Friday, May 14, 2021

Mult.dev - A New Way to Quickly Make an Animated Map

Mult.dev is a new mapping tool that I recently learned about through Maps Mania. Mult.dev does just one thing but does it very well. That thing is create animated maps illustrating the connections and travel distance between two or more places. 

To create an animated map on Mult.dev you do not need an account. You can simply head to the site and start creating your map. To create your map just delete the placeholder cities and replace them with your own. You add cities to your map by using the search box then clicking on the name of the city that you want to have appear on the map. You animation updates instantly when you add a new city.

There are some limited customization options available on Mult.dev. You can choose from a list of nine icons to represent the mode of travel between the cities on your map. You can also choose from a handful of base map colors. 

All animated maps that you create on Mult.dev can be downloaded as MP4 videos. Alternatively, you can share your maps by linking to them or by using the embed codes provided by Mult.dev. Here's the demonstration map that I made. 

Applications for Education
As Keir Clarke pointed out on Maps Mania, Mult.dev probably isn't a great option for mapping short journeys or connections between cities that are relatively close together. Rather, it's a good tool for showing students distances between cities that are far apart like Boston and San Francisco or San Francisco and Sydney.

A feature of Mult.dev that I'd like to see in the future is an option to adjust the speed of animation based on the distances between cities. For example, I'd like to have the animation slow down when showing the distance between Sydney and San Francisco then speed up when showing the distance between San Francisco and Boston.

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

Combine Canva and TeacherMade to Create Online Activities

Canva offers nearly two thousand worksheet templates for teachers to copy and modify. All of the templates can be downloaded as PDFs. You could print them and give them to your students to complete. But who wants another thing to have to print and keep track of? So instead of printing worksheets made with Canva's templates, download the PDF and then upload it to TeacherMade where you can quickly turn that PDF into an online activity. 

With TeacherMade you can upload a PDF then add to it fillable text boxes, lines for matching activities, multiple choice questions, and interactive hotspots to highlight specific points in the PDF. You can also use TeacherMade to add audio to an uploaded PDF. Depending upon the type of questions that you select, TeacherMade will automatically score assignments for you. 

Watch my latest video to see how you can use Canva and TeacherMade together to create online worksheets for your students. The video also shows how a student can access the online activities that you create with TeacherMade. 


You can learn more about using TeacherMade in this video and in this video. I also have nearly two dozen Canva tutorials listed here

Applications for Education
I'm always apprehensive to write about worksheets because a lot of people hear or read "worksheet" and think that it's just a time-filler for rote practice. Canva offers worksheet templates that aren't just rote practice activities. For example, in the video above I used a worksheet template for evaluating writing. When you browse through Canva's worksheet templates gallery you'll find lots of templates that have a similar goal of providing guidance for an activity rather than rote practice of skills or facts.

The thing that I've always appreciated about Canva is that it enables people like me who don't have a natural knack for graphic design to create good-looking graphics, presentations, and PDFs. Looking through Canva's worksheet templates I found plenty of templates that I would snap-up if I was teaching social studies or language arts today. Unfortunately, I didn't see any good templates for computer science so I guess I'll have to make my own.

Developing online formative assessments is one of the topics covered in the Practical Ed Tech Virtual Summer Camp. Early bird discounts are still available. Register here 

This post originally appeared on FreeTech4Teachers.com. If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission. Sites that steal my (Richard Byrne's) work include CloudComputin, TodayHeadline, and 711Web. Featured graphic created by Richard Byrne.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

How to Find Public Google Docs, Slides, Forms, Sheets, and Drawings

Last week I published an animated GIF of how to search by domain to find publicly shared Google Workspaces files. Over the weekend I was asked if I had a video of the process. I didn't have one, so I made this short one to demonstrate how to use Google's advanced search function to find publicly shared Google Docs, Slides, Forms, Sheets, and Drawings. Take a look and feel free to share if you think it can be helpful your students or colleagues. 



Applications for Education
One search strategies that I regularly remind my students to use is to search by file type. Doing that can often lead students to helpful resources published as PDFs or Word documents that they wouldn't have found with a typical Google search. Likewise, searching by domain to locate Google Docs, Slides, Sheets, or Drawings can help students discover useful resources that might otherwise go overlooked.

Helping students develop better search skills is one of the ten big topics covered in the Practical Ed Tech Virtual Summer Camp. Early bird discounts are still available. Register here.    

This post originally appeared on FreeTech4Teachers.com. If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission. Sites that steal my (Richard Byrne's) work include CloudComputin, TodayHeadline, and 711Web. Featured graphic created by Richard Byrne.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

The Differences Between Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality

One of the ten big topics to be covered in detail during the Practical Ed Tech Virtual Summer Camp is how to use augmented reality and virtual reality in education. It's important to note that while these topics are similar, there are some distinct differences between them. The biggest of those differences being how the content of AR and VR is experienced. 

A couple of years ago I created this video to explain the differences between augmented reality and virtual reality. The ideas that I shared in the video are still accurate today. In the video I utilized a handful of slides. Those slides are embedded below. 




Click here to learn more about the AR app that I mentioned in the video.

Applications for Education
One of my favorite uses of augmented reality is to help students explore historical artifacts. Some of elements of the Google Arts & Culture app make that possible. The BBC's Civilisations AR app is another good app for interacting with historic artifacts in an immersive, 3D manner. And rather than just setting students off to explore these apps on their own, I like to provide a short list of objects for them to observe and give them some questions to think about much like if they were viewing a primary source document or image. 

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

Moving Files Between Google Workspaces Accounts

It's that time of the year when some people are winding down their time in one school district in anticipation of a summer break before moving onto a new school district in the fall. For some people that means they have to figure out what to with the contents of their school-issued Google accounts. Just this week I've had two people ask me what they should do in that situation.

My advice to those who are leaving a school district that uses Google Workspaces is to put all of the files that you want to save into folders in Google Drive. Then download those folders and save them on a personal computer and or upload them to a personal Google account (Gmail-based) or another cloud storage service like Dropbox, Box, or OneDrive. Then when you have a new Google Workspaces account issued by your new school district, you can once again upload those folders into your new account or simply share files between your personal and work accounts.

If you want to save more than just the contents of your Google Drive, you can use Google Takeout to download all of the content from all aspects of your school-issued Google account.

In this short video I demonstrate how to download folders from your Google Drive and how to use Google Takeout.



In this short video I provide an alternate method of moving between Google accounts.



On the topic of summer, the June session of The Practical Ed Tech Virtual Summer Camp is starting to fill up. Early bird registration is available now.

This post originally appeared on FreeTech4Teachers.com. If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission. Sites that steal my (Richard Byrne's) work include CloudComputin, TodayHeadline, and 711Web. Featured graphic created by Richard Byrne.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Ten Google Tips for Using Audio and Video in Google Slides

Besides looking at the calendar and my own students' behavior, the other way I know the school year is winding down is the uptick in questions that I get about making slideshows for end-of-year school activities. In fact, just this morning I had two questions from readers about incorporating audio into looping Google Slides presentations. If you're in a similar position of creating an end-of-year slideshow and you have questions about incorporating audio or video into those slideshows, here are two videos containing ten tips about using audio and video in Google Slides. 

Five things you should know about using videos in Google Slides.
1. Three ways to add videos.
2. Automatic playback.
3. Selecting specific portions for playback.
4. Muting audio within the video.
5. Adding drop shadows.



Five things you should know about using audio in Google Slides.
1. How to upload audio files.
2. How to loop audio.
3. How to hide audio icon.
4. How to adjust audio icon.
5. Sharing settings for audio files.



Get public domain audio at pixabay.com/music

Three quick ways to record audio to use in Google Slides.

The Practical Ed Tech guide to finding media for classroom projects.

This post originally appeared on FreeTech4Teachers.com. If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission. Sites that steal my (Richard Byrne's) work include CloudComputin, TodayHeadline, and 711Web. Featured graphic created by Richard Byrne.

Three Good Options for Drawing on Digital Maps

Creating layers and tours in Google Earth and Google My Maps can be a great way for students to assemble collections of geolocated information to summarize research, create a book tour, or even develop safe walking and biking routes. But sometimes you just need to quickly draw or pin things to a digital map. In those cases, launching Google Earth or My Maps is a bit more than you need. That's when Scribble Maps, Google Drawings, or Google Jamboard are handy. 

Scribble Maps is a digital mapping tool that lets anyone make free-hand drawings on top of a variety of base maps. To use it simply head to ScribbleMaps.com/create/ and select one of the drawing tools. Registration is not required in order to use it although there are some pop-ups that will try to sell you on upgrades from the free version. Here's a short overview of Scribble Maps. 



Google Drawings and Google Jamboard both let you import images that you can then draw on top of. To do that just open a new Google Drawing or new Google Jamboard then use the integrated image search to find a map. Once you've selected a map you can use the drawing tools to mark on it. Here's a demonstration of how that process can work in Google Drawings.



The process that I described above for using Google Drawings and Google Jamboard can also be done with the online version of PowerPoint. To do that, create a new slide then use the integrated Bing Images search to find a map. One of the nice things about the Bing Images integration in PowerPoint is that it will automatically search for Creative Commons licensed works and automatically insert an attribution link. Once the image has been added to the slide you can use the built-in drawing tools to mark on the map.

To learn more about using Google Earth and Maps in your classroom, check out my Crash Course on Google Earth and Maps for Social Studies.

This post originally appeared on FreeTech4Teachers.com. If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission. Sites that steal my (Richard Byrne's) work include CloudComputin, TodayHeadline, and 711Web. Featured screenshot created by Richard Byrne.

Monday, May 10, 2021

How to Embed Word Documents Into a Blog or Website

One of last week's most popular posts was this one highlighting my favorite "hidden" features of Office 365 tools. To start this week I have another hidden Office 365 feature that you might find handy. That feature is the option to embed Word documents into your blog or website. You can do that with any document that you access through your online Office 365 account. 

To embed a Word document into a blog post or web page simply follow these steps. 

1. Open your Word document in your web browser through your Office 365 account. 

2. Select "File" then "more file options." "More file options" is found by clicking on the three horizontal dots under the folder icon. 


3. Choose "share" then choose "embed."

4. Copy the provided embed code and paste it into your blog post or web page editor just as you would when embedding videos from YouTube or Vimeo. You can alter the size of the display by changing the width and height dimensions in the embed preview window. 


Applications for Education
Embedding a Word document into your website or blog can be a convenient way to share documents with parents or students without having to re-write the content in your website or blog editor. It's more convenient for you and it's more convenient for them because they don't have to download the documents in order to read them.



This post originally appeared on FreeTech4Teachers.com. If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission. Sites that steal my (Richard Byrne's) work include CloudComputin, TodayHeadline, and 711Web. Featured screenshots created by Richard Byrne.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Pictures, Wolves, and Code - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where the sun is rising on what promises to be a fantastic Mother's Day weekend. Happy Mother's Day to all the moms that read my blog, especially my mom! We're doing some gardening this weekend. I hope that you have something fun planned for your weekend as well. 

This was another busy week as I tried to keep some balance between my full-time teaching job, keeping this blog going, hosting a webinar, and training for the Unbound Gravel 200 in early June. When summer finally gets here it will feel like a vacation to just have to worry about hosting the Practical Ed Tech Virtual Summer Camp. I hope you'll join me then. 

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Ten Good Tools for Telling Stories With Pictures
2. My Ten Favorite "Hidden" Office 365 Features
3. Ten Google Workspaces Features for Teachers You Might Be Overlooking
4. Five Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp FAQs
5. Blackbird Code - Overview and First Impressions from My Students
6. Wolves in My Yard and Penguins in My House! - Fun With Augmented Reality in Search
7. 7 Interesting Features You Can Add to Google Sites

On-demand Professional Development
Other Places to Follow Me:
  • The Practical Ed Tech Newsletter comes out every Sunday evening/ Monday morning. It features my favorite tip of the week and the week's most popular posts from Free Technology for Teachers.
  • My YouTube channel has more than 35,000 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 (Richard Byrne's) work include CloudComputin, TodayHeadline, and 711Web. Featured image captured by Richard Byrne.

ICYMI - Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions & Share Cool Stuff - Episode 36

Every other week my pal Rushton Hurley from Next Vista for Learning and I get together to host the plainly-titled Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions & Share Cool Stuff webinar. Earlier this week we hosted the 36th episode in the series. If you missed it, the recording is now available to view here or as embedded below. The slides and links to all of the resources that we shared during the webinar are available right here on the Next Vista webinars page



The next episode in the series will be held on May 20th. You can register for it for free right here. If you have a question that you want us to answer, please send me and email or submit it through the Next Vista for Learning contact page. We'll do our best to give thoughtful, practical, and concise answers.

This post originally appeared on FreeTech4Teachers.com. If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission. Sites that steal my (Richard Byrne's) work include CloudComputin, Today Headline, and 711Web.

Friday, May 7, 2021

Google Arts & Culture + Apple Classroom

Google is ending support for Google Expeditions on June 30th. A few weeks ago I shared a short list of alternatives to Google Expeditions. In that blog post I mentioned that one of features of Expeditions that I'll miss most is the ability to remotely guide or pace students through a virtual reality experience. 

I still haven't found something that works in the exact same way as the guide mode in Google Expeditions. That said, teachers who have iPads in their classrooms can guide students through scenes in the Google Arts & Culture app through the use of Apple's Classroom app

Applications for Education
The downside to using Google Arts & Culture on an iPad instead of on a phone is that the VR experience isn't immersive like it is if you're using a VR viewer. The upside is that as a teacher you can provide more assistance to young students as they use the app.

This post originally appeared on FreeTech4Teachers.com. If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission. Sites that steal my (Richard Byrne's) work include CloudComputin, Today Headline, and 711Web.

Knowt Now Offers Public Galleries of Notes, Flashcards, and Quizzes

Knowt is a neat service that I've featured a few times over the last couple of years. It's a service that will automatically generate flashcards and quizzes from any document that you import into it. The latest update to Knowt provides registered teachers and students with a public gallery of notes, quizzes, and flashcards. 

Now when you sign into a free Knowt account you have the option to browse for notes, flashcards, and quizzes according to subject area. There is also a gallery of notes, quizzes, and flashcards based on popular textbooks. All of the notes, quizzes, and flashcards found through the public galleries in Knowt can be copied directly into your account where you can modify them as you like. 

Here's Knowt's promo video for their new galleries of notes, quizzes, and flashcards. And here's my overview of how to use Knowt to create your own notes, quizzes, and flashcards by importing a document into your account. 



Applications for Education
The new Knowt galleries of notes, flashcards, and practice quizzes are appearing at a good time for students who are preparing for final exams. Teachers who have Knowt accounts can go through the galleries and pick collections of notes and flashcards to share with their students.

This post originally appeared on FreeTech4Teachers.com. If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission. Sites that regularly steal my (Richard Byrne's) work include CloudComputin, TodayHeadline, and 711Web. 

The Question I'm Asked the Most

I get lots of questions sent to me every week. There is one that I get asked more frequently than any other. That is, "what are you using to make your videos." Usually, people ask that because they want to know how I'm highlighting my mouse pointer in my videos or how I'm creating the moving oval cut-out of my webcam.  

Screencast-o-matic is the tool that I use to create nearly all of the videos that appear on my YouTube channelScreencast-o-matic is available in a browser-based version and in a desktop "deluxe" version. I use the desktop version unless I'm using my Chromebook. 

The deluxe version of Screencast-o-matic is the paid version that costs $1.65/month. With that version comes the option to crop and resize the webcam view that you can overlay on your screencast. One of those cropping options is to use an oval. That's what I do. Screencast-o-matic also provides the option to have a highlighted circle follow your mouse pointer on your screen. When I'm making longer videos I'll also utilize the clip merging tools, transition tools, and text overlay tools that are available in Screencast-o-matic.

Overviews of Screencast-o-matic
Last year March I published a complete video overview of Screencast-o-matic. You can see that video here.



A Comparison of Other Screencasting Tools
Last fall I created a chart and wrote a detailed comparison of free screencasting tools. In my ranking of free options, Screencastify came out on top. That chart and ranking can be seen here.

This post originally appeared on FreeTech4Teachers.com. If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission. Sites that regularly steal my (Richard Byrne's) work include CloudComputin, TodayHeadline, and 711Web. 

Thursday, May 6, 2021

CodePen - See How Web Apps Come Together

CodePen is a code editing environment in which students can see how HTML, CSS, and JavaScript work together to form web applications. As you can see in the screenshot that I've included below, the screen is divided into four parts. There's a column for HTML, a column for CSS, and a column for JavaScript. Below that there is a preview panel that displays what the application looks like and how it functions. 


The best aspect of CodePen is that it is a real-time editor. That means you can change any aspect of the HTML, CSS, or JS and immediately see the effects of those changes in the preview panel. This is a great way to see what happens when a variable is changed in an application. If the change didn't work as anticipated, a quick "CTRL+Z" on your keyboard reverts it back to the previous state. The same is true when you edit an aspect of the HTML or CSS. 

You can register for a free CodePen account using an email address, a GitHub account, Twitter account, or a Facebook account. (I signed up using my school-issued Gmail address and my students did the same). The first time that you sign into your CodePen account you'll be taken through a very short tutorial that leads into making your first project. The first project is a simple "Hello World" project that has some basic HTML, CSS, and JS elements that you can quickly edit. 

CodePen does have a gallery of publicly shared projects that you can copy and modify. In fact, the screen image above is of a project that I found and shared with my students so that they could get some fun practice with CodePen. You can access the same project right here

Applications for Education
My Computer Science Principles class is now at the point that they're ready to break out of scripted activities or projects and work on making functioning applications of their own. During the year they've had experience writing HTML, CSS, and JavaScript (most recently they ripped through the lessons in Blackbird Code). So this morning I had them jump into CodePen, specifically this LOLCat Clock, to experiment and see what they could modify and make. Without exception all of my students liked using CodePen and one was even effusive in praising how quick it was to see changes implemented. 

Next week my students will spend some more time using CodePen to tinker with existing projects before I send them off to brainstorm and develop web apps of their own.

CodePen Free and Paid Plans
CodePen offers free and paid plans. My students and I have only used the free plan so far. The paid plan offers additional features that could be helpful to me in the future. Those features include Professor Mode and Collab Mode. Professor Mode would let me remotely watch my students' progress in real-time. Collab Mode would let me and my students collaborate on projects in real-time much like working in Google Docs. You can read more about CodePen's paid plans for educators right here

This post originally appeared on FreeTech4Teachers.com. If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission. Sites that regularly steal my (Richard Byrne's) work include CloudComputin, TodayHeadline, and 711Web. 

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Strange Borders - A Geography Lesson

Yesterday afternoon I read an interesting article titled Belgian Farmer Accidentally Moves French Border. The whole story is almost exactly what the title says. A farmer moved a stone that was in his way when plowing a field. It just happened that the stone he moved is a marker for the border between two small towns in Belgium and France. The border itself is not in dispute and the border is a relatively normal one between two friendly neighbors. Still, reading the story reminded me of a couple of videos that I've bookmarked about irregular country borders. 

Countries Inside Countries (Bizarre Borders, Part 1) was produced by CGP Grey seven years ago to illustrate where some of the landlocked countries of the world are and how they became landlocked. The video also highlights countries that have only one neighbor. 

Canada & The United States (Bizarre Borders, Part 2) explains why border between the United States and Canada might look like a long straight line in many places, but is not a straight line. The video also delves into some border quirks and disputes. The Google Earth file used in video is available to download here on CGP Grey's website.




Tom Scott has also produced a couple of interesting videos about interesting borders between countries. In The Most Complex Borders in Europe: Why Do We Have Nations? he explains the complicated border between Baarle-Nassau in the Netherlands and Baarle-Hertog in Belgium. 

In The US-Canada Border Splits This Road Down the Middle he visits the border between Stanstead, Quebec, Canada and Derby Line, Vermont, United States where the border really does split a road or, depending upon who you ask, the road splits the border. In the video he explains what you can and can't do on the road as well as how border enforcement has increased in the last couple of decades. (Speaking as someone who has lived relatively close to the US-Canada border for all of my adult life and has crossed the border countless times, border crossings today are much more regulated today than they were the first time I crossed in the late 90's).





Applications for Education
The article I mentioned above along with the videos could make for a good starting place to introduce lessons on international boundaries, border enforcement, and negotiations between countries. I'd probably put the videos about US-Canada borders into EDpuzzle to add comprehension questions to the videos for my students to answer while they watch the videos. Here's an overview of how to use EDpuzzle.



Google Earth offers lots of great tools that students can use to explore quirky borders and neat features of geography. My self-paced Crash Course in Google Earth & Maps shows you how to use those tools and more.

This post originally appeared on FreeTech4Teachers.com. If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission. Sites that steal my (Richard Byrne's) work include CloudComputin, TodayHeadline, and 711Web. Featured image taken by Richard Byrne. 

Wolves in My Yard and Penguins in My House! - Fun With Augmented Reality in Search

Thanks to where I live and the amount of time that I've spent hiking, camping, fly fishing I have slightly more experience seeing wildlife like bears and moose than the average person. Almost every night at dinner my three-year-old asks me to tell a story about seeing a bear, a moose, or other animal. But last week when she asked for a story about a wolf, I didn't have one because I've never had an encounter with one in the wild. So I did a quick Google search on my phone to show her pictures of wolves. That's when I was reminded of Google's augmented reality in search experiences

When you conduct a Google search on your Android or iPhone/ iPad Google will suggest objects to "view in 3D." Of course, your search has to be for something that Google offers as a 3D augmented reality object. The complete list of objects can be seen here in Google's Search Help Pages

Some of the animals in Google's 3D Augmented Reality Objects in Search:

  • Timberwolves
  • Tigers
  • Pandas
  • Alligators
  • Great White Sharks
  • Penguins
  • Golden Retrievers
Animals aren't the only things available to view in augmented reality via mobile Google search. You can also view representations of chemistry, physics, and biology concepts. There is also a small selection of cultural objects and sites available to view as 3D augmented reality objects. Again, that complete can be found here. Some highlights from the list include:
  • Red blood cells
  • Metallic bonding
  • Plasma membranes
  • Human digestive system
  • Apollo 11 command module
Applications for Education
One of the neat things that you can do with the 3D objects is view them in augmented reality while recording a video about those objects. To do that you open the object on your phone or tablet then tap "view in your space." Then you'll be prompted to point your camera at a flat space. Once you've done that the 3D object appears in your camera view. I did this to put a wolf in my front yard (see the video here). I recorded the video by simply holding the camera shutter button while viewing the object. 

Your video of the 3D object in augmented reality can include sound. Simply start talking while recording. Doing that could be a good way to record a short video lesson for your students. Likewise, it could be a good way to have students record short videos about animals or concepts they're learning about in your classroom. 

Learn more about augmented reality and its place in the classroom during the Practical Ed Tech Virtual Summer CampRegister today!

This post originally appeared on FreeTech4Teachers.com. If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission. Sites that steal my (Richard Byrne's) work include CloudComputin, TodayHeadline, and 711Web. Featured screenshot created by Richard Byrne. 

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Ten Good Tools for Telling Stories With Pictures

This is an update to a blog post that I published six years ago on this topic. Some of the tools in the original post are either no longer available or have implemented a subscription-based business model. 

Composing a story from scratch comes naturally to some people. For the rest of us, it can be a struggle. Over the years I’ve found that using pictures helps a lot of students get started on crafting stories. In some cases I’ve had students create collages to represent elements of a story. In other cases I’ve had them choose five pictures and write two hundred words about each. Being asked to write two hundred words about five pictures feels a lot less daunting than being asked to write one thousand words in one shot.

Here are some of my favorite tools for students to use to create image-based stories.

Create Collages to Tell Stories
Canva is a great service for creating infographics, slides, and photo collages. On Canva you can create infographics, slides, and photo collages in much the selecting a template then dragging and dropping into place background designs, pictures, clip art, and text boxes. Canva offers a huge library of clip art and photographs to use in your designs (some of the clip art is free, some is not). You can also import your own images to use in your graphics. Your completed Canva projects can be saved as PDF and PNG files. Canva offers a free iPad and Android apps that work in much the same way as the web version of the service. Check out Canva’s education page for more ideas about using it in your classroom. And learn lots more about Canva through this collection of tutorial videos

Google Drawings, Google Jamboard, and Google Slides can both be used to create simple collages. Into each service you can import images from your desktop or your Google Drive account. You can drag and drop images into any placement that you like. The tools include options for cropping images and adding borders. Word art is available to use in each service too. When you're ready to use your collages outside of the Google Workspaces environment, you can download them as image files. Here’s a tutorial on using Google Drawings to create collages that can be shared via Google Classroom.

Once your students have finished their collages they can enhance them by using ThingLink to add an interactive element to their collages. A video tutorial for that process can be seen here. Here’s a video on how to use Google Drawings as an alternative to Thinglink. 

Thread Images Into Stories
Adobe Spark offers a great suite of digital creation tools for students to use. One of those tools is Adobe Spark Page. Adobe Spark Page can be used in your web browser or you can use it as an iPad app. With Adobe Spark Pages your students can create web pages that contain images, text, and videos. Those pages can then be published as stand-alone sites or they can be embedded into blog posts or other existing webpages. A tutorial on using the Pages element of Adobe Spark can be seen here

Create Talking Pictures
ChatterPix Kids is one of my favorite digital storytelling apps for elementary school students to use. The free app is available in an iPad form and in an Android form. To use the app students simply open it on their iPads or Android devices and then take a picture. Once they've taken a picture students draw a mouth on their pictures. With the mouth in place students then record themselves talking for up to thirty seconds. The recording is then added to the picture and saved as a video on the students' iPads or Android devices. Tutorials on how to use both versions of the app can be seen here.

Create Picture Books
Book Creator is a popular service for creating multimedia ebooks. Book Creator can be used in your web browser or as an iPad app. The web browser-based version of Book Creator can be used for free while the iPad app costs $4.99 (less with volume purchasing). By using Book Creator students can create ebooks that include their own pictures and drawings. Students can use Book Creator’s built-in voice recorder to add their voices to their picture books. A complete tutorial on how to use Book Creator can be seen here on my YouTube channel.  

WriteReader is a good tool for elementary school students to use to create image-based stories. WriteReader has two distinguishing features that I always point out to new users. First, it provides space for teachers to give feedback to students directly under every word that they write. Second, WriteReader has a huge library of images, including some from popular programs like Sesame Street, that can be used for writing prompts. WriteReader does have a Google Classroom integration that makes it easy to get your students started creating picture-based stories. A series of WriteReader tutorials is available here

Picture Book Maker allows students to create six page stories by dragging background scenes into a page, dragging in animals and props, and typing text. All of the elements can be sized and positioned to fit the pages. Text is limited to roughly two lines per page. Completed stories are displayed with simple page turning effects. Stories created on Picture Book Maker can be printed and or saved as PDFs.

Create a Comic Book
Make Beliefs Comix is a creative writing platform that I have recommended for years. The core of Make Beliefs Comix is a free set of tools that students can use to create their own comics in multiple languages. Students don’t have to be good at drawing in order to make comics because Make Beliefs Comix offers tons of free artwork that they can use in their stories. Here's a video overview of how to use Make Beliefs Comix.

In addition to the comic strip creation tools, Make Beliefs Comix hosts free ebooks that you can use online or download for free. All of the ebooks are full of inspiring drawings and are designed as fillable PDFs that your students can write in.

Picture Yourself in Front of Any Landmark
Remove.bg and PhotoScissors are tools for removing the background from any image that you own. For example, if I have a picture of myself in front of my house, I can use either Remove.bg or PhotoScissors to quickly remove the background and just leave the image of me in front of a white background. Once the background is removed I can take the image of myself and layer it over a new background image by using tools as simple as Google Slides and PowerPoint. That process is outlined in this video. The process of removing image backgrounds can also be accomplished in PowerPoint by following the steps outlined in this video.


Some of these tools and many more ideas like those featured in this blog post will be covered in depth during the Practical Ed Tech Virtual Summer Camp. Register today!

This post originally appeared on FreeTech4Teachers.com. If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission. Sites that steal my (Richard Byrne's) work include CloudComputin, TodayHeadline, and 711Web. Featured graphic created by Richard Byrne. 

How to Find Published Google Workspaces Files

Refining Google searches according to domain is one of my favorite ways to get students to look beyond the first couple of pages of their typical Google search queries. Students can specify site or domain in Google's advanced search menu to limit results to those that are only from top-level domains like .edu. They can also specify a subdomain like docs.google.com. In fact, that's a great way to find publicly shared Google Documents. It also works for finding publicly shared Google Slides, Forms, Sheets, and Drawings. 

How to Find Public Google Workspaces Files:

  • Go to: https://www.google.com/advanced_search
  • In "site or domain" specify one of the following domains to locate public Google Docs, Slides, Forms, Sheets, or Drawings. 
    • docs.google.com
    • docs.google.com/presentation/
    • docs.google.com/forms/
    • docs.google.com/spreadsheets/
    • docs.google.com/drawings/

Applications for Education
Searching for publicly shared Google Docs, Slides, Sheets, Forms, and Drawings can be helpful to teachers and to students. For teachers, it can be a good way to find some ideas for lesson plans and assessments. For students, it can be a good way to find materials that have been published by teachers. Of course, it is worth noting that it's possible for students to find public documents, make a copy, and try to pass it off as their own.

Aside from finding Google Workspaces files, searching by site or domain is a good way to get students to look at websites and materials that they might not otherwise find because of where they rank in search results.

I'll be sharing many more tips and strategies like this during the Practical Ed Tech Virtual Summer Camp. Register early to get the session of your choice.

This post originally appeared on FreeTech4Teachers.com. If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission. Sites that steal my (Richard Byrne's) work include CloudComputin, TodayHeadline, and 711Web. Featured graphic created by Richard Byrne. 

Monday, May 3, 2021

My Ten Favorite "Hidden" Office 365 Features

Last week my most popular post on Free Technology for Teachers was this one highlighting my favorite features of Google Workspaces that are frequently overlooked. Based on the response to that post and video I decided to do the same thing for Office 365 users. I don't use Office 365 products as much as I do Google Workspaces (that's a result of the schools I've worked in over the years), but I still do have some favorite "hidden" features of Office 365 for teachers and students. 

My favorite “hidden” Office 365 features:
  • Word: Image insert with Pexels add-in.
    • Video insert and playback.
  • PowerPoint: Presenter coach
  • Forms: Open and close dates
  • OneNote: Save articles without annoying advertising pop-ups.
  • OneDrive: Share files with an expiration date and password.
  • Teams: Export Whiteboard Drawings as PNG
  • Excel: Analyze Data
  • Outlook: Schedule sending.
    • Message encryption/ forwarding prevention.
  • Message encryption/ preventing forwarding.
  • To Do: Add multiple steps within a task.

All of those features are demonstrated in this video.


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

Blackbird Code - Overview and First Impressions from My Students

Last week I published a written overview of a new learn-to-code platform called Blackbird. In short, Blackbird is a platform that is trying to bridge the gap between using block editors like Scratch and making students jump into a full-fledged IDE without any built-in support resources. Blackbird teaches students how to write code (specifically, JavaScript) through a series of short, guided lessons before challenging them with some "workshop projects." Along the way there are plenty of easily accessible help resources for students to use without having to leave the code that they're currently writing. Watch this video that I made for a visual overview of Blackbird.



Initial Impressions from My Students
I have a small group of students taking a Computer Science Principles class with me. In the class there is a mix of freshmen, juniors, and seniors (sophomores are welcome to take the class, I just don't have any this year). Today, I used Blackbird with them for the first time. All of my students thought the first few lessons were "too easy" and they breezed right through them. But by the time they got to the fourth lesson in stage 1, they didn't feel that way. At that point they started to use the "show me" button in Blackbird to get a little help writing their code. All of the students felt like there was a lot of repetition which, as one student pointed out, is a good way to learn the language.

The exception to the above impressions from my students was one junior who had a lot of prior experience writing JavaScript. He ripped through all of the stage 1 lessons very quickly. So quickly, in fact, that I challenged him to watch this video then try to code the Snake game. He accepted and will probably finish by the time class meets again on Thursday.



This post originally appeared on FreeTech4Teachers.com. If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission. Sites that regularly steal my (Richard Byrne's) work include CloudComputin, TodayHeadline, and 711Web. 

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Zoom, Voice, and April Showers - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where we're hoping for some sunshine after a few rainy days. Either way, I'm going for a long bike ride today as I continue to prepare to ride in the Unbound Gravel 200 in June. I hope that you also have something fun in store for your weekend. 

This week I hosted the third installment of my Teaching History With Technology course and continued to work on preparations for this year's Practical Ed Tech Virtual Summer Camp. I hope you'll join me for one of the sessions in June, July, or August. Register by June 1st and save $50. 

These were the week's most popular posts:

  1. Ten Google Workspaces Features for Teachers You Might Be Overlooking
  2. How to Use Zoom's New Immersive Views
  3. 7 Interesting Features You Can Add to Google Sites
  4. Build Your First Google Site With the Help of These Tutorials
  5. How to Add Voice Recordings to Google Forms
  6. Tools to Help Students Analyze Their Own Writing
  7. What is Hotlinking? - Why You Should Avoid It
On-demand Professional Development
Other Places to Follow Me:
  • The Practical Ed Tech Newsletter comes out every Sunday evening/ Monday morning. It features my favorite tip of the week and the week's most popular posts from Free Technology for Teachers.
  • My YouTube channel has more than 35,000 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 (Richard Byrne's) work include CloudComputin, TodayHeadline, and 711Web.