Friday, September 24, 2021

Five Helpful YouTube Features for Teachers

YouTube offers a bunch of features that are sometimes overlooked or under-utilized despite being quite helpful when sharing videos in your classroom. In this new video I demonstrate five of those features. 

Playlists
By default your Google/ YouTube account has a playlist titled "watch later." That's a private playlist to which you can save any video. You can also create custom playlists to share or to keep private. In the video below I demonstrate how to create an unlisted playlist. 

Transcripts
YouTube will automatically generate a transcript for almost all videos that have spoken narration. You can copy the transcript and save it in a Google Document. 

Caption display settings
Any video can have subtitles or captions displayed. You can adjust the size and color of the font used in the caption display. Adjusting the size and color scheme can make it easier for some students to see the captions. 

Sharing sections
Rather than sharing a video and telling students to fast forward to specific section, you can share the video so that it automatically starts at a specific timestamp of your choosing. 

Searching within channels
When you've found a video producer that you like take a look at their channel and search within it for more helpful videos they've produced. 

WriteReader Adds New Features for Teachers and Students

WriteReader, one of my favorite tools for telling stories with pictures, recently launched four new features for teachers and students. One of the new features improves the usability of WriteReader while the other three enhance the overall experience for teachers using WriteReader in their classrooms. 

Phone-friendly Interface
WriteReader was originally built to be used on laptops and tablets. While it could be used on mobile phones it was a little tricky to use on small screens. That's changed now that WriteReader has optimized the user interface to work equally well on phones, tablets, and laptop computers. Students can now add pictures to their books, write, and record on phones just like they can on tablets and laptops. Teachers can also now use their phones to give students feedback on their WriteReader books. Learn more about this update right here.

Standards and Resource Center
WriteReader offers a great resource center for teachers. In that resource center you will find book template, writing prompts, lesson plans, and more. All of the writing prompts are now aligned to Common Core Standards and the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for English Language Arts and Reading standards (that's a mouthful of a title). Learn more about the standards alignment here.

Reading Rooms
Reading Rooms is the latest feature added to WriteReader. Reading Rooms are digital showcases of your students' work. You can select the books that you want to include in the reading room. Once you've made your selections you can then share the reading room with parents and other community members by simply sending them a link to it. Parents don't need WriteReader accounts in order to view books that are shared in WriteReader Reading Rooms. Watch this video to learn more about the Reading Rooms feature in WriteReader.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

What Would We Eat on Mars? And Other Fun Science Questions

Long-time followers of my blog have probably noticed that I really like the videos produced by SciShow Kids. Their videos cover a wide range of science topics and almost all of them answer questions that elementary school students are apt to ask. For example, one of the recent releases from SciShow Kids asks, "what would we eat on Mars?" 

In What Would We Eat on Mars? SciShow Kids explains why plants don't grow on Mars and waht it would take to try to grow plants and support life on Mars. The video ends with a series of questions for kids to answer with their thoughts about how we might grow plants on Mars and what to grow and eat on Mars. I think it's a fun video and a fun set of questions to use to get kids thinking about science. 

Create Your Own Breakout EDU Games

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

A week ago I shared a handful of fun Breakout EDU games for in-person and online classrooms. A couple of those games were actually designed, built, and shared by teachers and not by Breakout EDU staff. In fact, Breakout EDU encourages teachers to create a Breakout EDU games to play online or in-person. To that end Breakout EDU offers an extensive collection of tutorials and materials for designing, building, and publishing your own games. 

Watching the game design tutorial videos is probably the best first step if you're interested in creating your own Breakout EDU games. Those six videos walk you through the overall concept of game design then the five steps of building and publishing your game. 

After watching the game design tutorial videos you'll be ready to build your first Breakout EDU game. All of the templates and artwork that you need to get started are available on this Breakout EDU resources page. The templates are in Google Docs format so that you can quickly copy and save them in your Google Workspace account. 

For inspiration for making your own Breakout EDU games take a look at this handful I highlighted last week. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

How to Create Custom Coloring Maps

There are plenty of places on the Internet to find free outline maps of states, provinces, countries, and regions of the world. Finding blank outline maps of cities, small towns, or neighborhoods is a little harder to do. If you're looking for a blank map of a city, town, or neighborhood for your students to label and or color, Mapbox Studio has the solution for you. 

With a free Mapbox Studio account you can create a custom outline map of any city, town, or neighborhood of your choosing. You can choose how much or how little detail you want to include in the map. Once you've made your selections you can save your map as a PNG or JPG file to print and distribute to your students.

In this short video I demonstrate how to use Mapbox Studio to create your own custom coloring maps. 

An Easy Way to Find Movie Clips to Include in Your Lessons

ClassHook is a service that I've been using and recommending for the last few years. It provides a good way to find clips from movies and television shows to use in your lessons. You can search it according Common Core standard, recommended grade level, and subject area. Recently, ClassHook added another search option. ClassHook's new Movie Recommendation option lets you conduct a broad, general search for movie clips without having to enter a grade or a standard. Watch this short video to see how it works. 



Applications for Education
Once you've found a clip through ClassHook you could just play it for your class to watch in your room or link to it in your LMS of choice. Another option is to use ClassHook's "pause prompts" feature to incorporate discussion questions into the video. Pause Prompts are timestamped questions that you add to video clips in ClassHook. When you're showing a video to your class, the questions you've written as Pause Prompts will automatically pop-up at the timestamp you've specified. The video will stop and the question will appear full-screen in its place. You can then have a discussion with your students about the prompt. In this short video I demonstrate how to use ClassHook's pause prompts feature.

Free Webinar Tomorrow - Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions

Tomorrow at 4pm ET/ 1pm PT Rushton Hurley from Next Vista for Learning and I are hosting the second episode of the second season of Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff! We'd love to have you join us! You can register for the session right here

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

Please join us! And feel free to email me in advance with your questions or send them in live during the webinar. 

Recordings and resources from our previous episodes are available on this Next Vista for Learning page.  

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Two Easy Ways to Blur Faces and Objects in Your Videos

Recording short video clips and posting them on your classroom or school website is a great way for parents and other community members to learn about the great things that are happening in your classroom and school. When you do that you wan to make sure that you're not accidentally sharing something that shouldn't be public or showing the face of someone who doesn't want to be in a public video. Fortunately, it is easy to blur faces and objects in your videos before you publish them for the whole world to see. 

For years YouTube's built-in editor has included a tool for blurring faces and objects in your videos. The editor has two blurring options. The first option is "automatic face blurring" which automatically detects faces and blurs them. The downside to using that option is that it will blur all faces for the whole length of the video. That's fine unless you want to selectively blur faces or you want to blur something besides a face. The other blurring option in the YouTube editor is to selectively blur. That option lets you manually place a blurry box or oval over a section of your video. Both blurring options are demonstrated in this short video

Screencastify's recently updated free video editor also offers an easy way to blur faces and objects in your videos. In Screencastify's video editor you can choose to blur any face or object for as long as you like in your videos. You can also have multiple blurs running simultaneously in your video. Screencastify's object blurring feature is demonstrated in this video

Two Ways to Make Timelines Based on Books

On Sunday evening a reader of my Practical Ed Tech Newsletter replied with a question about creating timelines. She was looking for suggestions for a timeline tool that her tenth grade students can use to create a timeline based on books they've read. This is something that I've done in the past with some of my own students so I had a couple of suggestions at the ready. 

Timeline JS is my first choice for making a timeline based on a book. I've been using Timeline JS for nearly a decade to make timelines that include text, images, videos, and links. Timelines created with Timeline JS can have events separated by as little as a minute because you can specify the date and time of each event in the timeline. Watch this video for a short demonstration of how to use Timeline JS. 



Using one of Canva's timeline templates is my second choice for making a timeline based on a book. While it doesn't support as many media types as Timeline JS, you could argue that the aesthetics of Canva timelines is much better than those of Timeline JS. Here's my demo of how to create a timeline in Canva.


By the way, the image in this post is a picture of the cover of a fun read titled Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure. The book retraces Harry Truman's steps as he drove from his home in Missouri to New York and back during the summer of 1953. 

Monday, September 20, 2021

Tract - Project-based, Peer-to-Peer Learning

Disclosure: Tract is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

Tract is a new service that offers fun lessons for elementary school and middle school students taught by high school and college students. The lessons and corresponding activities cover a wide array of fun and interesting topics. On Tract you will find lessons about photography, gaming, cooking, music, sports, and much more. Students can earn digital and physical prizes for completing the lessons and their corresponding activities.

Tract is designed so that students (age 8+ is recommended) can complete the lessons and corresponding activities, called missions, on their own. Of course, there might be some activities that some students need a little assistance to complete. Fortunately, as a teacher you can create your own Tract account and watch your students’ progress to know when they might need a little help from you.

20% Time, Genius Hour, or Just Plain Fun!
The core idea behind Tract is for students to learn from other students. The subjects and concepts taught in Tract are chosen by students for students. That’s why you’ll find fun lessons about Minecraft, TikTok algorithms, and music production throughout Tract. These are lessons and activities that are perfect to use during 20% Time, Genius Hour, or any other name that you use for project-based enrichment activities.

Head to http://teach.tract.app/ and use the code BYRNE to get your free Tract teacher account and view all the growing catalog of fun lessons for students by students.

How to use Tract - Student Perspective
Students can sign up for Tract by using codes provided by their teachers (use code BYRNE at http://teach.tract.app/ to get your free teacher account). Once they’ve signed up students can explore the paths and missions within Tract. Think of the paths as the video lessons and the missions as the activities that students complete after watching the video lessons.

When students find paths in Tract that they like they can watch the video(s) for that path and then complete the associated mission(s). Some paths have multiple videos and missions for students to complete. Students complete missions by uploading a file as an example of their work or by writing a response. For example, in the path about nature photography students watch a video lesson that outlines how to take better photographs. Then to complete the missions they upload two pictures that they have taken that demonstrate their use of the techniques taught in the video.

Students earn digital coins for completing each path. Paths that have more missions earn more coins than those that have fewer missions. Students can redeem their coins for digital and physical prizes. With the exception of Tract swag (tee shirts and hats) all of the prizes are digital prizes that benefit others. For example, students can redeem 250 coins to make a donation of one meal via Second Harvest of Silicon Valley toward the UN Sustainable Development Goal of zero hunger. 

How to use Tract - Teacher Perspective
As a teacher you can sign up for a free Tract account at http://teach.tract.app/ (use the code BYRNE to get access). Once you’ve created an account take some time to explore the paths and missions within Tract.

Within your teacher account on Tract you can create classrooms for your students to join. Each of your classrooms has its own unique code for students to enter to join your classroom (students do not need email addresses). Then within each classroom you can see the paths your students have chosen and the missions they have completed. You can also review the submissions students made to complete missions and moderate those submissions if necessary. For example, if a student is working on the nature photography path but uploads pictures that aren’t aligned to the mission, you can remove those pictures and they will have to try the mission again.

In this video I demonstrate how Tract works from a teacher’s perspective and from a student’s perspective.

Share Voice Notes via Mote QR Codes

Earlier this year Mote emerged as one of my favorite new tools of the year. Mote is a Chrome extension that works with all of the core products in Google Workspace. With it you can add voice comments to Google Classroom, Google Docs, and Slides. You can also use it to add voice notes to Google Forms. And last week Mote added another new feature. 

The latest feature added to Mote lets you record a voice note and share it via QR code. With Mote installed in Chrome you can simply click the Mote icon then record your voice note. When you're done speaking simply click the share button and you'll have an option to view and download a QR code. Anyone who scans your QR code will be able to listen to your voice recording. Watch this short video to learn how you can share voice notes via Mote QR codes. 



Applications for Education
My first thought after trying Mote's voice QR codes was to have students record short teasers or previews of books then print the corresponding QR codes to place on the inside flap of library books. Then when their classmates are looking for a new book to read they can scan the QR code to hear a student's perspective on the book. 

Free Presidential Timeline Poster for Your Classroom Courtesy of C-SPAN

C-SPAN Classroom offers some fantastic resources for teachers of U.S. History, civics, and government. One of those resources that has been offered in the past and is available again this year is a free poster depicting a timeline of American presidents. The poster shows each President's time in office, a short biography, the era of American history in which each President served, and a couple of major events that happened during each President's time in office. The poster is free for anyone who has a free C-SPAN Classroom account. 

Applications for Education
C-SPAN Classroom offers a number of suggestions for using the poster in your classroom. One of those suggestions is to have students complete a Tournament of Presidents. The Tournament of Presidents asks to evaluate each president and compare them in a bracket-style tournament with the best in each bracket advancing to the next round. Here's a little video about it. 

When I was teaching U.S. History I had an earlier version of this poster in my classroom. One fall I let my students choose a President from the poster and create a short video biography of their chosen President.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

A Critical Thinking Quiz

About a month ago I shared a list of resources for helping students learn to recognize logical fallacies and cognitive biases. One of the resources in that list is Your Logical Fallacy Is. The people who produce that website, School of Thought, recently launched a short, interactive quiz for testing your ability to recognize logical fallacies in arguments. 

The Critical Thinking Quiz is a quiz that presents a series of five scenarios in which a logical fallacy is used in an argument. The quiz gives you two answer choices. Feedback is immediately provided when an answer choice is selected. 


Applications for Education

The Critical Thinking Quiz is essentially a promotion for School of Thought's Your Logical Fallacy Is resources. That said it is still a good little practice activity that I would use in my classroom by projecting it on the whiteboard or sharing in Zoom and having students discuss the answer choices before revealing the correct one.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Forms, Games, and Files - The Week in Review

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

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

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

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

Two EdTech Guys Take Questions - Recording and Next Webinar Registration

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



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

Friday, September 17, 2021

Ziplet - A Good Way to Share Digital Exit Tickets

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

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

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


Five Helpful Google Keep Features for Students

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

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

➡Reminders
➡Labels
➡Bookmarks
➡Images
➡Inserts

Thursday, September 16, 2021

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

It's the Last Year for Weebly for Education

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

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

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

Influenza Archives - A History Lesson

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

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

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

A Good Explanation of the Slippery Slope Fallacy

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

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


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

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

The Way of a Ship - Historical Math Problems

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

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

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

Five Fun Breakout Games for Online and In-person Classrooms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Make Multimedia Mind Maps in Padlet

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




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

Monday, September 13, 2021

Five Places to Find Dozens of Constitution Day Lessons

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Making of the American Constitution.



Why is the US Constitution So Hard to Amend?



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



How is Power Divided in the US Government?



A 3-Minute Guide to the Bill of Rights


How do Executive Orders Work?



What You Might Not Know About the Declaration of Independence

Webinar This Thursday - Search Strategies Students Need to Know

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

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

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

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

A Simple Trick to Make Audio Editing Easier

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

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

How to Find Image Metadata

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

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




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

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

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Student Video Project - Timelapse of Fall

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Make Chrome Run a Little Faster

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

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

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

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Typing, Blurring, and Captioning - The Week in Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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



Friday, September 10, 2021

Save Google Forms Responses in Progress

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



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

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

More Google Forms Tutorials



US News Map - A Great Way to Explore Newspaper Archives

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

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

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