virtual materials and content. 

  2. Build Culture and Community. We understand that community building is difficult in simultaneous learning environments, but providing remote classroom jobs, virtual reward systems, and opportunities for fun can go a long way in strengthening collaboration and connection amongst students. 

  3. Create Opportunities for Student Agency. Simultaneous learning does not always have to be synchronous. Provide students with a variety of opportunities for engagement such as through playlists, choice boards, and task lists. Such strategies cam empower students to drive their own learning
While simultaneous learning is new for most of us, the tips above only scratch the surface. The Learning Accelerator continues to learn from educators and school systems across the country about what is working and what is not working. One of the tools that we have found to be helpful for designing instruction for simultaneous learning is the Concurrent Classroom Model Toolkit, a guide created by Mendon-Upton Regional School District. In this guide, teachers will find additional resources and models that can continue to enhance hybrid learning for their students.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

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

Every other Thursday Rushton Hurley from Next Vista for Learning and I host a free webinar called Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff. The next one is this Thursday which happens to be April Fools' Day. 

As the title implies, during each 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 couple of weeks.

Watch one of the recent episodes to get a sense of the webinars are all about. Register for this week's webinar right here

And on a related note, PBS Learning Media offers this short video explanation of April Fool's Day

Record and Send Voice Notes in Gmail

A couple of months ago I started dabbling with a Chrome extension called Mote that lets me add voice notes directly into Google Classroom, Slides, and Docs. I have found it quite helpful for adding clarifying comments to the announcements that I post for my students in Google Classroom. Recently, Mote added the capability to record and send voice notes through Gmail. This is a feature that I foresee myself using quite a bit as well. 

With Mote's Chrome extension installed you'll notice a little "Mote" icon in the Gmail composition menu whenever you open a message. Just click on that little icon and you can start recording a voice note that is then automatically inserted into your message. As I demonstrate in this short video, you can type above and below the inserted voice note. 

Watch my short video about using Mote in Gmail to learn how to record and send a voice note. The video also shows how recipients can play your voice notes even if they don't have Mote installed in their web browsers. 


Check out this post that I published on PracticalEdTech.com to learn how to use Mote to record voice notes in Google Classroom, Slides, and Docs. And take a look at this post for a dozen Gmail productivity tips

Three Ways Teachers Can Improve Remote Learning

This is a guest post from Hali Larkins (@HaliLarkins), communications intern at The Learning Accelerator and Master's student at Columbia Teachers' College.


Right now, many students are still trying to navigate major changes to their environments, learning formats, and wellbeing —all factors that can impact their ability to do well in remote learning. Teachers can help students to do their best by introducing them to tools and skills that allow them to manage their own learning. We found that not only do skills in self-directed learning help students to take initiative and set goals, as well as to identify and choose the right resources, but it can also lead to success in remote learning. Here are three areas that teachers can focus on to better help students develop the skills that they need to do well during these times:

Build Independent Learning Skills: 
Independent learning, whether synchronous or asynchronous, requires students to exert greater effort to self-regulate and direct themselves. Teachers can help students build these skills by giving them tools to track their learning through goal setting— a fundamental skill that can help students track their learning progress. With the help of their teachers, students who are learning remotely can co-create schedules and goals in order to manage, monitor and reflect on their learning to know when and where to seek help.

Partner with Families: 
Remote learning also provides a tremendous opportunity to increase partnership with families. Teachers can establish open lines of communications using tools such as Google Classroom to provide weekly guardian summaries and offer frequent communication through emails, texts, and virtual check-ins. These mechanisms can empower parents and guardians tooth guide students and provide valuable feedback to teachers.

Foster Supports for the Whole Child: 
Students’ abilities to fully engage in learning is ultimately influenced by their social and emotional wellbeing (SEL). In remote learning, teachers can implement SEL supports by providing time for students to reflect, journal, and share their feelings, through the use of emojis, and by providing “brain breaks” during instruction time. These strategies not only help teachers to fully understand students’ emotional needs but also provide them with valuable information to adjust instruction as needed.

Navigating remote learning continues to be a challenging task for students. The areas and strategies mentioned above can be applied at every grade level and with all students to provide skills in self management that are valuable beyond academics.

Monday, March 29, 2021

A New Citation Generator from ClassTools

Russel Tarr at ClassTools.net has developed another handy tool for students. This time he's made a citation generator. The ClassTools Citation Generator will create a MLA, APA, Chicago, and HAD citations for any URL that you enter. It will also create citations for books from large publishers. I gave it a try this morning and made this short video about how it works. 




I didn't demonstrate it in the video, but there is a ClassTools Citation Generator bookmarklet that you can install in your browser. With that installed you can simply click it we you're visiting a website and have a citation instantly created for you.

Applications for Education
Like most citation generators, this one makes it a little bit less of a chore for students to cite their sources when writing a research report or assembling a presentation. And if it's less of a chore students are more likely to do it and get in the habit of citing their sources.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Copyright, Transcripts, and Worms - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where it feels like spring! All week we had unseasonably warm weather. We even had a thunderstorm yesterday. All that warm weather has made almost all of the snow to melt which has created some big mud puddles. And where there are mud puddles there are worms and my children playing with mud. That's what we'll be doing today. I hope that you also have something fun to do to start your weekend. 

This week I published some blog posts on Practical Ed Tech in addition to my usual posts here on Free Technology for Teachers. One of those posts was all about Gmail tips, take a look.

These were the most popular posts of the week:
1. New Copyright Compliance Checks in YouTube
2. Google Meet Transcripts Automatically Saved as New Google Docs
3. Record Annotated Video Presentations With PresentationTube's Chrome Extension
4. Forky - A Simple Mind Mapping Tool
5. A New Option for Shortening Microsoft Forms Links
6. Kahoot Now Displays Questions and Answers on the Same Screen - Finally!
7. Enable Audio and Video Captions on Any Page in Chrome

On-demand Professional Development at PracticalEdTech.com
The registrations for my Practical Ed Tech webinars and courses is what enables me to keep Free Technology for Teachers going. Right now there are three on-demand courses and webinars available.
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.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Google Meet Transcripts Automatically Saved as New Google Docs

For Google Meet users one of the easiest ways to improve the accessibility of your live online instruction is to enable captions during your meetings. A transcript of those captions can be quite helpful to students who miss the meeting and or those who want to revisit the highlights of the meeting. Google Meet Transcripts by Scribbl is a new Chrome extension that can make the process of creating a meeting transcript and sharing it easier than ever before. 

Google Meet Transcripts by Scribbl will record all of the captions that are generated during a Google Meet call. When the meeting is over a Google Document containing the transcript is automatically generated for you. The best part is that the transcript is time-stamped! The time-stamps make the transcript easier to read and easier to find a section of the meeting without having to read through the entire transcript. The transcript is a Google Document so you can share it just like you would any other Google Document including publishing a copy for each student via Google Classroom. 



It should be noted that if you try this extension and it doesn't work the first time, check to make sure that you don't already have another caption-saving extension enabled in Chrome. If that's the case, disable the other one before running Google Meet Transcripts by Scribbl

Applications for Education
Google Meet Transcripts by Scribbl could be a great tool for teachers who want to have a written record of what they said and what their students said during an online class meeting. (If you record students' comments make sure you are in compliance with your school's policy about recording). It could also be useful for recording the notes or minutes from a staff meeting that is held in Google Meet.

A New Option for Shortening Microsoft Forms Links

It has always been possible to shorten long Microsoft Forms URLS with third-party services like Bitly and Yellkey. Recently, Microsoft added a built-in URL shortener to Microsoft Forms. This option now appears when you click on the share button in Microsoft Forms. Check the small box that reads "shorten URL" and you'll have a shortened URL to share. 

While the shortened URLs that Microsoft Forms provides are shorter than the default URLs for Forms, they're still fairly long URLs that aren't exactly memorable. To create shortened URLs that people can actually remember and spell you'll want to use the custom URL shortening provided by services like Bitly, TinyURL, or Yellkey. All three of those URL shortening services are demonstrated in this short video



On a related note, now that we're getting closer to the end of the school year you might be thinking about end-of-year surveys for students and parents. Here's how to use Microsoft Forms to create a survey

Thursday, March 25, 2021

A Quick Tip for Categorizing Gmail Messages

The default inbox arrangement in Gmail consists of a Primary tab, a Social tab, and a Promotions tab. Gmail generally does a pretty good job of accurately sorting messages into those tabs. There are some occasions when messages that should appear in the Primary tab appear in Promotions and times when messages that should be in the Promotions tab land in the Primary tab. Fortunately, there is an easy way to remedy that problem. 

You can move messages from one Gmail tab to another by just clicking on the subject line of a message and then dragging it to the tab that you want it to be in. When you do that you'll see a small pop-up message asking if you want to have all future emails from that sender appear in tab to which you just moved the message. Watch this short video to see how this process works. 



Applications for Education
While rare, there are times when a message from a teacher to a student or student to a teacher lands in the wrong tab. Dragging the message back to the proper tab can help prevent that from happening again. Then the challenge is to get students to actually open their inboxes!

Free Webinar on April Fools' Day

Every other week Rushton Hurley from Next Vista for Learning and I host a free webinar called Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff. The next one is next Thursday which happens to be April Fools' Day. 

As the title implies, during each 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 couple of weeks.

Watch one of the recent episodes to get a sense of the webinars are all about. Register for next week's webinar right here

And on a related note, PBS Learning Media offers this short video explanation of April Fool's Day

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Forky - A Simple Mind Mapping Tool

I've tried dozens, possibly more than one hundred, mind mapping and flowchart creation tools over the last thirteen+ years of writing this blog. In fact, my first published writing was as a co-author of a chapter about mind mapping in the book What School Leaders Need to Know About Digital Technologies and Social Media. I tell you that to say I've seen a lot of mind mapping tools. Of those, the best ones are usually the simplest ones. Forky is a new mind mapping tool that fits into the category of simple but effective. 

Forky is a free mind mapping tool that focuses on just connecting text boxes. As you'll see in this video, all that you have to do to make a mind map with Forky is to double-click on the screen then start typing in the text box that appears when you double-click. To add a new connected idea just hit the tab key on your keyboard and a new text box appears for you to type in. If you want to create a new text box that isn't connected to a previous one, just double-click somewhere else on your screen. You can make connections between boxes after they're written by simply holding the shift key while clicking on one box then another. 

Forky doesn't include support for inserting images, video, or any other media. It's just for writing a series of connected ideas. You can invite other people to view your Forky mind maps via email. 




Applications for Education

Mind mapping tools like Forky can be helpful to students when they are planning a creative story that has a few storylines in it. Forky's option to invite a collaborator could be used by students to invite their teachers to review their mind maps and provide some feedback.

5 Ideas for Using Threadit in School

This is an excerpt of my full article that I published on my other site, Practical Ed Tech

Threadit is Google's new tool for recording webcam and screencast videos. The best way to think of it is as "Google Docs meets Flipgrid." Here's my preliminary list of five ways to use it in school. 

  • Group Video Presentations
  • Asynchronous Video Discussions
  • Segmented Tutorial Videos
  • Asynchronous Video Office Hours
  • "Feel Good" Group Messages
Details on all five of those ideas can be read here on Practical Ed Tech

My complete video overview of Threadit can be seen here on my YouTube channel or as embedded below. 

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

New Copyright Compliance Checks in YouTube

 

Last night I uploaded a new video to my YouTube channel. Everything was normal for the first few steps. I added my description, added a custom thumbnail, and added the video to a playlist just as I normally would. Then I clicked the button to state that I didn't include any controversial topics that advertisers should be aware of. What came next was a new screen called "checks." 

The new "checks" screen that appears just before you publish your video on YouTube is a preliminary check that YouTube performs to make sure that you haven't uploaded content that infringes on someone else's copyright. Presumably, these checks are performed by some magic algorithm crafted in the bowels of the Google machine. 

These new copyright checks could be helpful in making sure that you haven't accidentally infringed on someone's copyrighted material before it goes public. 

Take a look at this post to learn more about YouTube settings and tools that apply to an education setting. To learn more about Copyright, watch the recording of my webinar on the topic

Two Ways to Create Videos in Your Gmail Inbox

Last week Google introduced a new video recording tool called Threadit. A Chrome extension is one aspect of what Threadit offers. With the Threadit Chrome extension installed you can record a video without leaving your Gmail inbox. Threadit is now the second tool that I can recommend for recording screencast videos directly from your inbox. Loom's Chrome extension is the first tool that I recommended for making screencast videos directly from your inbox. Both tools are demonstrated in this new video


Learn more about all of Threadit's features in this post on Practical Ed Tech

Applications for Education

Both of these tools provide an easy way to reply to requests for tech help. Creating a quick screencast video to answer a student's or a colleague's question about how to do something on his or her computer can be a lot more efficient than trying to write step-by-step directions. 

Monday, March 22, 2021

Record Annotated Video Presentations With PresentationTube's Chrome Extension

PresentationTube is a non-profit that has provided a free service to teachers for many years. That service is the ability to record video presentations based on PowerPoint files and PDFs. Recently, PresentationTube released a Chrome extension that lets you create video lessons in your web browser. 

PresentationTube's Chrome extension will let you record while talking over your PowerPoint slides or a PDF. You can record with your webcam turned on or you can choose to just record your voice talking over your slides or PDF. While you're recording you can draw on the screen, add text notes to the screen, and highlight text on the screen. 

When you have finished recording a presentation with PresentationTube's Chrome extension you can upload it directly to the PresentationTube website where you can then publish it publicly or keep it unlisted. Much like Google Docs, if you make your PresentationTube unlisted then only people who have the direct link to it can view it. 

Applications for Education

PresentationTube's Chrome extension could be a good one for anyone who is looking for a new, easier way to create video lessons based on their existing slides. Unfortunately, it only works with PowerPoint or PDFs at this time. Hopefully, in the future there will be support for Google Slides. In the meantime you can always download your Google Slides as PPT or PDF to use with PresentationTube.

MathQuiz.io - A Simple Game to Practice Math Skills

MathQuiz.io is a new math game developed by a student. It's a relatively simple site that presents you with a series of math problems to solve in your head then enter an answer. The problems are presented in sets of ten consecutive questions. You can play in an "easy" mode which is mostly simple addition, subtraction, and multiplication or you can plan in the "medium" mode which incorporates problems with fractions, division, and negative numbers. 

Applications for Education

MathQuiz.io doesn't require players to sign-up or log-in. There isn't any advertising on the site. It's just a simple site that students can use to practice their math skills. It's the kind of site that is handy to link to a class website or LMS under the heading of "things to do with extra time."

ICYMI - Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions & Share Cool Stuff - Episode 33

Every other Thursday afternoon Rushton Hurley from Next Vista for Learning and I host a half-hour webinar plainly titled Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions & Share Cool Stuff. Last week was our Larry Bird episode (number 33). The recording of the webinar is now available to view here or as embedded below. 

In this episode we shared a cool tool for improving your writing and a cool video titled "A Concerto is a Conversation." Some of the questions we answered covered copyright, formative assessment, capturing audio in screencasts, and a Google Docs quirk. 


Register here to join us for our next episode on April 1st at 4pm ET/ 1pm PT. 

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Geography, AI, and Presentations - The Week in Review

Good evening from Maine where it was a great first day of spring! I went for a bike ride outside then played outdoor bingo with my daughters. We also got started on some yard work that we can do in the few west-facing patches of lawn where the snow has completely melted to the ground. Outdoor bingo was a lot more fun than yardwork. I hope that you also had time for something fun today. 

This week I hosted a webinar titled Copyright & Creative Commons for K-12 Educators. The recording of the webinar is available here. Next week I'm hosting a Practical Ed Tech webinar titled 5 Ways to Blend Technology Into Outdoor Lessons. You can register for that webinar here

These were the week's most popular posts:

1. How Does Artificial Intelligence Learn? - A TED-Ed Lesson I'm Using Today
2. City Guesser 2.0 - Guess City Locations from Video Clips
3. Kahoot Now Displays Questions and Answers on the Same Screen - Finally!
4. Jamboard Now Offers Version History
5. Live Transcription in Zoom - Free for All Who Need It
6. A New Look for Presenting With Google Slides
7. Enable Audio and Video Captions on Any Page in Chrome

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. 
  • 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.

Friday, March 19, 2021

Enable Audio and Video Captions on Any Page in Chrome

This week Google rolled-out the latest update to Chrome. In the latest version there is now support for automatic captioning of audio and video on any web page that you visit in the Chrome web browser. The captions will work whether or not the audio is played aloud. When enabled, captions will be displayed at the bottom of the page you are viewing. 

You can enable audio and video captioning in accessibility settings of the advanced section of Chrome settings. You can access the accessibility settings by entering chrome://settings/accessibility in the Chrome URL field or by opening the little "three dot" menu in the upper-right corner of Chrome and then choosing "settings." In this short video I provide a demonstration of how to enable captions in Chrome and how captions appear on a page.  


Applications for Education
This is a great update for students and teaches two reasons. First, from an accessibility standpoint Chrome's new captioning service makes more content accessible to more students than ever. Second, on those days when a student forgets his or her headphones and you plan to have students watch videos or listen to audio, they can still get the information without having to play the audio aloud. 

Synth Relaunches With a Renewed Focus on Asynchronous Audio Conversations

This week Synth released an updated user interface and a renewed focus on helping teachers and students engage in asynchronous audio conversations. In this post I'll provide an overview of what Synth does, what has been updated in its user interface, what's still the same, and how Synth can be used by teachers. 

What is Synth?

Synth is a free service designed for teachers and students to record spoken audio. People can listen to the audio recordings and respond with audio recordings of their own. Listeners can also respond to each other's responses. A simple example of this is a teacher starting a conversation with one audio recording about a news story then students respond with audio comments. Classmates and the teacher can then respond to those responses.

What's New in Synth?

The original version of Synth limited recordings to 256 seconds (an odd choice of time limit). The current version allows recording for up to thirty minutes. You can stop and start midstream while recording. In other words, you don't have to record everything as a stream of consciousness rambling.

In your Synth account you can now create channels. Channels in Synth let you organize your recordings according to topics, themese, or any other criteria of your choosing. You can invite people to join your channel so that they can respond to any new recording that you publish. You invite people to your channel by providing them with an channel invitation code similar to the way that Google Classroom uses invitation codes.

All responses to Synth recordings are held for moderation. That is now the default setting for all channels. Additionally, you can now restrict listening to only people who have logged into a Synth account.

What's the Same in Synth?

It is still possible to make all of your recordings public. Recordings can still be downloaded from your channel if you want to do that. The focus of Synth is still on making it easy for people to have asynchronous audio conversations and to that end Synth is still really easy to use. Watch my new video overview of Synth to see how easy it is to record and publish audio. My video provides a teacher's perspective and a student's perspective of using Synth.



Applications for Education

Swivl, the producers of Synth, published a lengthy article detailing nine ways for teachers to use Synth with students. Some of the highlights from that article include using Synth for audio exit tickets, creating audio newsletters, and hosting book talks.

My social studies teacher brain went right to using Synth for moderated discussion of current news events. I'd probably do something like assign students the job of sharing one story and their thoughts about it each week. I'd also put in a requirement to respond to a classmate's story and commentary. Then at the end of the week I might have a whole class discussion about the story that got the most comments.

How to Change Your Mouse Pointer Size and Color

Earlier this week I looked at one of my students' computers and noticed that he had made his mouse pointer red and about three times its normal size. When I asked him why he changed it his answer was, "it's easier to see." I suppose that I should have known that would be his answer. His answer served as a reminder that many of us never think about the size and color of the mouse pointer on our screens, but for some students the size and color of the mouse pointed is very important. 

Adjusting the size and color of the mouse pointer in Windows 10 is easy to do. As I demonstrate in this video, you can access the mouse settings by simply typing "mouse" in the start-up search bar. From there you can change all of your mouse preferences including scroll speed, left-right preferences, mouse pointer size, and mouse pointer color. 



Mac users can also change the size of their mouse pointers and the ways in which the mouse pointer responds to input. You'll find those settings in the accessibility menu on your Mac. Watch this short video to learn how to adjust mouse settings on a Mac.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Live Transcription in Zoom - Free for All Who Need It

About six weeks ago I published a video about how to enable automatic captions in Zoom. At the time, that feature was only available in the paid versions of Zoom. Since then Zoom has made two updates to their policy about access to live captioning. 

First, Zoom now refers to live captioning as live transcription. Second, Zoom has said that all accounts including free accounts will have access to live transcription by fall of 2021 (fall in the northern hemisphere). But in the meantime Zoom will provide live transcription for free to all meeting hosts who need it for accessibility reasons. Zoom requests that you fill out this form to request live transcription be turned on in your free Zoom account. 

Zoom's complete, updated statement about the availability of live transcription can be read here

How to Mute Everyone in a Zoom Meeting

Are you tired of starting every Zoom meeting with five minutes of "please remember to mute yourself" as people straggle into the meeting? Are you tired of muttering to yourself, "why doesn't the host use the mute everyone function?" If so, this video is for you! 

In this short video I demonstrate how to create a Zoom meeting in which all participants are automatically muted when they join the meeting. This applies whether they join the meeting on-time or are late to join the meeting. 



If you already know how to do this, pleasse share the video with a colleague who could benefit from it. Everyone will thank you for it.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

A Reason to Have Students Conduct Traceroutes Even if You're Not a Computer Science Teacher

Back in November I published a video about using the ping command on a Windows computer. The reason for that was to show an easy method to check if a website is down or if there is a problem on your end. 

Using the ping command in the command prompt window on your computer might seem like something only computer science teachers and students should do, but the reality is that any teacher or student can benefit from knowing how to do it. Likewise, running a traceroute might seem like something only a computer science teacher or student should know how to do, but it's actually something that anyone can benefit from knowing how to do. 

A traceroute shows you the hops or connection points between your computer and the destination (often a website). This is an interesting way for students to see where in the world traffic is going to and coming from. Run a few traceroutes with your students and see if they're surprised by what they see. Watch this short video in which I demonstrate how to conduct a traceroute. 

Oh, The Irony! - The Websites That Plagiarized My Posts About Copyright

I knew this would happen. I also know there's not much I can do to prevent it other than file DMCA takedown notices when it happens. The "it" I'm referring to is the plagiarism of my blog post announcing my free webinar about copyright and the one containing the recording of the webinar. 

As an exercise in venting with the small hope that one of these sites actually responds after I publish this list, here's a list of places where my work is regularly plagiarized. 

Cloud Computin

I've been trying for more than a year to get them to stop stealing my work. They haven't. Their hosting service is Name Cheap. Name Cheap appears to not care about DMCA takedown notices because their only replies are "we received your complaint and we're investigating." Name Cheap never does anything to comply with the takedown notice after that. 

https://www.cloudcomputin.com/2021/03/free-technology-for-teachers-copyright-creative-commons-for-k-12-educators/ 

CUFEED

https://www.cufeed.com/2021/03/16/free-technology-for-teachers-webinar-recording/

Newsmagazine.online

https://newsmagazine.online/index.php/2021/03/17/webinar-recording-copyright-creative-commons-for-k-12-educators/

Daily Advent

https://www.dailyadvent.com/news/e833fa2d08a4db2569b24d7d52daca1f-Webinar-Recording--Copyright--Creative-Commons-for-K12-Educators

Great Plains Computers & Networks

http://www.gpcn.net/news---alerts.html

Gaming Post

https://gamingpost.com/2021/03/16/webinar-recording-copyright-creative-commons-for-k-12-educators-8/

DailyDose.pk

https://dailydose.pk/copyright-creative-commons-for-k-12-educators-free-webinar-on-monday

TodayHeadline

https://todayheadline.co/free-technology-for-teachers-webinar-recording/

A New Look for Presenting With Google Slides

On Monday Google announced a change to the presentation menu in Google Slides. Yesterday afternoon I got to try it for the first time. The new Google Slides presentation menu is a great improvement over the old one!

Just like before you still need to click the "present" button in the Slides editor. You'll notice the changes after doing that. When you enter the full presentation mode you'll notice that the large menu of presentation tools that used to be in the bottom, left corner of your slides is now gone! That large menu has been replaced by a tiny, easy-to-miss, menu that only appears when you hover your cursor over the bottom, left corner of your slides. When the menu does appear it will only show the number of the slide that you're on an arrow to advance your slides. To get the full list of presentation options you'll have to open the little "three dot" menu that appears next to the slide advancement arrow. See my screenshot below for picture of the new menu when opened. 


I love the change that Google has made to the Slides presentation format. The new "hidden" menu is far less obtrusive than the old menu. Watch my video below to see the new menu in action. 

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

PayGrade.io Now Offers Google SSO

PayGrade is a classroom economy simulation that you can use all year. As I wrote last year, unlike some mock economy activities PayGrade can be used in just about any classroom setting. Recently, PayGrade added the option to use your school-issued Google account to sign into PayGrade. This should make it easier for more teachers and students to participate in classroom economy simulations. 

How PayGrade Works
Last year I wrote this detailed overview of how PayGrade works. The following is a condensed version of that overview. 

PayGrade lets you create an online classroom space in which students have to complete jobs to earn virtual currency. PayGrade offers a list of jobs that you can assign to your students or you can create your own jobs for students to complete. Some of the default job listings that you'll find listed in PayGrade are secretary, conservationist, and technology assistant. The rate of pay for each job is something that you can choose.

At the end of each week in PayGrade your students get paid in virtual currency that they can redeem for various rewards of their choosing. Students also have the option to just bank their virtual currency for use at a later date.

PayGrade isn't just a simple "students do jobs, students get rewards" system. That is because students have to pay bills from their virtual paychecks before they can spend their currency for things that they want.

Webinar Recording - Copyright & Creative Commons for K-12 Educators

Yesterday afternoon I hosted a free webinar titled Copyright & Creative Commons for K-12 Educators. The recording of the webinar is now available to view here on my YouTube channel. The recording is also embedded below. 




Here's a list of the resources that I included in the webinar:
Lessons from the $9.2 million copyright judgment against Houston ISD

Crash Course Intellectual Property

Measuring Fair Use

Seven Free Tools for Helping Students Cite Their Work

Copyright & Creativity - Lesson Plans

Common Sense Education - Lesson Plans

Read Write Think - The Debate Over Downloading Music - Lesson Plan

C-Span Classroom - The Role of Congress in Music Licensing

US Copyright Office statements on Fair Use

Stanford University Libraries’ Copyright and Fair Use Charts

Kathy Schrock’s Respect for Intellectual Property

Just for fun I'm including this little note: 
There's a website called Cloud Computin' that has been stealing my work for years and won't comply with DMCA take-down requests. Let's see if they republish this post while completely missing the irony of doing so. I bet they do! Additionally, their hosting service, Name Cheap won't comply with DMCA take-down notices. 

Monday, March 15, 2021

City Guesser 2.0 - Guess City Locations from Video Clips

For years City Guesser has been a popular geography game in which players have to guess the identity and location of a city based on Google Street View imagery. The new version of City Guesser replaces Google Street View imagery with street level video clips. 

In City Guesser 2.0 players are shown video clips (silent or with background noise) and have to guess the location of the city they're seeing. After each guess players are shown how close or far their guesses were from the actual city location. It's a simple game while also being a challenging game.  

City Guesser 2.0 offers games based on cities of the whole world and landmarks of the whole world. There are also country-specific versions of the game for the United States, Canada, Russia, England, France, Japan, India, Brazil, Australia, and Argentina. Additionally, there is a version of the game covering all of Asia and a version covering all of Europe.  


Applications for Education
Some of the prompts in City Guesser are easier than others, but none are actually easy. To guess correctly players need to study the videos for little clues that tip-off the location. When students guess and discover the correct answers they may become curious about what they’re seeing. I've had this happen with students and adults when using previous version of City Guesser. They'll start investigating the clues in the imagery in detail and ask questions like “what is the language on that billboard?”

Four Short Lessons About the Arrival of Spring

The snow is melting, the sun is shining a bit longer, and we're starting to see and hear more birds around our house. Those are all sure signs that spring is on the horizon here in Maine. On that note, here are some short lessons about the arrival of spring. 

Why do birds sing? And how do they learn the songs that they sing? The answers to those questions and more are revealed in a TED-Ed Lesson titled How Do Birds Learn to Sing?



After learning how birds learn to sing, have your students explore The Wall of Birds interactive mural produced by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The mural features a variety of birds that when clicked on reveal information about that bird, audio of that bird's call, and a map of that bird's natural range.



Why do we have seasons? What causes the changes in weather patterns throughout the seasons? The answers to those questions and more are found in the following SciShow Kids video and Crash Course Kids video.




All of these videos are great candidates for use in an EDPuzzle lesson. Here's an overview of how to use EDpuzzle to turn existing videos into lessons of your own. 

Create Infinitely Recurring Zoom Meetings

Last week one of my colleagues asked me for help setting up some Zoom meetings. He needed to hold a series of meetings that were not going to be held at the same time each day. He could have set a series of individual meetings. That would have required students to have a different link for each meeting. The solution that I proposed to him was to create a recurring meeting without setting a schedule. 

In Zoom you can create recurring meetings without specifying a date and time for each instance of the meeting. By doing this you can give meeting attendees one link that can be used every time they join the meeting regardless of when the meeting is actually held. This also avoids the 50 occurrences limit that Zoom imposes when you schedule recurring meetings that have dates attached to them. The only downside to scheduling recurring meetings without a specific date and time is that you'll have to notify and remind your meeting attendees every time you want them to join the recurring meeting. 

In this short video I demonstrate how to create recurring Zoom meetings without having to create a specific schedule of dates and times. 

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Wordtune Helps You Tune Your Sentences

Last week I wrote about a Chrome extension called Wordtune. It's an extension that will make suggestions on how to change and or improve the structure of your sentences. It will work in a lot of web applications including Google Docs. Google Docs is probably the application in which most students can benefit from using Wordtune. That's why I made this short video to demonstrate how Wordtune works in Google Docs. 


Applications for Education
Wordtune could be a good Chrome extension for students to use to help them avoid using the same phrases and or sentence structures too often in a document.

On a related note, here's what I look for when testing a new Chrome extension.

How to Display Kahoot Questions and Answer Choices on the Same Screen

Last week Kahoot added a feature that teachers and students have been waiting years to see. That feature is the option to have game questions and answer choices displayed on the same screen. This means that students no longer have to look up at a screen in your room or a screen in Zoom then down at their phones or laptops to answer a question. They'll see the question and the answer choices on the same screen. If you haven't seen this new feature in action, take a look at this short video demonstration.   

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Jamboard Now Offers Version History

This school year Google's Jamboard has become one of my go-to tools for hybrid instruction. Yesterday, Google added a feature to Jamboard that I'm excited to finally see. That feature is version history. 

Version history in Jamboard works just like version history in Google Docs and Google Slides. To access it simply open the little "three dots" menu next to the share button in Jamboard. Once you open that menu you'll see a new option for "see version history" at the bottom of the menu. Click on "see version history" and you'll see a list of time-stamped versions or revisions of the Jamboard. 

Just like in Google Docs and Google Slides you can name the different versions of a Google Jamboard. And just like in Docs and Slides you can revert back to previous version with just one click. 


Applications for Education
Version history in Jamboard could be useful when students are working together on a brainstorming activity or, as my students were doing yesterday, a flowchart creation activity. Students can work for a while on a Jamboard then stop and talk about the various versions they've made. If they decide that a previous version was better, they can quickly revert back to it.

On a related note, here's an overview of how to use Jamboard in Google Classroom