Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Forms, Music, and Games - The Month in Review

The sun has set on the month of August and now it really feels like summer vacation is over. From racing my bike across Flint Hills of Kansas to explorting the woods and waters of Maine with my daughters to fun trips to Story Land I feel like I soaked up as much summer fun as I could. I hope that you did as well. (Note for my southern hemisphere friends, I hope you had a great winter). 

As I do at the end of every month I've compiled a list of the most visited posts of the last month. Take a look and see if there's something interesting that you missed earlier this month. 

These were my most popular posts in August:
1. A New Google Forms Feature Teachers Have Requested for Years!
2. Where I'd Like to Go - An Icebreaker With Google Drawings
3. Five Google Docs Activities Besides Just Writing Essays
4. Free Music for Classroom Projects
5. 12 Good Places to Find Historical Images to Spark Inquiry
6. Five Good Tools for Making Your Own Educational Games and Practice Activities
7. How to Create a Random Question Generator
8. Great Book Creator Resources to Start the New School Year
9. Superhero Science Lessons
10. Resources to Help Students Recognize Logical Fallacies and Cognitive Biases

On-demand Professional Development
Other Places to Follow Me:
  • The Practical Ed Tech Newsletter comes out every Sunday evening/ Monday morning. It features my favorite tip of the week and the week's most popular posts from Free Technology for Teachers.
  • My YouTube channel has more than 37,000 subscribers watching my short tutorial videos on a wide array of educational technology tools. 
  • I've been Tweeting as @rmbyrne for fourteen years. 
  • The Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page features new and old posts from this blog throughout the week. 
  • If you're curious about my life outside of education, you can follow me on Instagram or Strava.
This post originally appeared on FreeTech4Teachers.com. If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission. Sites that steal my (Richard Byrne's) work include CloudComputin and WayBetterSite. Featured image captured by Richard Byrne.

11 Search Tips and Tools for Teachers and Students

As some of you have noticed, I wrote quite a bit about search tools and search strategies in July and early August. What you saw in those posts were excerpts from two projects that I've been working on. The first was The Practical Ed Tech Handbook (available to subscribers to my newsletter). The second is a still untitled book project. If you're interested in reading all of my recent blog posts about search tools and search strategies, here's a list of them all. 

Monday, August 30, 2021

Five Ideas for Using Google Jamboard This Fall

A couple of weeks ago I published an excerpt from The Practical Ed Tech Handbook. That excerpt mentioned a couple of ways to use Google Jamboard in online and in-person classroom settings. This morning I had a reader reach out to me to ask if I had any other suggestions that she could pass along to the teachers in her middle school. Between my blog and my YouTube channel I was able to come up with five ideas for using Jamboard in your classroom this fall. 

Group Brainstorming Sessions
Jamboard can be used to host group brainstorming sessions. In larger classes I break students into smaller groups and have each group work on a specific page within the Jamboard session. At the end of the session we review the ideas from each page and put the most popular ones on a final page. Here's an overview of how to use Jamboard in Google Classroom

Map Labeling Activities
I like to use Jamboard to create templates for activities for students to complete. Last summer I made a mapping template to show a colleague how Jamboard can be used in a geography lesson. The process for using Jamboard to create mapping activities can be seen in this video.

Magnetic Poetry
This is an activity in which you create a template that has a bunch of words within little boxes made to resemble refrigerator magnets. You then distribute the template to your students for them to arrange the magnets to create poems. The process for making magnetic poetry activities can be seen here.

Philosphical Chairs
This is a use for Jamboard that was inspired by a question a reader named Chuck sent to me last fall. The idea is to have students move their avatars around the Jamboard to indicate their positions on a given discussion topic. Here's a video explanation of how the activity works.

Create Instructional Videos
Combine the use of a screencasting tool like Screencastify with a series of Jamboard pages and you can create an instructional video. The benefit of using Jamboard as your drawing tool instead of just using the built-in drawing tools in a screencasting tool is that you can distribute your Jamboard drawings and pages separately from the video if you want to. Here's how to use Screencastify and Jamboard together to make an instructional video. 

Three Short Lessons About Labor Day

Next Monday is Labor Day in the U.S. For most of us it is a three day weekend. It is the traditional "end of summer" in the minds of many of us. If you're planning to answer questions about Labor Day or teach any lessons about it, here are some short videos to add to your list of resources.

Why Do Americans and Canadians Celebrate Labor Day? is a TED-Ed Lesson about the origins of Labor Day. In addition to learning about the origin of Labor Day students can learn a bit about changes in labor regulations over time.



History of the Holidays is a series of videos from History. Each installment explains a different holiday. The Labor Day video is embedded below.



PBS Kids offers a short animated overview of the history of Labor Day. It's not nearly as detailed as the two videos I've listed above, but it's probably adequate for elementary school kids.



For more resources for teaching about Labor Day, take a look at this list compiled by Larry Ferlazzo.

Five Ways to Use Comics in Your Classroom This Fall

Disclosure: Make Beliefs Comix is a new advertiser on this site. 

Creating comics is one of my favorite creativity exercises.When I was a kid I loved flipping through books of Peanuts comics. Unfortunately, I could never draw as well as Charles Schultz. Today, thanks to tools like Make Beliefs Comix, you don’t have to be good at drawing in order to create comics.

In the classroom and in my personal life I’ve always felt that creating a comic is a fun way to illustrate a story and or make a statement. To that end, here are five ways to think about using comics in your classroom this fall.

Express Emotions and Tell Personal Stories
Adults don’t always have the right words to express what they’re feeling and kids definitely don’t have all of the right words. That’s why for years I’ve recommended having kids create comics to express their feelings and tell their stories. Make Beliefs Comix in particular is an excellent platform for students to use to create their own comics to tell their stories. In fact, the founder of Make Beliefs Comix had that in mind when he started creating these comic story starters and this daily comic diary template

Make Beliefs Comix has a few features that make it a great platform for students to use to create and tell their stories. First, students don’t have to be artists to create their own comics on Make Beliefs Comix. They simply have to select scenes and characters from a large gallery of premade drawings. After doing that students can add dialogue boxes and write their stories. Second, Make Beliefs Comix supports the use of fourteen languages. This makes it a great option for students to write in the language of their choice to tell their stories. Third, students who need a little bit of help starting their stories can avail themselves of the “All About Me” story template available in Make Beliefs Comix. 

Practice a New Language
For the new school year Make Beliefs Comix is launching a new feature that enables students and teachers to make audio recordings. (That feature will be available soon). Combined with support for writing in fourteen languages, the audio recording component of Make Beliefs Comix makes a great tool for students to practice writing and speaking in a new language.

Create Historical Fiction
When I taught U.S. History I tried to get my students to think about what life was like for ordinary people during the periods they were studying. Creating historical fiction stories is one way that I attempted to get my students to think about and write about what life was like for people living in the time periods we were studying. For example, I would ask them to think about what daily life was like for the family of an immigrant factory worker during the industrial revolution. One year, after I gave that prompt, a student asked me if he could draw characters for his story. I agreed and it turned out to be my inspiration for future classes to create historical fiction comics.

Tools like Make Beliefs Comix make it possible for anyone to create a comic even if they’re not adept at drawing. Simply pick some characters, a background scene, and speech bubbles from the design menu and then write a story.

Teach Empathy
Make Beliefs Comix has an entire section dedicated to SEL (Social Emotional Learning). In that section you will find prompts for creating comics in which students express how they’re feeling and how they feel about what they’re seeing in the world. Additionally, you can have students go beyond making simple comics and complete ebook templates offered by Make Beliefs Comix. Those ebook templates, some of which I’ve featured in the past, are full of prompts for writing about courage, dreams, and joy.

Model Behaviors
As the new school year begins, consider creating your own little comics to illustrate the behaviors that you want students to practice in your classroom. Print them out and place them in your classroom. These could be comics about lab safety procedures, how to behave in the lunchroom, or what to do when they hear someone being mean to another student.

Watch this short video (embedded below) to get started making your own comics with Make Beliefs Comix.



Key Make Beliefs Comix Features to Note
  • Students don’t need email addresses to create on Make Beliefs Comix.
  • Students can create comics with as few as three frames or as many as eighteen frames.
  • Make Beliefs Comix offers support for fourteen languages!
  • Hundreds of writing prompts are available in Make Beliefs Comix.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Three Good Places to Find Current Events Stories for Students

Last week I wrote about using the BBC's Week in Pictures as a source of current events discussion starters. Following up on that idea, here are some other good places to find current events stories written for kids. 

For many years CNN Student News was one of my go-to resources when I was teaching current events courses. Today, CNN Student News is called CNN 10. CNN 10 provides good, short overviews of the previous day's important new stories. A written transcript accompanies every episode. 

DOGOnews is a student news site that features articles for K-8 students. DOGOnews covers current events stories in the areas of science, sports, entertainment, and variety of topics that fall under the banner of social studies. Teachers can find stories by browsing the categories, filtering by grade level, or filtering by grade level.

PBS NewsHour Extra is a good site for middle school and high school students. The site offers a searchable database of articles. A searchable database of lesson plans is also available on PBS NewsHour Extra.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Exploring Newspapers Through Maps

When I included current events as a regular part of my social studies classes I would always show a map of where a story takes place. The following websites can provide students with a geographic connection to current and historical news stories.

Newspaper Map is a neat tool for locating and reading newspapers from locations all around the world. Newspaper Map claims to have geolocated 10,000 newspapers. To find a newspaper you can browse the map then click on a placemark to open the link within to read a newspaper. You can also locate newspapers by using the search boxes to locate a newspaper by title or location. Along with links to the newspapers, Newspapers Map provides links to translate the newspapers you find on the map.

The U.S. News Map is a great resource produced by Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia. The U.S. New Map is an archive of American newspapers printed between 1836 and 1964. You can search the archive by entering a keyword or phrase. The results of your search will be displayed on an interactive map. Click on any of the markers on the map and you'll be shown a list of newspaper articles related to your search term. Click on a listed article to read it on the Library of Congress' Chronicling America website.

Applications for Education
Newspaper Map is a good tool for students to use to discover interesting news stories that might not be featured on global sites like CNN or BBC News.  

Comics, Docs, and Posters - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where we're getting ready for a weekend of fun. We're planning to go for a little hike and do a little fishing. I hope that you have something fun planned for your weekend as well. 

This week I hosted a couple of professional development webinars for schools. If you're interested in having me conduct a webinar for your school, please send me a note (richard at byrne.media)  and we'll chat about how we can work together. You can also take a look at my on-demand professional development courses right here

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Five Google Docs Activities Besides Just Writing Essays
2. Five Things To Make With Google Slides Besides Standard Presentations
3. How I Created "Vintage" Travel Posters With Canva
4. Five Ideas for Using Comics in Social Studies Lessons
5. How to Create Interactive Charts and Diagrams in Google Slides
6. Fifteen Tools for Creating Mind Maps and Flowcharts
7. Seven Tools for Teaching Programming

On-demand Professional Development
Other Places to Follow Me:
  • The Practical Ed Tech Newsletter comes out every Sunday evening/ Monday morning. It features my favorite tip of the week and the week's most popular posts from Free Technology for Teachers.
  • My YouTube channel has more than 37,000 subscribers watching my short tutorial videos on a wide array of educational technology tools. 
  • I've been Tweeting as @rmbyrne for fourteen years. 
  • The Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page features new and old posts from this blog throughout the week. 
  • If you're curious about my life outside of education, you can follow me on Instagram or Strava.
This post originally appeared on FreeTech4Teachers.com. If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission. Sites that steal my (Richard Byrne's) work include CloudComputin and WayBetterSite. Featured image captured by Richard Byrne.

Friday, August 27, 2021

A Few Good Places to Find Ideas for Icebreakers

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about using Google Drawings as part of an icebreaker activity. But if you're looking for something a little quicker and easier to do to get your new students talking, take a look a the following resources. 

If you've run through all of your common icebreaker questions and want some new ones to try, take a look at Icebreakers.ioIcebreakers.io offers lists of icebreaker questions. The questions are arranged in categories for small groups, for introverts, for adults, for work, and for fun. All of the questions can be viewed individually and copied. You can also download the lists of questions in convenient PDFs.

Icebreakers.ws is an online catalog of dozens of fun icebreaker and team builder activities. The activities are categorized by group size and activity type. To find an activity appropriate for your group just select your group's size then use the activity type key to find a game or activity. There is a section specifically for classrooms. 

CybaryMan, Jerry Blumengarten, has a great page of icebreaker activity ideas. It's a list he's currated for years from a wide variety of sources. Give it a look when you need inspiration for a new icebreaker activity. 

7 Tools for Teaching Programming

This is an excerpt from the 2021-22 version of The Practical Ed Tech Handbook. Two weeks ago a copy was sent to everyone who is subscribed to my Practical Ed Tech Newsletter. If you're not subscribed, you can do so here

For some of us of a certain age, Logo was our introduction to computers and programming 30+ years ago. Logo is still accessible today. Dr. Gary Stager has repeatedly said that it is still the best way to introduce students to programming. Logo is the basis for many other sites and apps that teachers can use to help students learn to program. Here are some of the best options for teaching and learning programming.

When the conversation amongst educators turns to programming, Scratch is often the first resource that is mentioned. Scratch allows students to program animations, games, and videos through a visual interface. Students create their programs by dragging together blocks that represent movements and functions on their screens. The blocks snap together to help students see how the "if, then" logic of programming works. Watch the video here to learn more about Scratch. And check out the ScratchEd team’s curriculum for teaching with Scratch

Scratch Jr. is based on the aforementioned online Scratch program. Scratch Jr for iPad and for Android  uses the same drag and drop programming principles used in Scratch. On Scratch Jr students can program multimedia stories and games. To program a story or game on Scratch Jr. students select background settings for each frame of the story. Then in each frame students select the actions that they want their characters to take. Students snap programming pieces together to make characters move and talk in their stories and games.

Snap! is a drag-and-drop programming interface designed to help students learn to program. Snap! uses a visual interface that works in your browser on your laptop as well as on your iPad. To design a program in Snap! drag commands into a sequence in the scripts panel. The commands are represented by labeled jigsaw puzzle pieces that snap together to create a program. You can try to run your program at any time to see how it will be executed. After previewing your program you can go back and add or delete pieces as you see fit. Snap! may remind some people of Scratch. That is because the Snap! developers call their program "an extended re-implementation of Scratch." The potential benefit of Snap! over Scratch is that teachers who have a mix of iPads, Android tablets, and laptops in their classrooms can have all of their students use the same programming interface.

The MIT App Inventor enables students to create and publish their own Android applications. The MIT App Inventor works in your web browser (Chrome is recommended). The only download that is required for App Inventor 2 is the optional emulator. The emulator allows people who don't have Android devices to text their apps on their desktops. If you have an Android device then the emulator is not required and you don't need to worry about installing it. MIT provides excellent support documentation and curriculum for classroom use for new users of App Inventor. A detailed tutorial on how to make an Android app with the MIT App Inventor can be watched here.

Thunkable is a platform for designing, testing, and publishing your own Android apps and iOS apps. Through Thunkable you can create your apps even if you don't know how to write code. That is possible because Thunkable uses a drag-and-drop design framework. That framework, based on the MIT App Inventor, shows you jigsaw-like pieces that have commands labeled on them. Your job is to put the pieces together to make your apps work. Thunkable offers detailed written tutorials and video tutorials.

Daisy the Dinosaur is a free iPad app designed to introduce young students to some programming basics. The app asks students to create commands for Daisy the Dinosaur to carry out. There is a free play mode in which students can make Daisy do whatever they want. But to get started you might want to have students work through the beginner challenges mode. Daisy the Dinosaur asks students to enter commands in the correct sequence in order to make Daisy complete tasks correctly. Daisy the Dinosaur could be used with students as young as Kindergarten age.

Blackbird is a platform that launched in early 2021 to help teachers teach programming to middle school and high school students. Blackbird positions itself as a platform that fills the gap between using a blocks-based service like Scratch and writing code in an IDE. Blackbird doesn't use blocks or even offer any blocks. Instead, Blackbird provides a series of interactive lessons in which students write JavaScript. Blackbird lessons are arranged in progressive units. From the first lesson students are building a game they can customize to their heart's content. When they've finished all of the lessons students can move onto a "workshop" where they can work on independent projects that you can observe from your teacher dashboard in Blackbird.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Five Benefits of Conducting Mind Mapping Activities

On Wednesday morning I published a long list of tools that students can use to create mind maps, concept maps, and flowcharts. What I didn't include in that blog post was a description of the differences between the those three things. I also didn't outline the benefits of mind mapping that students can experience. The purposes of this post are to explain the difference between mind maps and concept maps as well as list some benefits of having students complete mind mapping activities. 

Mind Maps versus Concept Maps
The process of creating a digital mind map begins with one key word or term placed in the center of the screen. Often, the central key word or term is represented by an image or icon. From that central word or term students add lines to connect to other words, terms, or ideas that they associate with the central word or term. Images and icons can be used to represent the associated words and terms. Students may use multiple font and line colors and sizes to indicate relationships or similarities between the words and terms in their mind maps. Finally, other than having a central word or term from which all ideas emanate, a mind map does not need to be arranged in a hierarchical manner nor should it be used as an assessment tool.

While concept maps and mind maps have similarities there are noteworthy differences. First, a concept map often has a hierarchical structure that is used to show the connections and segments of a large concept. Second, when an hierarchical structure is used for a concept map it is possible for there to be incorrect connections created. For example, a student creating a concept map about the seasons of the year would be incorrect to place "leaves change color" as a branch of "winter" instead of as a branch of "autumn." 

Five Benefits of Conducting Mind Mapping Activities
  1. When students create mind maps then share them with their teachers, teachers can gain some insight into how students currently view the connections between the parts of a given topic. 
  2. There are some studies indicating that when students create mind maps from scratch rather than working from a template provided by their teachers, recall and test scores improve. 
  3. Creating mind maps can generate new ideas and lead to ideas for further discussion and or research. 
  4. Using mind maps as part of an instructional strategy can help some students improve their reading comprehension skills.
  5. Creating mind maps can help students see connections between mathematics concepts and "the rest of the world." 

Five Ideas for Using Google Drawings This Fall

A couple of weeks ago I shared directions for an icebreaker activity that can be done in Jamboard or Google Drawings. Jamboard and Google Drawings have a lot of similarities. There are some differences between the two that can make one better than the other depending upon the use case. Here are five ways to think about using Google Drawings in your online or in-person classroom this fall. 

Create Labeling Activities
Google Drawings lets you import images that you can then draw on top of. One of the ways that I've used this in the past is to create a map labeling activity. To do that just open a new Google Drawing and 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 the whol process works including distribution through Google Classroom.

Virtual Icebreakers
I shared this idea a few weeks ago, but it's worth repeating for those who missed it. The idea is to have students virtually place themselves anywhere in the world through the use of Google Drawings. To do this students first need to find a picture of themselves and remove the background from it. Photoscissors makes it quick and easy to remove the background then download a new background-free image. Once they have a picture of themselves then students open Google Drawings where they insert a picture of place that they want to visit or revisit. Finally, they then insert their profile picture over the background image in Google Drawings. Those steps might sound complicated, but they're not. In this short video I show the whole process. 

Create Flowcharts
Google Drawings is an excellent tool for creating flowcharts. You can make your own and distribute them to your students via Google Classroom or have them make their own flowcharts to demonstrate an understanding of a process. This video shows you how to create a flowchart with Google Drawings and then distribute it to your students via Google Classroom. 

Make a Digital Turkey
Last fall I received an email from a reader who was looking for some ideas on how do a digital version of the classic Thanksgiving Thankfulness Turkey project in which students add feathers to a drawing of turkey and each feather has something they're thankful for written on it. My suggestion for creating a digital version of the Thankful Turkey was to use a combination of Pixabay and Google Drawings. I made this short video to illustrate how that process would work. 

Create Your Own Icons and Shapegrams
Tony Vincent offers a complete website all about how to create your own shapegrams and icons. In December of 2019 he was kind enough to present a webinar during the Practical Ed Tech Creativity Conference. In that webinar he gave us a crash course on some of the finer points of using Google Drawings. You can watch that webinar recording here

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

An Important Update About Flippity

Flippity is one of my go-to resources for making fun things like games and random name pickers with Google Sheets. Recently, some of the Flippity templates stopped working as they originally did. I first experienced this during a live webinar earlier this month. At first I thought it was just a quirk and it would be resolved quickly. Unfortunately, that's not the case. Last Friday the developer of Flippity published an update about what's going on with many of the templates. 

The short version of what's affecting the Flippity templates is a change to some of Google's security policies and how it handles data published via Google Sheets. You can read the full explanation here on the Flippity site

Fortunately, some of the Flippity templates are working again. And there are some templates in the "Skip the Spreadsheet" section of Flippity that work without using Google Sheets at all. In the meantime, I'll just be patient as I wait for my favorite Flippity templates to be restored to full functionality. 

Fifteen Tools for Creating Mind Maps and Flowcharts

Earlier this year I published some reviews and videos about a few new mind mapping tools. As the new school year begins I think it's time that I add those new tools my list of mind mapping creation tools for students and teachers. Here's my updated list of mind mapping and flowchart creation tools.

Gitmind
GitMind is a mind mapping tool that offers some excellent features for teachers and students. GitMind offers more than one hundred templates for teachers and students to use and modify. Some of the templates you'll find in the gallery include essay structure, timelines, book reviews, and study plans. GitMind also lets you create your mind maps and flowcharts from scratch. Here's my video overview of Gitmind.



Forky
Forky is a 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. Here's my complete video overview of Forky.



Whimsical
Whimsical is a good tool for creating flowcharts, mind maps, Venn diagrams, and a variety of other charts and diagrams. As we've come to expect with any tool like it, Whimsical is a collaborative tool. You can invite people to collaborate with you to edit your work or to simply comment on it to provide feedback. Charts and diagrams created on Whimsical can be published as simple webpages, kept private, or exported as a PNG (image file) or as a PDF. 

To create a flowchart or mind map on Whimsical you can start with a template or create from scratch. Either way you can customize every element of your chart by using the editing tools that appear on the left-hand side of the Whimsical editor. You can quickly select shapes and lines to connect in your diagram. Text can be written on any shape that you add to your diagram. And you can even add emojis into the shapes that you use in your diagram.

Transno
Transno is a service that lets you write notes and outlines that can then be turned into mind maps and flowcharts with just one click. It reminds me a lot of the old Text2MindMap service that I used to use. Transno is better because it offers a variety of mind map and flowchart styles while Text2MindMap only offered one. Transno also supports collaboration by letting you invite others to edit and add to your notes. In the following video I demonstrate how Transno works.



Google Slides & PowerPoint
If your students have a computer in front of them, they probably have access to either Google Slides or PowerPoint or both. Google Slides and PowerPoint have built-in tools that students can use to create flowcharts. The following videos demonstrate how students can use Google Slides and PowerPoint to create flowcharts. As you'll see in the videos, you can make the flowcharts interactive through the use of linking in PowerPoint and Google Slides.





Bubbl.us
Bubbl.us is a mind mapping and flowchart tool that I've been recommending for more than a decade. It has evolved overtime to keep up with the needs of students, teachers, and other users. Creating mind maps on Bubbl.us is an easy process of simply clicking on the center of your screen then entering the central topic of your mind map. The next step is to add "child" topics or bubbles that are connected to the central topic. Those are added by clicking the "+" that appears while holding your cursor over an existing bubble.

Padlet
Padlet offers templates for creating flowcharts and know, want, learn charts. Unfortunately, you can only make three Padlet walls before you have to either delete one to make a new one or upgrade to a paid plan. The upside to using Padlet is that it's designed for collaboration.



Text2MindMap
This is a mind mapping tool that was a commercial project for a few years before going out of business then coming back as an open-source project supported by Tobias Løfgren. The way that it works is that you type a linear outline and Text2MindMap will automatically generate a corresponding mind map. To use it simply go here, clear the existing text and replace it with your own text. Every line that you type in your outline becomes a node in the mind map. You can create a branch from a node by simply indenting a line in your outline.

Post-it App for Android and iOS
The Post-it mobile apps for Android and iOS let you take a picture of physical sticky notes and then sort them on a digital canvas.



MindMup
MindMup is a mind mapping tool that can be used online, with Google Drive, and on your desktop. MindMup works like most mind mapping tools in that you can create a central idea and add child and sibling nodes all over a blank canvas. MindMup nodes can contain text and links. When you're ready to save your MindMup mind map you can save it to Google Drive, save it to your desktop, or publish it online. If you publish it online, you can grab an embed code for it to post it in a blog post or webpage.

Coggle
Coggle is a collaborative mind-mapping service that is very easy to use. To create a Coggle mind map just sign-in with your Google account and click the "+" icon to start your mind map. After entering the main idea of your mind map you can add branches by clicking the "+" icons that appear next to everything you type. To re-arrange elements just click on them and drag them around your screen. Coggle is a collaborative tool. You can invite others to view and edit your mind maps.



Google Drawings and Google Jamboard
Both of these free Google tools can be used to create mind maps and flowcharts. Drawings has more features than Jamboard. The upside of Jamboard is that it's probably a more intuitive tool for new users. Demonstrations of how to use both tools are embedded below.




SpiderScribe
Spider Scribe is an online mind map creation service. Spider Scribe can be used individually or be used collaboratively. What jumps out about Spider Scribe is that users can add images, maps, calendars, text notes, and uploaded text files to their mind maps. Users can connect the elements on their mind maps or let them each stand on their own. You can embed your interactive SpiderScribe mind map into your blog or website.

Five Ideas for Using Google Earth & Maps for More Than Social Studies Lessons

Later this week I'm conducting an online professional development workshop about Google Earth and Maps. One of my goals for the workshop is to help participants develop ideas for using Google Earth and Google Maps for more than just geography and history lessons. To that end I've put together a short list of ideas and resources for using Google Earth and Google Maps in multiple subject areas.

Language Arts
Google Lit Trips is probably the most popular example of using Google Earth in the context of language arts. Google Lit Trips are Google Earth tours based on books and authors. In Google Earth and on Google's My Maps services your students can create their own tours highlighting important places in a book or important places in the life of an author.

Science
Google Earth provides a great way for students to explore interesting geological landmarks in 3D. Using the timeslider in the desktop version of Google Earth can show students the changes in a landscape due to erosion and other natural and man-made forces.

There is no shortage of lesson plans featuring Google Earth available online. A couple that I recommend looking at are Rich Treves' flooding and volcano lessons and What's a Watershed created at the Science Education Resource Center at Carleton College.

Math
For K-5 classrooms there is probably no better place to start than on Tom Barrett's Maths Maps site. There you will find short, Google Maps-based activities that require students to perform measurements and use arithmetic to answer questions. The activities represent a great combination of mathematics and geography.

If you have middle school or high school students, you will want to explore Real World Math. On Real World Math you will find lesson plans that utilize Google Earth for teaching the concepts used in calculating volume of solids, timezones, and rocketry. 

Physical Education
Perhaps my favorite use of Google's My Maps is for planning safe walking, hiking, and biking routes. You can also use Google Earth to help students understand how elevation change alters the speed at which routes are completed.

Art
By using Google's My Maps tools or the desktop version of Google Earth, students can map the locations of where a piece of local art is housed, where it was created, and the places that inspired the artist. Each placemark on a student's map could include a picture of the artwork, a picture of the artist, and or a video about the art and artist. To provide a complete picture a student can include text and links to more information about the art and artist.

For some inspiration on this topic take a look at Monet Was Here on Google Arts & Culture.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Five Ideas for Using Comics in Social Studies Lessons

Creating cartoons and comic strips can be a fun way for students to show their understanding of events and concepts. For the student who is intimidated (or bored) by the idea of writing yet another essay or making another PowerPoint presentation, creating a comic strip is a welcome change. Here are five ideas for using comics in social studies lessons. 

1. Create short biographies of historical figures. Have students select a key moment from a person’s life. Then ask your students to illustrate that moment. For example, students studying John F. Kennedy could use Make Beliefs Comix to illustrate a conversation between JFK and Bobby Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis. If you want students to illustrate conversations in languages other than English, Make Beliefs Comix is a great choice as it supports six languages in addition to English.

2. Illustrate a timeline of an event or series of events. Rather than simply writing summaries of key events have students create illustrations of the events. ToonyTool is a good tool for making single frame comics that your students could save and then add to a timeline.

3. How might history have been different if the communication technology we have today was available 200, 300, or 500 years ago? Ask your students to think about that question and then illustrate the outcome. Students can use some of the wireframes available in Canva or the SMS Generator from ClassTools.net to simulate text message and or email exchanges between historical characters like George Washington and Ben Franklin.

4. Diagram and explain branches of government. Creating this storyboard is a good way for students to show what they know about all of the powers and responsibilities of each branch of government. You could have students do this in Google Slides by following this model.

5. Create political cartoons. This is the obvious use for cartoons in social studies classes. Cartoons for the Classroom offers excellent, free lesson plans for using political cartoons. Single frame comic creation tools like ToonyTool are adequate for making political cartoons.

Here's an overview of how to create comics with Make Beliefs Comix. Here is an overview of how to create comics in Canva. 



A Good Model for Audio Slideshow Video Projects

This morning I was looking for some short videos about the history of Labor Day. In doing so I came across The History of Labor Day as produced by TAPintoTV. The content of the video was accurate and it provided a nice summary of origins of Labor Day. That's not what made me bookmark it. What made me stop and bookmark it was that it provides a good model to follow in formatting an audio slideshow video like those you can make with Adobe Spark

When you watch The History of Labor Day video (embedded below) you'll see that it uses regular transitions every few seconds. You'll also notice that some short video clips have been interspersed throughout the video. Finally, the video includes background music to go along with the narration. 

Frequent Transitions
Students have a tendancy to narrate over the same image for too long when creating audio slideshow videos. When the narration goes for too long the audience tunes out. To keep the audience's attention students should try to have a new image or at least a transition effect (zoom in, zoom out, pan) every few seconds.

Video Clips
Including a couple of short video clips within the audio slideshow is a good way to keep the overall video moving along. Obviously, it's also helpful in illustrating a point within the video project.

Background Music
Including some background music helps to keep the video feel like it's moving along. And it's helpful in covering up some of the "uhs" and "ums" that students sometimes make when narrating a video.

Adobe Spark Makes This Easy
Adobe Spark makes it easy to incorporate all three of the above aspects of an audio slideshow video project. Adobe Spark limits the amount of narration that students can record on each slide within their videos. Adobe Spark also includes a library of background muic that students can have inserted into their videos. Finally, students can upload short audio clips to include in their audio slideshow video projects. In this short video I demonstrate how to create a video with Adobe Spark.



An Update to Google Meet Call Quality

One of the most annoying things to start any video call is the process of resolving sound quality issues like a persistent echo. Google recently announced an update to Google Meet to address that problem. 

Google Meet will now notify you when your audio is causing an echo for others. In other words, even though you may not hear an echo others in the call may hear an echo generated by your computer. When that happens Google Meet will now display a notification on your screen. Clicking on that notification will take you to the Google Meet help center where you'll see recommended steps to resolve the echo problem (spoiler alert: it's usually due to having a microphone too close to audio output). 

Applications for Education
Students have enough trouble focusing on your online instruction without having to fight through the distraction of poor audio quality. If you're using Google Meet for classes this year, this new echo notification in Google Meet could help improve the meeting quality for your students and help them focus on your instruction.

Like almost all updates to Google Workspace tools, this update will be rolling out over the course of a few weeks. 

Monday, August 23, 2021

In Pictures - A Good Resource for Prompting Current Events Lessons

Over the weekend while browsing some news articles on the BBC News I was reminded of a good resource that I used for many years to prompt discussion and small research activities in my current events class. That resource is the BBC's Week in Pictures which is a section of their more general In Pictures collection. 

The Week in Pictures displays a small collection of photographs from around the world. The pictures capture a mix of  serious news stories and lighter cultural stories. The Week in Pictures collections are part of a much larger resource from the BBC simply called In Pictures. The In Pictures resource provides hundreds of images in a variety collections and slideshows about current events throughout the world. Some of the slide shows even include narration. All of the images include captions explaining what is happening in the picture and a little background knowledge about the event being photographed.

Applications for Education
For years I used the Week in Pictures pictures as conversation starters for current events discussions in my current events classes. For visual learners the images from the In Pictures collections are helpful for providing visual connections to and context for a story.

When using the Week in Pictures as the prompts for short research activities, it's helpful to remind students that they can refine their Google search results according to date of publication. This is a good tool to use whenever students are researching current events, trending topics, or any rapidly changing topic  In the following video I demonstrate how students can refine search results according to publication date.



It's important to note that most of the images in the Week in Pictures collections are copyrighted images. 

Sunday, August 22, 2021

How I Created "Vintage" Travel Posters With Canva

In the past I've written about using the Library of Congress vintage travel posters collection in Google Earth. Last week I read a new Library of Congress blog post the vintage travel posters collection. Reading that post inspired me try my hand at creating a "vintage" travel poster of my own. Drawing is not a talent that I have developed in my life so I turned to my favorite graphic design tool, Canva, for help. 

In Canva there are lots of templates for making posters for all kinds of purposes. There is also a massive library of drawings and clipart that you can use in those templates. I chose not to use a template and instead chose one of the drawings that I found to be the background image for my poster. I then inserted a drawing of woman wearing a backpack and looking through binoculars. Finally, I used one of the text templates to add "Explore America" to my poster. You can see my finished product below. 


Applications for Education
Creating travel posters could be a nice way to have students summarize what they've learned about a national park, a city, or another travel destination. I'm not an art or graphic design teacher, but I can see a project like this one being used to help students develop skills in those areas as well.

Here's a video of the process that I outlined above. 

Five Google Docs Activities Besides Just Writing Essays

Over the last fourteen years I've used Google Docs and had students use Google Docs for lots of activities besides just writing essays. I've used Google Documents to facilitate analysis of primary sources, to create charts and diagrams, to facilitate group note-taking, to publish simple webpages, and to make collaborative task lists. All of those things are explained and demonstrated in the videos below. 

Guided Reading of Primary Sources
1. Find a digital copy, preferably in the Public Domain, of the primary source document that I want all of my students to read.

2. Copy and paste the primary source document into a Google Document.

3. Share the document with my students and allow them to comment on the document. I usually use the sharing setting of “anyone with the link” and then post the link on my blog. Alternatively, you could share by entering your students’ email addresses or by posting it in your Google Classroom.

4. I will highlight sections of the primary source document and insert a comment directly attached to the highlighted section. In my comments I will enter discussion prompts for students. They can then reply directly to my comments and each others' comments.

Here's a video of the process that is outlined above. 



Create Charts and Diagrams in Google Docs
In the Insert drop-down menu in Google Docs you will an option for inserting drawings. When you select the new drawing option you can create a chart or diagram from scratch. You can also use one of the premade charts that is found in the Insert menu. Watch this video to learn how to create charts and diagrams in Google Docs.



Publish Simple Websites
There are times when I want to make a document like a course syllabus or classroom expectations as easily accessible to as many people as possible. The easiest way to do that is to publish the document to the web instead of sharing it. Watch this short demo if you're not sure of the difference between sharing and publishing Google Docs.



Structure and Facilitate Group Notes
As I wrote the other day, I've tried a lot of methods for facilitating group note-taking in Google Docs. The method that works best for me and my students has been inserting a table and assigning students to squares within that table. Get the full explanation in this video.



Create Interactive Checklists in Google Docs
This is a relatively new capability within Google Documents. You can create a checklist and share it with collaborators to keep track of tasks for group projects. Watch this video to learn how to make interactive checklists in Google Documents.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

A Tip for Structuring Group Notes in Google Docs

Fourteen years ago when I first started using Google Docs with students I got the idea to have my whole class take notes on the same document. It sounded good in my head on my drive to school. In practice it was a disaster as my students were quickly frustrated by accidentally writing over each other's notes. So then I tried having them each pick a color to write with to differentiate and avoid writing over each other's notes. That also didn't work well. Eventually, I decided to put a grid into the document and have students write within a square in the grid. That worked, kind of... It worked better when I broke the class into smaller groups and had them take notes in the grid on a shared Google Doc. 

Today, when I have students working in small groups and recording notes, I assign them to a Google Doc (Google Classroom makes that easy to do) that has a preformatted grid in it for them to write in. I've used this method in my computer tech classes when students are working on troubleshooting processes. I've used this method when I taught U.S. History and had students reading and evaluating historical documents. Both of those examples are explained and demonstrated in more detail in this new video that I recorded on Thursday



If you want to learn more about using Google Documents in your classroom I have a complete video overview of how to get started with Google Docs. And here are ten other Google Docs editing features you should know how to use.

Images, Inquiry, and Virtual Backgrounds - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where the sun is rising on what should be a great weekend to celebrate my oldest daughter's fifth birthday! I'm sure every parent says the same, but I can't believe how fast she's growing. It seems like just yesterday I was holding her in the hospital and now she's asking me to take her fishing, help her ride her bike, and spell words. 

This week I took a day off to take my daughters to Story Land before it closes for the year. I also snuck in a long bike ride this week. You might say I'm soaking up what's left of summer. I hope that those of you who are still on summer break are doing the same. And I hope that those who have started the new school year are off to a great start!

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. 12 Good Places to Find Historical Images to Spark Inquiry
2. How to Create a Random Question Generator
3. Five Good Tools for Making Your Own Educational Games and Practice Activities
4. Resources to Help Students Recognize Logical Fallacies and Cognitive Biases
5. Where I'd Like to Go - An Icebreaker With Google Drawings
6. Poetry, Maps, and Templates - Google Jamboard Activities to Try
7. Flipgrid Virtual Backgrounds - How and Why

On-demand Professional Development
Other Places to Follow Me:
  • The Practical Ed Tech Newsletter comes out every Sunday evening/ Monday morning. It features my favorite tip of the week and the week's most popular posts from Free Technology for Teachers.
  • My YouTube channel has more than 37,000 subscribers watching my short tutorial videos on a wide array of educational technology tools. 
  • I've been Tweeting as @rmbyrne for fourteen years. 
  • The Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page features new and old posts from this blog throughout the week. 
  • If you're curious about my life outside of education, you can follow me on Instagram or Strava.
This post originally appeared on FreeTech4Teachers.com. If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission. Sites that steal my (Richard Byrne's) work include CloudComputin and WayBetterSite. Featured image captured by Richard Byrne.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Coming This Sunday Evening

Last Sunday evening the subscribers to my Practical Ed Tech Newsletter got copies of the 2021-22 version of The Practical Ed Tech Handbook before anyone else. This Sunday I have two more resources that will only be available through my newsletter. Those resources are colorful poster-style PDFs of email etiquette reminders for students. 

If you're not subscribed my newsletter, you can do so right here

But if you don't want to subscribe to my newsletter, that's okay. I do have the following videos to share with you on the topic of email etiquette. 

The video below was made by a teacher for the purpose of sharing email etiquette tips with students. 



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



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

Five Things To Make With Google Slides Besides Standard Presentations

Based on the initial view count, yesterday's post about creating interactive diagrams in Google Slides seems to be fairly popular. That's inspired me to put together a list of other ways to use Google Slides besides just making standard slideshow presentations. I've made videos about all of the following ideas and those videos are included along with descriptions below. 

Create Choose Your Own Adventure Stories in Google Slides
This is a project that I helped a fourth grade class do a few years ago. The students wrote short stories in Google Slides. The ending of their stories had three possible outcomes. Each outcome was linked to the final paragraph of their stories. When readers got to the last paragraph they could click to choose the ending they wanted to read. In this video I demonstrate how to create choose your own adventure stories in Google Slides.



Create Comic Strips in Google Slides
By using tables and the built-in clipart in Google Slides you can create your own comic strips. Watch this video to learn how to do that.



Make an Animated Video With Google Slides
More than a decade ago Common Craft pioneered a new style of video using very simple animations to craft clear explanations of complex topics. Students make that same style of video by using some clipart, some basic Google Slides transitions, and a screencasting tool like Screencastify. That process is demonstrated in this short video.



Place Yourself in Front of Any Landmark With Google Slides
I mentioned this idea last week in my video about icebreaker activities with Google Drawings and Slides. The idea is to use a tool like Photoscissors to remove the background from a photograph of yourself and then overlay that new image on a Google Slide of a famous landmark or any pretty scenery of your choice.



Make Interactive Diagrams and Charts in Google Slides
This is the activity that I mentioned in yesterday's blog post. As I shared yesterday, you can have students make interactive diagrams of just about any process or sequence. I've had students make interactive diagrams to mock-up mobile apps and I've had them make interactive diagrams of trouble-shooting processes. When I taught U.S. History I had students make interactive diagrams of the branches of government.