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Thursday, September 30, 2021

Fall, Forms, and Games - The Month in Review

The sun has set on a cool, crisp evening here in Maine. The maple leaves are changing colors from green to amazing shades of red and orange. In short, my favorite season of the year is here! 

As September ends and October begins it feels like all of the commotion of the beginning of the school year is over and we're now settled in. This is a good time to take a look back and see if there's anything you missed in September that could help you moving forward through October and the rest of the school year. An easy way to do that is to take a quick look at the most popular posts on Free Technology for Teachers in the month of September. That list is included below. 

These were the most popular posts of the month:
1. Five Fun Breakout Games for Online and In-person Classrooms
2. Ziplet - A Good Way to Share Digital Exit Tickets
3. Save Google Forms Responses in Progress
4. Five Ideas for Using Google Jamboard This Fall
5. Tract - Project-based, Peer-to-Peer Learning
6. 21 Canva Tutorials for Teachers
7. Five Helpful YouTube Features for Teachers
8. How to Make Chrome Run a Little Faster
9. The Difference Between a Chrome Profile and a Google Account
10. 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.

Search Strategies Students Need to Know - A New Practical Ed Tech Course

A couple of weeks ago I hosted a live Practical Ed Tech webinar titled Search Strategies Students Need to Know! I've now taken the content and concepts of that webinar and broken into a self-paced mini course.

Search Strategies Students Need to Know contains ten self-paced modules, templates for helping students conduct better online research, and materials for developing search practice activities for your students.

Course highlights include:
  • Search refinement strategies and tools for all students.
  • Alternatives to Google search.
  • How to save and organize search results.
  • Developing your own school-safe search engine.
Course materials include templates that you can use and modify for your needs.
  • Creating search challenges for students
  • Pre-search checklists for students
  • Paired search activities for students
  • Research documentation templates
What's included in your registration?
  • Ten self-paced modules.
    • Each module will take ten to twenty minutes to complete.
  • Templates and handouts to download.
  • Direct access to me for Q&A.
  • Certificate of completion.


Getting Started With Padlet - What You Need to Know

Padlet is a tool that I've been using and recommending to others for more than a decade. I started using it back when it was known as Wall Wisher. I often used it to create digital KLW charts with my U.S. History students. Over the years Padlet has evolved by adding more features, updates to the user interface, and updates to privacy and sharing options. If you haven't tried Padlet or you're looking for a tutorial to share with others who are new to using Padlet, take a look at my new video that covers all of the basics that you need to know to get started using Padlet with students.



Some other ideas for using Padlet in your classroom include:

ICYMI - Two Ed Tech Guys Webinar Recording

Last week Rushton Hurley and I hosted the second episode of the new season of Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff. If you missed it, the recording can be watched here and all of the links/ resources from the session can be found here

The next live session of Two Ed Tech Guys Take Question and Share Cool Stuff will be next Thursday (October 7th) at 4pm ET/ 1pm PT. You can register to join us right here!



We welcome everyone to join us for the live session. We'll answer any live questions as well as questions submitted in advance. You can send us your questions in advance via email or through the Next Vista for Learning contact form.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

My Top Five Productivity Tips

This is an excerpt from my weekly Practical Ed Tech Tip of the Week Newsletter. The newsletter is sent out every Sunday evening (Eastern Time). In my newsletter you'll find my favorite tip of the week as well as a list of my most popular posts of the week. You can register for the newsletter right here

Can Your Comments
I find that I answer the same questions fairly often in my email. Likewise, when giving students feedback on assignments I can often use the same comment from assignment to assignment and from student to student. Therefore, I have message templates stored in my inbox and have re-usable comments stored in Google Classroom.

If you’re an Outlook user, you can also create canned responses to use to answer frequently asked questions in your email. 

(My newsletter contained directions for creating canned comments in Gmail and Outlook). 

Ignore Email…
This is one of many productivity tips that I picked up while reading Cal Newport’s Deep Work. Don’t ignore your email completely. Just ignore it until you actually have time to read it and respond to it. (My newsletter contained more information on this habit).

Use Filters
When it is time to tackle my inbox, I have some filters in place that help me prioritize messages landing in my inbox. (My newsletter contain more details and directions on this).

Automate Everything
When planning your week, use email scheduling and assignment scheduling so that you don’t have to manually send messages every day. Every popular LMS (learning management system) contains a scheduling tool that you can use to write up a list of assignments and have them distributed on a schedule over the course of a week or month. Gmail users, you can schedule messages to be sent in the future. (My newsletter contained more information including tutorials on automation).

A Big Things List
My to-do list doesn’t include little things like “take kids to school” because that’s something that has to be done and can’t be put off for “later.” My to-do list has things that could be put off, but that I’d feel unproductive if I did put them off. For example, right now I’m trying with all my might to finish a big writing project. So on my to-do list I put “write 1,000 words.” It doesn’t have to get done that day, but I feel a lot more productive when I do get it done.

Five Google Calendar Features You Should Know How to Use

It has been a while since I made any tutorials about Google Calendar. The user interface, particulary the user interface for background settings, has changed a bit since the last time I published a tutorial about Google Calendar. So when a reader sent me a question about calendar sharing, I was prompted to create a new tutorial. In this new video I outline five Google Calendar features that you should know how to use including a couple of options for sharing Google Calendars. 

The settings and features demonstrated in the video include:

  • How to create a Google Calendar.
  • How to share a Google Calendar.
  • How to invite colleagues to collaborate on a Google Calendar.
  • How to create appointment slots in Google Calendar.
  • How to create task reminders in Google Calendar. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Two New Google Docs Features to Note

This week Google announced the addition of two new features in Google Docs. Both new features will be welcomed by teachers and students. 

The first new feature is an increase in the size of the comments box in Google Docs. Currently, the comments box accomodates 35 characters before a new line is created. The new version will accomdate 50 characters before a new line is created. In other words, the comment box is getting wider. The width of the box will expand or contract to meet the requirements of the screen being used. Wider screens will have a wider comment box in the margins of the document. Look for this update to start appearing in your Google Docs in the next couple of weeks. 

The second new Google Docs feature to note is the ability to add image watermarks to your Google Documents. This is something that Microsoft Word has offered for years and people have requested the same for Google Docs for years. Now when you open the "insert" drop-down menu in Google Docs you will have an option to insert a watermark image. The watermark will appear on all pages of the document you are currently working on. The new watermark feature will be rolling-out over the next couple of weeks. You can see a preview of it here

Two More Helpful YouTube Features for Teachers

Last week I published a video in which I detailed five helpful YouTube features for teachers. After I recorded that video I thought of two more features that I should have included. Therefore, I recorded another video that is simply titled Two More Helpful YouTube Features for Teachers

In this short video I demonstrate how to collaborate on creating a playlist in YouTube. Before that demonstration I explain why you might want to use theater mode when showing videos in your classroom.  

City Guesser 3.0 - More Maps and More Modes

About six months ago City Guesser 2.0 was released. The big news then was a switch from being based on street-level imagery to street-level video clips. Now City Guesser 3.0 is out and it still uses street-level video clips but now offers more games and more game modes than before. 

City Guesser 3.0 is played just like the previous version of the game. Select a category (country, city, region, or landmarks) for your game then click "start guessing" when you're ready to play. As soon as the game starts you will see street-level video footage of a place. You then have to guess where in the world that place is. You make your guesses by clicking on the map that pops up when click the "guess" button. How accurate or inaccurate your guess was is revealed to you as soon as you submit your guess. The accuracy of your guess is shown on the map with a marker for the actual location of the video clip compared to your guess.  

City Guesser 3.0 offers twenty-one games based on countries. There are also more than two dozen games based on major cities around the world. And there is a game based on monuments of the world. In addition to the new games, City Guesser 3.0 has two new game play modes. There is a "streaks" mode in which you try to make as many consecutive accurate guesses as possible. There are also two new "challenge" modes. There is a challenge mode in which you cannot move the imagery and have to guess from just one view. The other challenge mode is a timed mode in which you have to guess before time runs out. 

Watch this video for an overview of City Guesser 3.0.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Five Google Earth Features for Teachers

Google Earth has been one of my favorite ed tech tools for more than a decade. Over the years it has evolved as a desktop application and as a browser-based application. The web browser version of Google Earth seems to be getting the bulk of development attention from Google these days so I've created a new video that highlights five features of Google Earth (web version) that teachers should know how to use. These features are helpful and can be used in more than just social studies settings. 

In the video I demonstrate how to do the following things in the web version of Google Earth:

  • Locate and share lessons.
  • Share Google Earth games and quizzes via Google Classroom.
  • Create and share collections of placemarks in Google Earth. 
  • Change the base map in Google Earth. 
  • Change the units of measurement in Google Earth.


Learn much more about Google Earth by taking my online course, A Crash Course in Google Earth and Maps for Social Studies.

Family Fun With Make Beliefs Comix

Disclosure: Make Beliefs Comix is currently an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

Last month I outlined five ideas for using comics in your classroom. One of those ideas included having students tell stories from their lives outside of school. Continuing on that train of thought, Make Beliefs Comix has a new page of resources designed for families

The Make Beliefs Comix resources for families include creating a memory quilt and telling stories about family pets. The memory quilt activity asks parents and their children to fill in a memory square (templates available here) about things like "happiest day of my life," "favorite family saying," or "favorite achievement." The completed squares are then combined to make a "quilt" of family stories. 

Pet Words is a selection of Make Beliefs Comix story starters all about family pets. Some of these story starters include turning your pet into a superhero, things that people confide in their pets, and things the pets think about when people leave for school or for work for the day. 

Take a look at all of the resources for families on Make Beliefs Comix to find more activities and story starters for parents and their children to do together. 

Watch the video here to learn how you can make comics on Make Beliefs Comix. 

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Thinking, Blurring, and Coloring - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where the humidity is making everything feel wet. That's okay because I'm going fishing and will get wet anyway. It's the last weekend of the fishing season on my favorite river and I'm hoping to catch a few landlocked salmon to end the year. I hope that you have something fun planned for your weekend as well. 

This week I co-hosted the latest installment of Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff. Thanks to everyone who joined us for the live session. If you missed it, you can catch the replay right here and register for the next session on that same page. 

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. A Critical Thinking Quiz
2. Five Fun Breakout Games for Online and In-person Classrooms
3. Ziplet - A Good Way to Share Digital Exit Tickets
4. Tract - Project-based, Peer-to-Peer Learning
5. Two Easy Ways to Blur Faces and Objects in Your Videos
6. How to Create Custom Coloring Maps
7. Free Presidential Timeline Poster for Your Classroom Courtesy of C-SPAN

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.

Questions from My Daughters - Why Do We Sneeze?

My daughters ask me lots of questions that I haven't thought about since I was their age (4 and 5). Many of those questions I write in a list titled Questions from My Daughters that I have saved on my phone via Google Keep. "Why do we sneeze?" is one of the questions that my youngest daughter recently asked me. My answer was "because something tickles the hair inside your nose." Of course, I then had to do a little more research about her question. That brought me to SciShow and SciShow Kids which both tackled the question. 

Why Do We Sneeze? is a SciShow video that dives into some research that was done by scientists who created a simulated nose to determine why humans sneeze. 

All About Sneezes! is a SciShow Kids video that takes a little less scientific approach to answering the question "why do we sneeze?" while also reminding kids why it is important to cover their nose and mouth when they sneeze. 



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.