Tuesday, November 29, 2022

How to Create Custom QR Codes in Canva

Over the last fifteen years I've seen QR codes rise in popularity, fall in popularity, and rise again. They never lost their appeal to me because they can be used in schools a bunch of helpful ways. There are more QR code creation tools than ever before including one that is built into Canva.

In Canva you can take any design that you've made and use that design as the basis for a custom QR code. Or you can do what I demonstrate in the video below and simply use Canva to create a custom QR code based on a picture that you have taken. 

How to Create Custom QR Codes in Canva



Applications for Education
Besides the handful uses of QR codes in school that I outlined here, using Canva to create your QR codes could be a good way to add some classroom or school branding to your QR codes.

One More Day

Over the last year many of you have kindly supported my work here on Free Technology for Teachers and Practical Ed Tech by purchasing a copy of my eBook, 50 Tech Tuesday Tips. If you've been thinking about purchasing a copy, there's a 20% discount available until the end of the day on November 30th. 

50 Tech Tuesday Tips was curated from more than 400 editions of The Practical Ed Tech Newsletter. In 50 Tech Tuesday Tips you will find ideas for lots of helpful things that you can teach to your colleagues and to students. Throughout the eBook you'll find tutorials and handouts that you can pass along in your school. 

Some of the many things you'll find in 50 Tech Tuesday Tips include:

  • What to do when a web app isn't working as you expect.
  • Building your own search engine.
  • How to create green screen videos.
  • Improving instructional videos. 
  • Streamlining email management.
  • Creating educational games. 
  • DIY app creation.
  • Podcasting tips for teachers and students. 



Get your copy of 50 Tech Tuesday Tips right here!

A Mean PhET Simulation

PhET is one of my go-to resources for math and science teachers. Just before the Thanksgiving break (for those of us in the United States) PhET released a new simulation designed to help students understand the concept of mean. 

Mean: Share and Balance is an interactive simulation in which students are shown a series of beakers of water. They then have to estimate where the mean water level will be. The simulation can be adjusted to show as few as two beakers or as many as seven beakers. When displaying the simulation to your students you can enable or disable level indicators on the beakers and turn on or turn off prediction indicators. 


Applications for Education

Mean: Share and Balance could be a great instructional aid for elementary school or middle school lessons. One of the things that's great about PhET simulations is that most of them, including this new one, can be downloaded for use offline, shared in Google Classroom, or embedded into your website.

Monday, November 28, 2022

Threadit is Closing - A Few Alternatives to Try

Threadit is a Google product that when it launched I thought could have become a rival to Microsoft Flip. As feature-laden as Threadit is, it never really caught on and now Google is shutting it down in a few weeks. On December 19th Google is closing the doors on Threadit. If you have videos in it that you want to save, you need to download them sooner than later.

Alternatives to Threadit in the Google Workspace Environment

Some of what Threadit does can be replicated with other tools that are still available to Google Workspace users. Those tools include the screencast app for Chrome OS, office hours in Google Calendar, and Google Meet.

How to Record a Screencast in Chrome OS

15 Years of Free Technology for Teachers - Some Thoughts

Fifteen years ago today I was supervising detention when I wrote the first post on this blog. I did not have any idea what was to come over the next fifteen years let alone that I'd still be writing about educational technology in 2022. So on this occasion, if you'll indulge me, I'd like to take a few minutes to reflect on the last fifteen years. 

People and Places
I've met some wonderful people and made great friends as a result of writing my blog. I've been invited to speak at events on six of seven continents over the last fifteen years. If anyone is hosting a conference in Antarctica, I'll be happy to speak at it. I've been to events in 49 of 50 states. New Mexico is the only one I'm missing. And I've spoken at events in every Canadian province that borders the U.S. (one of my old dogs got to tag along for a few of those 2012). But none of that would have happened without the support of all of the folks who have followed my blog and invited me into their schools and conferences over the years. Thank you!

Years ago many of you reached out to me when one of my dogs passed away. Some even sent me condolences via good old fashioned USPS. Likewise, many of you reached out and sent congratulatory notes when my daughters were born. In both cases it was nice to know that people cared and knew there was a real person behind the blog.

Sadly, some of the people that I met through this blog (and social media) over the years are no longer with us. Sylvia and Allen immediately come to mind and I hope they knew that their work mattered.

Social Media
Over the years I've seen social media go from this odd place where only the really techy/geeky people were hanging out to the really odd place that it's in today. I'm glad that I didn't abandon blogging to chase social media likes and views.

Only a few of the people who regularly blogged when I started are still doing it on a consistent basis. Larry Ferlazzo, Vicki Davis, Kevin Hodgson, Stephen Downes, and Alan Levine seem to be the only ones I followed then who are still at it on a regular basis today. Keep it up!

Could've, Should've
Eight years ago I had a chance to sell this blog for a sum that would have given me a lot of financial flexibility (especially considering that I was single and debt-free). I passed because I wasn't sure what the heck I would have done with myself without blogging. In hindsight, I probably should have taken the offer. Oh well, live and learn.

Punctuation
In 1997 my freshmen comp professor wrote on one of my papers, "you throw punctuation around like it's confetti." I'm sure I still do that because some nice readers have corrected me over the years. My favorite was the person who used purple comic sans font in all caps to correct my mistakes.

More good than bad
I've gotten some nasty emails over the years (yes, from teachers) and some of them really sting. Overall, the good ones far outweigh the bad ones. And I hope that I've done more good than bad over the last fifteen years as well.

Battling plagiarism has been a source of frustration for almost all of the last fifteen years. I try to spin it as a teaching opportunity even though it really grinds my gears.

Some of the pitches I've gotten for sponsored guest posts over the years have been quite entertaining. No, I don't think your "high quality" article about crocheting is relevant to my audience. 

Another 15 years?
To be completely transparent, there have been some times over the last couple of years that I've seriously considered walking away from it because of become a bit cynical about some aspects of the educational technology industry. But I keep coming back because at the end of the day, I still enjoy writing and trying to help other teachers. So will I still be doing this in 15 years? Probably not, but I would have said the same thing 15 years ago.

The ten most popular posts of the last fifteen years!
1. Google Forms Can Now Automatically Grade Quizzes Without an Add-on
2. How to Create Your Own Online Board Game
3. Click to Spin - A Fun and Free Random Name Picker
4. Use Whiteboards in Google Meet Without Screensharing
5. Five Google Classroom Improvements Announced During ISTE
6. 5 Handy Chrome Extensions for Teachers
7. The Periodic Table in Pictures and Words
8. Two Ways to Visually Show Classroom Noise
9. Six Tools for Creating Classroom Quiz Games - A Comparison Chart
10. 250 Google Tools Tutorials for Teachers

In Memory of Ed Webster - Resources for Teaching and Learning About Mount Everest

This morning I opened Facebook and saw the news that fellow Mainer, mountaineer, and author Ed Webster had passed away on Thanksgiving morning. He's probably most famous for pioneering a new route up Mount Everest in 1988 which he chronicled with words and fascinating imagery in Snow in the Kingdom

I met Ed a few times over the years. He was incredibly humble and he was someone who you knew right away was a kind and generous soul. The first time I met him was at LL Bean fifteen years ago. He was signing books in the lobby but all the people there that day seemed to be too busy to stop and chat. I got to chat with him for nearly an hour. What struck me most about that first meeting was that he seemed more interested in hearing about where I wanted to climb than he was about telling his stories. 

The other thing that I'll remember about Ed is that he loved history and telling the stories of climbers and explorers of old. To that end, he gave innumerable talks at libraries, schools, and clubs. His rates for speaking at schools were so low that I'm not sure he wasn't losing money when he gave those talks.

In memory of Ed Webster, here are some resources for teaching and learning about Mount Everest:

To understand the scope of the accomplishment that Ed and his three teammates accomplished in 1988 watch this presentation that he gave at a library a couple of years ago. 



Why is Mount Everest so Tall? is a TED-Ed lesson in which students learn why the peak of Everest is so high, why other mountains are longer from base to summit, and how mountains in general are formed. Through the lesson students can also learn why the heights of mountains change and why Everest may not be the tallest mountain forever.

Through Google's Street View imagery of Mount Everest Basecamp (south side) students can zoom and pan around the foothills of Mount Everest. Students viewing that imagery for the first time might be surprised at how different the view is compared the to the typical pictures of Everest. After viewing the imagery students can click forward to see Street View imagery of other places in the region.

Scaling Everest is an infographic that goes beyond the usual scale of Everest comparisons to buildings and jet flight paths. In the infographic you will find audio of three Everest climbers talking about the approach to Everest basecamp and the nuances of the climb itself. The infographic also provides some interesting facts about plants and animals in the region.

Expedition Everest: The Mission is a five minute overview and introduction to a scientific expedition to Mount Everest. The purpose of the expedition is to study the effects of climate change on glaciers on the world's tallest mountains. When you watch Expedition Everest: The Mission in your computer's web browser, you can click and drag to move the viewing angle while listening to the narration. If you have a VR viewer, watch the video in that and you can move your head to explore the immersive imagery while listening to the narration.
I was just dabbling in climbing and dreaming about bigger mountains when Ed wrote that inscription for me in 2007.

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Three YouTube Features Every Teacher Should Know How to Use

In last week's Practical Ed Tech Newsletter I detailed a few features of YouTube Studio that every teacher who uploads videos to YouTube should know how to use. The video included in that newsletter can be seen here. Chances are that even if you don't upload videos to YouTube, you probably use YouTube to find and show videos in your classroom from time to time. If that's the case for you, there are some features of YouTube that you should know how to use. 

In this new video I highlight the features of YouTube that you should know how to use before showing a video in your classroom. Those features include adjusting the size and color scheme of subtitles, accessing and saving a transcript of videos, and clipping sections of YouTube videos.  

Three YouTube Features Every Teacher Should Know How to Use

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Clipart, Maps, and Food - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where it feels like winter is here to stay. A couple of the local ski mountains are open, a thin coat of ice appears on a lot of the ponds around my house, and I have to wear a lot more layers to ride my bike outside. Like many of you, I've had the last few days off to relax and spend with family. That will continue this weekend as we head outside for a hike and to find our Christmas tree. I hope that you have an equally enjoyable weekend. 

If you're interested in supporting my work here on FreeTech4Teachers.com and PracticalEdTech.com my eBook, 50 Tech Tuesday Tips is 20% off for the rest of the month when you use this link.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Two Good Ways to Create Simple and Focused Websites
2. More Than 70,000 Pieces of ClipArt and Pictures for Students
3. How to Add Descriptions to Google Drive Folders
4. Watch Out for This Email Scam Pretending to Be From YouTube Support
5. Maps and Videos About Where Thanksgiving Foods Come From
6. Two Cool Mapping Tools in the Felt Mapping Platform
7. A Thanksgiving Leftovers Search Lesson and Bookmarking Tip

50 Tech Tuesday Tips!
50 Tech Tuesday Tips is an eBook that I created with busy tech coaches, tech integrators, and media specialists in mind. In it you'll find 50 ideas and tutorials that you can use as the basis of your own short PD sessions. Get a copy today!

Workshops and eBooks
If you'd like to have me speak at your school or conference, please send me an email at richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com or fill out the form on this page. Book me for this school year and I'll include copies of my eBook for all of the teachers in your school. 

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 43,000 subscribers watching my short tutorial videos on a wide array of educational technology tools. 
  • I've been Tweeting as @rmbyrne for fifteen 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 Strava.
This post originally appeared on FreeTech4Teachers.com. If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission. Featured image captured by Richard Byrne.

Friday, November 25, 2022

Clipart & Drawings for Classroom Projects

Earlier this week I shared ClipArt ETC and Clippix ETC as good resources for locating free clipart and pictures to use in classroom projects. That was the third post this fall that I've published to feature a good place for teachers and students to find free drawings. To summarize all three of those posts I recorded a short video about all three of them. 

In this new video I demonstrate how to use the following places to find free clipart and drawings for classroom projects:



Applications for Education
ClipArt ETC and CocoMaterial only host clipart and drawings. Openverse also hosts images so it's important to teach students how to use the filters on Openverse if they want to find drawings. It's also best to limit Openverse to high school age or older.

Check the license terms before using any of the images from ClipArt ETC or Openverse. ClipArt ETC is strictly for classroom use. Openverse has a mix of license terms ranging from public domain to strict citation requirements.

An Encyclopedia of Comic Artists

Peanuts drawn by Charles Schulz, Calvin and Hobbes drawn by Bill Watterson, and The Family Circus drawn by Bil Keane were the comics that I was drawn to as a kid. By the time I became a high school teacher my students didn't recognize any of those comics and I didn't know the ones that they were reading. In short, my knowledge of comics and their artists was limited to what appeared in the Sunday newspaper when I was a kid. Does that sound like you? If so, you may also be interested in looking at Lambiek's Comiclopedia

Lambiek's Comiclopedia is an online cyclopedia of more than 14,000 comic artists. You can search the Comiclopedia by name, you can browse through it in alphabetical order, or simply click through the random artists featured on the homepage on the day that you visit it. Every listing includes a biography of the artist, some background on their comics, and some examples of their work. 

Applications for Education
Comiclopedia could be a good resource for people who want to get to know a little bit about the comics that their students are reading. And it just might inspire you try making comics in your classroom. If that turns out to be the case, you'll want to check out MOMA's four part series about creating comics.

H/T to Open Culture.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

A Thanksgiving Leftovers Search Lesson and Bookmarking Tip

One of my favorite things about Thanksgiving is eating the leftovers the next day. I enjoy a good turkey sandwich almost as much as Ross, but I do like to mix it up a bit and try other ways to use leftovers. In fact, I was doing that earlier this week (yes, I was planning for Thanksgiving leftovers) when I got super annoyed by all of the pop-up and scrolling ads on various recipe websites. That's when I implemented one of my favorite search tips, searching by file type. 

To the end of my search term "turkey shepherd's pie" I added filetype:pdf. I did that in order to only find links to PDFs containing recipes for turkey shepherd's pie. There aren't annoying pop-ups and scrolling ads on PDFs to get in the way of reading a recipe. 

The other trick that I often use when looking for recipes online is to use the OneNote web clipper to save articles instead of just bookmarking the links. The web clipper will let you view the article without having to actually go back to the original web page. 

Both of these tips for finding and reading Thanksgiving leftovers recipes can be employed whenever you're searching online. I used the file type search method earlier this fall to help someone identify a piece of old archery equipment and I used it just a week ago to find a copy of the owner's manual for the portable generator in my garage. 

Watch this short video for a demonstration of searching by file type and a demonstration of the OneNote web clipper. 


Searching by file type is one of just many search strategies that students need to know. That strategy and many more are taught in my online course, Search Strategies Students Need to Know. The course is on sale this week for 33% off when you use the code THANKSGIVING22 during registration. Register here and take the course at your own pace. 

This Time With Four Part Harmony and Feeling...

It's Thanksgiving Day here in the U.S. And although the pandemic ended my annual tradition of watching the road race in my hometown my tradition of posting and listening to Alice's Restaurant continues. If you'd like to join me in this tradition, here's Arlo Guthrie performing Alice's Restaurant

Happy listening! Happy Thanksgiving!

(Did you notice that this was posted exactly at noon?)



Fun fact! If you search for the song on Wolfram Alpha you will find a chart of Wikipedia traffic for the search term "Alice's Restaurant." So the question/ cultural history lesson for students is "why do people search for that term around Thanksgiving?"

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Two Cool Mapping Tools in the Felt Mapping Platform

A couple of weeks ago I published an introductory overview of a new digital mapping platform called Felt. As I said in that introduction, I've only begun to scratch the surface of all of the things that students can do and make on Felt. One of those things is the ability to quickly and easily map walking, running, and biking routes. Those routes can be displayed in a variety of colors on the map. Another neat feature is the option to overlay any image onto the map. 

In this short video I demonstrate how to use Felt to create a map of a bicycling route. In the video I also demonstrate how to overlay an image onto a map



Applications for Education
Creating a map of walking or bicycling routes can be a good way for students to familiarize themselves with their communities. It's also a good way for physical education teachers to map short routes for their classes.

Image overlays are helpful when you have an image of an old map or an image of how a place used to look. Overlay the image on its corresponding location to show students a "then and now" perspective.

On a related note, my Google Earth & Maps course is 50% off for the rest of the month use the code GEOAWARENESS22 during registration.

How to Search Within Your Google Drive Folders

Yesterday afternoon I shared a tip for keeping track of what you put into your Google Drive folders. This morning I have a tip on how to find the things that you and or your collaborators put into your Google Drive folders. 

Google Drive has contained a search function almost since its launch more than ten years ago. That search function is fairly obvious. A less obvious search feature that sometimes gets overlooked is the ability to search within a specific folder in your Google Drive account. 

To search within a specific folder in Google Drive simply right-click on its title to make a new menu appear. Near the bottom of that menu you'll find an option to search within the folder. Selecting that option will open a menu of search functions that are specific to that folder. Those functions include searching by file type, date, and file owner. 

Watch this short video to learn how to search within a Google Drive folder




The ability to search within a Google Drive folder can be particularly helpful when you are looking for files within a large shared folder. You might use a slightly different naming convention than your colleagues or students so being able to search by date, file type, keyword, and file owner can be a huge time and frustration-saver.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Watch Out for This Email Scam Pretending to Be From YouTube Support

If you have a YouTube channel, there is a new (new to me anyway) email scam that you need to be aware of. This scam landed in my inbox earlier today. Fortunately, the scam is so poorly executed that it is rather easy to spot. 

The scam is that someone finds the email address you have associated with the "about" page on your YouTube channel then sends you a PDF by sharing it via Google Drive. The PDF is titled "Copyright Warning" and claims to be from "YouTube Support." However, the email address associated with the shared file is a generic Gmail address. That's the first clue that the email is a phishing attempt. 

Another clue that this was a scam was that in my case, the email address found on my channel's about page is different from the one that I use to actually log into and publish videos on my channel. YouTube support, from whom I have received legitimate emails, will only contact you through the email that you use to log into and publish on your YouTube channel. 

Because I enjoy unraveling scams like these, I made a video to highlight the flaws with the scam and how to avoid falling for it. You can watch the video here on my YouTube channel or as embedded below. 



Applications for Education
I like to take scam email attempts like this one and use them as the basis for short lessons about cybersecurity. Emails the like the one I got today have some tell-tale signs of a scam that are fairly easy to spot. See if your students can spot them.

Some similar scams that I've unraveled in the last couple of years include this one about image attribution and this one also about image attribution from someone pretending to be a lawyer.

How to Add Descriptions to Google Drive Folders

A few days ago I received an email from a reader who was looking for suggestions about how to keep track of what is contained with the folders of a Google Drive account. My suggestion was to try adding descriptions to the folder. 

When you right-click on a folder in your Google Drive account a new menu appears. All the way at the bottom of that menu there is a little description field in which you can write up to 25,000 characters. Watch this short video for a demonstration of how to add a description to your Google Drive folders. 



Applications for Education
Adding a description to your Google Drive folders can be helpful to you. It can be even more helpful to the people with whom you have shared a Google Drive folder. For example, you may want to write a description of the contents of a folder full of review materials that you share with your students or a folder full of lesson materials that you share with your colleagues.

More Than 70,000 Pieces of ClipArt and Pictures for Students

The Florida Center for Instructional Technology hosts two fantastic resources for teachers and students in search of clipart and pictures for classroom projects. One of those is ClipArt ETC and the other is Clippix ETC

ClipArt ETC is an online catalog of more than 70,000 pieces of clipart that students and teachers can download and use in classroom projects. The catalog is arranged in thematic collections and sub-collections. Simply pick a collection then a sub-collection to find the clipart that you want to use. The clipart is available in three file sizes to meet most needs. 

Clippix ETC is an online catalog of thousands of pictures teachers and students can download and use for free in their classroom projects. Like ClipArt ETC, Clippix ETC is arranged in thematic collections and sub-collections. Images are available in three resolutions to meet most needs. 

Watch this short video for an overview of ClipArt ETC and Clippix ETC. 



Applications for Education
It's important to note that these collections were built specifically for classroom use. That means that you shouldn't encounter any images that aren't appropriate for school. It also means that the licensing for the clipart and images is specific to classroom use. Use outside of the context of a classroom setting does require purchasing a license to re-use the images and clipart.

Monday, November 21, 2022

How to Read Music - And 17 Other Lessons About Music

Music Snippet is a Google Docs add-on that I've written about in the past. It's handy tool for writing music in Google Docs. A reader recently asked me about it which prompted me to search my archives for other music-related resources. One that I came across was a TED-Ed lesson that explains the fundamentals of reading music. Watching the video won't turn students into composers over night, but it provides a good start.

TED-Ed offers a lot of interesting and useful video lessons for students. Many of the videos are organized into playlists. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a playlist of all of the TED-Ed lessons about music. To remedy that problem, I made a playlist of my own featuring eighteen TED-Ed lessons about music.

Maps and Videos About Where Thanksgiving Foods Come From

Where Does Your Thanksgiving Dinner Come From? is an interactive storymap that I've shared in the past and still find interesting. The map displays where eight popular Thanksgiving foods are grown and harvested in the United States. The storymap includes a map for each ingredient. Each map shows the locations of commercial producers. Fun facts are included in the storymap too. For example, did you know that Illinois has at least twice as many acres of pumpkins as any state?

Where Does Your Thanksgiving Dinner Come From? shows where food comes from today, but it doesn't show the historical origins of traditional Thanksgiving foods. That's an interesting topic of its own. It's Okay to Be Smart and TED-Ed offer video lessons that address the origins of traditional Thanksgiving foods. 

Through It's Okay to Be Smart's The Surprising Origins of Thanksgiving Foods students can learn how the most common, traditional Thanksgiving foods originated and evolved to what they are today. This lesson includes an explanation of how archaeologists and scientists determined that turkeys were one of the first animals to be domesticated in North America. We also learn why the turkeys we find in the grocery store today are so much bigger than those of just a few generations ago. 

Corn is often seen as a symbol of Thanksgiving. Today, corn and many products made with it are a staple of the diets of many of us. How did corn become a staple of our diets? What has enabled it to become one of the most cultivated crops in the world? And what are the consequences of cultivating so much corn? Those questions and many others are addressed in the TED-Ed lesson titled How Corn Conquered the World.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Two Good Ways to Create Simple and Focused Websites

Parts of this post originally appeared late last year in an issue  of my Practical Ed Tech weekly newsletter

I am often asked for recommendations for simple website builders that teachers and students can use to create small websites. The purpose isn’t to share everything they’ve done and have you grade it. Tools like Seesaw and Spaces are good for that. The purpose of these kinds of sites is to share photography, their resumes, videos they’ve made, or awards and references they’ve received.

Google Sites is fine for making simple sites, but the aesthetics still have a long way to go. Services like WordPress and Wix are great, but they have way more menus and options than what's needed for a quick and simple site. Fortunately, there are some good tools students can use to quickly create simple, good-looking websites to showcase their work and share a bit about themselves. Here are a couple that are worth trying.

Carrd.co is an easy-to-use tool to quickly create good-looking, simple websites. I used to to create a little photography showcase site in less than ten minutes. It looks much better than anything I could have created with Google Sites or WordPress. Watch this short demo to see how you can create a portfolio site with Carrd.co.



Adobe Express (formerly known as Adobe Spark) has a webpage creator that offers a fantastic way to create simple websites in which your students can include images, text, and videos. Consider having your students arrange their pages chronologically so that the top of the page shows their work at the beginning of the year and then as viewers scroll down they see your students' latest work. Click here for a video tutorial on how to use Adobe Express to create a simple website.

STEAM Lessons About the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade

Watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is a little tradition in my house just like it is in millions of other homes in the United States. For the last few years Macy's has offered some hands-on STEAM lessons related to the parade. 

Parade 101 features four video demonstrations of hands-on activities that students can do at home with their parents or in your classroom. The four activities include inflating balloons through the use of baking soda and vinegar, designing balloons for the parade, making and using sculping dough, and building model floats. All of the videos include lists of needed supplies. 

I like all four of the activities. If I was to recommend one for Thanksgiving day it would be building model floats or designing because they can be done with cardboard, paper, glue, markers, and other common household materials that don't make a mess and don't have to be done in a kitchen. That said, I think the most fun one is the inflating balloons activity. 

In addition to the videos and STEAM projects Parade 101 offers some printable coloring sheets and puzzles. An interactive timeline of the history of the parade is still available to view as well. 

Finally, if you are looking for some history of the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade videos, take a look at the following videos that I've shared in the past. 

History of the Thanksgiving Day Parade.



The History of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Elk, Geography, and Art - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where I'm home after spending most of the week in western Nebraska. It was there that I took the picture featured in this post. It's a little hard to make it out, but there's a bull elk in the picture. It was one of three that walked right past me early on Monday morning. Those of you who follow me on Instagram might have also seen a video of those same elk earlier this week. 

Now that I'm home this weekend is going to be full of some late autumn chores like putting away my kids' outdoor toy box for the winter and cleaning up the last of leaf piles. There will also be time for fun. I hope that you have a fun weekend!

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Where I'd Like to Go - A Geography Lesson With Google Drawings
2. An Overview of Five Fun Geography Games for Students
3. Felt - A New Way to Create Multimedia Maps
4. Is This the End of the Google Keep Chrome Extension?
5. A Google Earth Lesson With the "I'm Feeling Lucky" Button
6. Free, Customizable Clip Art
7. 30+ Activity Templates to Use in Google Classroom

50 Tech Tuesday Tips!
50 Tech Tuesday Tips is an eBook that I created with busy tech coaches, tech integrators, and media specialists in mind. In it you'll find 50 ideas and tutorials that you can use as the basis of your own short PD sessions. Get a copy today!

Workshops and eBooks
If you'd like to have me speak at your school or conference, please send me an email at richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com or fill out the form on this page. Book me for this school year and I'll include copies of my eBook for all of the teachers in your school. 

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 43,000 subscribers watching my short tutorial videos on a wide array of educational technology tools. 
  • I've been Tweeting as @rmbyrne for fifteen 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 Strava.
This post originally appeared on FreeTech4Teachers.com. If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission. Featured image captured by Richard Byrne.

Five Digital Mapping Tools That Aren't Made by Google

Google Earth and Google's My Maps are great tools for students to use to create multimedia maps. But Google isn't the only game in town when it comes to digital map creation tools. In fact, there are some good ones that are freely available to you and your students outside of what Google offers. Here's a summary of five good ones that are worth trying. 

Scribble Maps is a tool that I've used and recommended for years. As the name implies, you can use it to draw on maps. You can also use it to create multimedia map markers. The best part is that you can use it without creating an account or enter any personal information. In this short video I provide an overview of how to create a multimedia map on Scribble Maps.

ArcGIS Story Maps is a free tool that you can use to create a variety of map-based stories. The basic ArcGIS Story Map lets you combine pictures and locations to playback as a series of slides. The learning curve is a bit steeper than the other tools in this list, but the finished product is quite slick. Here's a good example of an ArcGIS Story Map.

Padlet is one of the most versatile tools you can put in your digital toolbox. Creating multimedia maps is just one of the many things that you can do with Padlet. In the video that is embedded below I demonstrate creating a multimedia map by using Padlet's built-in maps. The video also covers how to share your Padlet maps, how to add collaborators to the map, and settings you need to know before inviting students to be collaborators on your Padlet maps. 



Felt is a new mapping tool that I recently started using. So far I think it's great! Felt offers a lot of easy-to-use tools for creating custom maps. Some of those tools include drawing and highlighting on maps, annotating maps with notes, adding custom placemarks, and overlaying datasets on your maps. Watch this video for an introduction to using the basic tools offered by Felt. 


StoryMap JS is a tool that I've been using and recommending for many years. StoryMap JS enables students to tell stories through a series of slides that appear on a map. Each slide is matched to locations that you choose on your map. Each slide in your story can include images, text, and hyperlinks. In this short video I demonstrate how to create a story map with StoryMap JS.


Friday, November 18, 2022

How to Create a Story Map

StoryMap JS is a tool that I've been using and recommending for many years. It's a free tool that students can use to create a story map in a manner similar to Google's My Maps or the old Google Tour Builder. The difference between those tools and StoryMap JS is that StoryMap JS is much easier for new users to master. 

StoryMap JS enables students to tell stories through a series of slides that appear on a map. Each slide is matched to locations that you choose on your map. Each slide in your story can include images, text, and hyperlinks.

In this short video I demonstrate how to create a story map with StoryMap JS.



Applications for Education
StoryMap JS is a great tool for students to use to map a series of events or a series of thematically connected places. In the video above I gave the example of mapping a series of roadside attractions. Some other ideas for story maps that you could have your students create include biographies, natural landmarks, notable buildings, and cultural centers.

Loom Adds New Features That Will Be Helpful to Teachers and Students

Loom is one of the tools that I regularly recommend when I'm asked to recommend a video tool for creating instructional videos. This week Loom announced two new features that could prove to be quite helpful to teachers and students. 

The first new feature to note is a floating speaker notes tool in the Loom desktop app for Windows and Mac. The speaker notes are basically sticky notes that you can use to write a script or just some talking points to use to keep you on track while recording a screencast video with Loom. You can move the notes around while recording. The best part is that while you can see your speaker notes while recording the notes aren't visible in the final recording that you save. 

The second new feature of note in Loom is the option to create and set defaults for all of the videos that you record. You can set defaults both for what appears in your videos and what viewers can do with your videos (reactions, downloads, responses). 

Applications for Education
Whenever I lead a workshop or webinar about classroom video projects I always recommend that students create a script or at least a list of talking points before recording. Doing that helps students focus on the main point(s) of their videos and it gives them something to refer to while recording. The new floating sticky notes in Loom could be very helpful to students while they are recording so that they stay on track while recording.

Setting video defaults could be a time-saver for teachers who are creating a lot of instructional videos.

Thursday, November 17, 2022

The Science Behind My Favorite Thanksgiving Foods

American Thanksgiving is one week away. The traditional Thanksgiving meal is one of my favorite combinations of foods. My mouth is watering just thinking about turkey, potatoes, squash, stuffing and cranberry sauce from a can (I love the "shlop" sound the cranberry sauce makes as it pops out of the can). 

This year I'm in charge of cooking the turkey on my smoker. There's a science to doing that that I've been reading about and watching a lot of videos about over the last couple of weeks. The one I like the best is How to Smoke a Turkey for Thanksgiving by Mad Scientist BBQ.



And there's science to what makes all of the food associated with Thanksgiving delicious. The Reactions YouTube channel, produced by The American Chemical Society, has a few good video lessons that address the science of a traditional American Thanksgiving meal. 

Better Thanksgiving Potatoes Through Chemistry explains the chemical properties of raw potatoes and which ones to pick for roasting based on their chemistry. The video then goes on to explain the science of roasting potatoes before finally revealing the best method, based on science, for roasting potatoes.



The Truth About Tryptophan explains why it might not be just the turkey that is making you sleepy after a big Thanksgiving dinner.



Finally, How to Fry a Thanksgiving Turkey Without Burning Your House Down provides an overview of the science involved in deep frying a turkey and how you can use that knowledge to avoid a disaster on Thanksgiving.



Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Where I'd Like to Go - A Geography Lesson With Google Drawings

I originally wrote this blog post and recorded the video in 2021 while thinking about icebreaker activities for the start of the school year. The activity is also great for Geography Awareness Week. 

As the new school year starts many you may find yourself looking for some new ideas to break the ice and get to know your new students while they also get to know each other. One thing that I've always asked my students is "where in the world would you go if you could go anywhere today?" Recently, I've started thinking about turning that question into the prompt for an activity in which students learn a bit about Google Drawings

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



As I mention in the video above, you can modify this activity to be completed with Google Slides or Google Jamboard. And, as is also demonstrated in the video above, you can use Google Classroom to distribute a template for the assignment.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Plate Tectonics and a Search Lesson

This is a post from my archives that fits with the theme of Geography Awareness Week. 

This morning I responded to a Tweet from someone who was looking for "plate tectonics virtual experiences for students." My mind immediately went to using Google Earth. A quick search in my archives and I found this lesson plan calling for using Google Earth to teach plate tectonics and I found this Google Map filled with placemarks containing questions about plate tectonics. I knew that I could find more Google Earth files related to plate tectonics if I just spent a few minutes searching. 

Instead of just opening Google Earth and browsing for tours about or related to plate tectonics I went to Google and searched according to file type. The file types supported in Google Earth and KML and KMZ, but KML is more commonly used. So to conduct the search I entered plate tectonics filetype:kml You can also accomplish the same thing by opening the advanced search menu in Google and selecting KML from the filetype menu. In the video that is embedded below I demonstrate both methods of searching for Google Earth files. 


You can learn more search strategies and how to teach them in my on-demand course, Search Strategies Students Need to Know. And learn more about Google Earth in A Crash Course in Google Earth & Maps.

A Google Earth Lesson With the "I'm Feeling Lucky" Button

Since it is Geography Awareness Week I thought I'd pull a lesson plan from my archives to share with you. 

From voyages to games to simple measuring tools, the web version of Google Earth has a lot of neat features that can help students learn about the world. One of those neat features is the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button that is found on the left hand toolbar in Google Earth. Clicking that button will take students to a randomly-selected place in the world. 

On its own the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button provides a good way for students to discover new places. That said, students learn more through the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button  if you give them a little more direction than just "click the button and look around." That's why I created a little question sheet to prompt students to do a little research about the places they discover in Google Earth via "I'm Feeling Lucky." My question sheet can be found here as a Google Doc

This short video demonstrates how students can explore Google Earth in more detail after clicking "I'm Feeling Lucky."



To learn more about using Google Earth in your classroom, take a look at my Crash Course in Google Earth & Maps for Social Studies. Use the code GEOAWARENESS22 for a 50% discount this week!

Fifty Tech Tuesday Tips

Are you a tech coach, tech integrator, or media specialist who has been asked to run a little tech workshop? Do you need some ideas for it? If so, 50 Tech Tuesday Tips is for you! 

50 Tech Tuesday Tips was curated from more than 400 editions of The Practical Ed Tech Newsletter. In 50 Tech Tuesday Tips you will find ideas for lots of helpful things that you can teach to your colleagues and to students. Throughout the eBook you'll find tutorials and handouts that you can pass along in your school. 

Some of the many things you'll find in 50 Tech Tuesday Tips include:

  • What to do when a web app isn't working as you expect.
  • Building your own search engine.
  • How to create green screen videos.
  • Improving instructional videos. 
  • Streamlining email management.
  • Creating educational games. 
  • DIY app creation.
  • Podcasting tips for teachers and students. 



Get your copy of 50 Tech Tuesday Tips right here!

Monday, November 14, 2022

An Overview of Five Fun Geography Games for Students

Today is the first day of Geography Awareness Week. In the following videos I provide an overview of five map-based geography games that your students can play this week or any other time they need to practice identifying places around the world. All five games are featured in this compilation video. Read on for descriptions of each game. 

Worldle Daily is a combination of the Wordle concept and Google Street View imagery. The game is played by looking at a featured Street View image then trying to guess, by clicking on a map, where in the world that image was captured. After each guess you're shown how far away you are from being correct. A circle covering the area in which the image was taken is also displayed after each guess. As you get closer, the circle gets smaller until you either use up all of your guesses or guess correctly. 

Here's my short video overview of how to play Worldle Daily. 



Where In the World is Carmen Sandiego? is one of many games that you can play in the web, Android, and iOS versions of Google Earth. If you go into the Voyager mode in Google Earth you will find other games and quizzes to try. The quizzes are neat because when you answer a question correctly you automatically zoom to the Street View imagery of the location. Check it out in this short video.



Geo Artwork from Google Arts & Culture is a game in which you view an image of an artwork and then have to guess where in the world that artwork belongs. There are categories for visual arts, sculpture, textiles, books, and places. The places category is based on Google Street View imagery of places associated with or featuring an art work. Watch my short video to learn how to play Geo Artwork.



GeoGeek AR is a fun app for testing and developing your knowledge of world geography. As its name and icon imply, the app uses augmented reality to put a virtual globe in any space that you choose. You can spin the globe with your fingers or simply move around the room to see different parts of the globe. Watch this short demo video to see how the app works. Watch to the end of the video for a special guest appearance by one of my dogs.



Geoquiz History Edition is a fun and challenging map game for history buffs. The game works like similar geography games in which you're given the name of a place and have to place a marker on a blank outline map as close as possible to the actual location. In Geoquiz History Edition you're given the name of a battle or the name of historically significant landmark. The War Battle edition of the game lists battles from wars all over the world throughout history. The Heritage edition of the game lists historically significant places in the heritage of a country or culture. Watch my short video that is embedded below to see how to play GeoQuiz History Edition.