Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Best of 2022 So Far - Mote

With the exception of the webinar I'm hosting tomorrow, I'm taking the rest of the week off. While I'm gone I'll be republishing some of the most popular posts of the year so far. 

One of my absolute favorite new tools in 2021 was a Chrome extension called Mote. With Mote installed you can add audio comments to Google Docs, Google Classroom, and Google Slides. You can also use Mote to add audio to Google Forms and insert audio into Google Slides with just one click. Mote also lets you record audio messages to share directly in Gmail and or via QR codes. All of those things are featured in this Mote compilation video that I put together earlier this week. 


Applications for Education
As I've been saying since the first day that I tried Mote, the thing that I like the best about it is ability to give students feedback in your own voice. There's a comfort in hearing feedback instead of just reading it that a lot of students benefit from. That's especially true when the feedback is being provided to students who might struggle to understand your feedback when they're just reading it instead of hearing it. 

Best of 2022 So Far - QRToon

With the exception of the webinar I'm hosting tomorrow, I'm taking the rest of the week off. While I'm gone I'll be republishing some of the most popular posts of the year so far. 

QR codes are handy for making long URLs easy to access on mobile devices. Last year I used QR codes to make my classroom sign-in/sign-out forms easy for students to access on their phones. I typically use either QRCode Monkey or the QR code generator built into Chrome. Recently, I discovered another neat QR code generator called QRToon

Like all QR code generators, QRToon will create a QR code for any URL that you specify. The difference between QRToon and other QR code creators that you might have tried is that QRToon will let you upload a picture to use in your QR code. That picture is then turned into a cartoon version. The QR code in this post includes a cartoon version of a headshot of myself that I uploaded to QRToon. 

Using QRToon is easy and it does not require registration. Simply head to the site, enter the URL that you want to turn into a QR code, and then upload a picture. QRToon will generate the QR code with your cartoonized portrait in it. You can download your QR code as PNG file to print and use wherever you like. 

It's worth noting that QRToon will only work with pictures that have just one human face in them. It didn't work when I tried to use it with pictures that had me and my kids in it. It also didn't work when I tried to use pictures of my dogs and cats.

Applications for Education
Does the world need another QR code generator? Probably not. Is it nice to have a personalized QR code that includes your likeness? Sure. The utility of QRToon is probably in just being able to personalize your QR codes to include your likeness in them for your students to recognize.

By the way, the QR code in this post will direct you to my eBook, 50 Tech Tuesday Tips

Monday, July 4, 2022

Summer Reading, Notebooks, and Thinking

If you've joined one of my webinars about search strategies or taken my Teaching History With Technology course, you probably know that I advocate for two very non-techy activities. Those things are reading physical books and writing in a physical notebook. 

I have always found that when I read physical books, regardless of whether they're fiction or nonfiction, there at least three things that happen. I get new ideas to dabble with in my head. I have ideas that I want to remember. I have to stop and write my ideas down. All of those things are similar and all of those contribute to making me a bit of a slow reader if your only gauge for reading speed is how many pages you turn in a given timeframe. 

A physical notebook is almost always within my reach throughout the day. I start my day writing in a notebook (goals for the day, to-do list, reminders). During the day when I need to puzzle through an idea I write in my notebook. And when I'm stuck and can't think of anything to blog about or make videos about, I turn back through the pages of my notebooks (in my office I have notebooks going back at least ten years). 

This summer I'm reading The Last King of America and re-reading Twenty Things to Do With a Computer. Both books are quickly filling with notes. Both have given me ideas that I wouldn't have found through scrolling social media accounts or through Google search. I wouldn't have those notes and ideas through a Google search because I wouldn't have known what I didn't know until I read the books. Those notes then prompt and form my later Google searches. In other words, the books start me down the rabbit hole of investigating more ideas.

Is there a point to this post? Yes, it's to remind you to pick up a good book this summer and take notes. And in the fall, do the same for your students. 

What I Do When a Website Steals My Work

I've been writing this blog for fifteen years this year. For most of those years I have been battling with people about copyright. Some people think that because it says "Free Technology for Teachers" that they can take anything they want and republish it wherever they want. Other people have a misunderstanding of what fair use means. And some people simply don't care about copyright at all. That's often the case with super scuzzy and slimy websites that use automated scripts to take all of my blog posts and republish them. 

Unfortunately, over the last fifteen years I've become rather adept at finding out where websites that steal my work are hosted and how to file copyright infringement notices with those web hosting providers. I spent a good deal of time doing that last week (it puts me in foul mood) so I decided to try to make something useful with my time and recorded this video about how to file a DMCA takedown request with a web host. In this case the web host was Name Cheap. The process is largely the same regardless of the web hosting provider. 

Hopefully, you never have to go through the annoyance and frustration of dealing with people stealing your work. But if you do, I hope my video is helpful to you. 



p.s. I can't wait to see this blog post get stolen by one of the aforementioned spammy, slimy, scuzzy websites like Daily Dose, Trident of CNC, World New 5, and Star Kids Learn.

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Geo Artwork - A Fun Game About Geography and Art

If you and or your students enjoy online geography games like GeoGuessr, you need to try Geo Artwork from Google Arts & Culture. 

Geo Artwork 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. 

Geo Artwork is played by looking at the image and then placing a pin on a map to guess at the answer. Once the pin is placed you're shown how close or far you were from the correct answer. After viewing the accuracy of your guess you can click through to learn more about the artwork. 

Watch my short video to learn how to play Geo Artwork

How Do Fireworks Work? - Another Question from my Daughters

Tomorrow is the Fourth of July and that means there will be fireworks displays in towns all over the United States. My little town is having small display that we'll actually be able to see from our backyard. And this year my kids are old enough to stay up to see the fireworks display. Of course, that also means they're old enough to ask "how do fireworks work?" 

If your kids are also curious about how fireworks work, take a look at the following videos from NPR's SkunkBear, National Geographic, and Reactions to learn about the science of fireworks.







If you're viewing this in RSS or email, you might need to click on the blog post title to see the videos.

Saturday, July 2, 2022

Tomatoes, Templates, and Fireworks - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where sun is rising and it's going to be a nice summer day to start a long weekend. I'll be mowing before setting up a water bounce house for my kids to play in. The bounce house is one of the best "pandemic purchases" we made in the spring of 2020. My kids love it and I do too. I hope that you have something fun to do this weekend!

This week I wrapped up my Teaching History With Technology course. I'm not hosting any more courses until the fall, but will be hosting a series of individual webinars over the next six weeks. You can learn more about those webinars here

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Flipgrid is Dead!
2. Tools for Asynchronously Collecting Stories
3. Ten Good Templates for Science, Social Studies, and Language Arts Activities
4. Transforming the Traditional Learning Environment with BookWidgets
5. 25 Ideas for Whiteboard Videos
6. Enroll in Tract’s Free Virtual Summer Creator Camp
7. Short Lessons About American Independence Day

July and August Webinars!
Starting this week I'm hosting a series of seven Practical Ed Tech webinars. You can register for one or all seven of them. Read about them here or follow the links below to register.
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 41,000 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 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 Icons Daily and Daily Dose. Featured image captured by Richard Byrne.

A Good Place to Find Free Images and Music for Classroom Projects

In my guide to finding media for classroom projects I provide a list and description of my favorite resources. The next time I update that guide I'll include Openverse

Openverse is the replacement for the old CreativeCommons.org search tool. The Creative Commons organization has handed-off oversight of Creative Commons search to WordPress. WordPress now operates Creative Commos search as Openverse.

Openverse can be used to find Creative Commons-licensed and public domain pictures and audio files. The best aspect of Openverse is that it provides a clear explanation of how you can and can't use a particular image or audio file. It also provides preformatted text to use when citing the source of an image or audio file. 

Watch this video to learn how to use Openverse to find free images and music for classroom projects

Friday, July 1, 2022

Seven Summer Webinars With Me!

As I announced last week on Practical Ed Tech, starting on July 6th and running through August I'm hosting a series of webinars on a wide range of edtech topics. 

All of the webinars will be held live and will also be recorded for those who register in advance. You can register for one, two, or all of them! Watch the following video or click through the list below to learn more and register for the webinars. 


Five Ideas for Classroom Apps

On Wednesday I published a post about how to create your own mobile apps for classroom use. If you read that post and wondered why teachers would ever want to take on the task of making their own apps or having students do it, here are five ideas for classroom apps. 

1. Create a mobile study guide: This was the first thing that I thought of when I discovered Glide Apps. You or your students could create an app that lists each section or unit of your curriculum. In each section you can provide videos, podcasts, or simply link to additional documents for review.

2. Create a mobile version of school handbooks: When parents have a question about your school, their first instinct is probably to pick up their phones to search your school's website or to call the office. A mobile version of your school's handbook could make it easy for parents to quickly find the answers to frequently asked questions.

3. Create a guide to your community: Are you looking for a community service project for your middle school or high school students? If so, consider having them develop a guide to the highlights your community.

4. Develop a mobile reporting system: Do you have students or parents using Google Forms for logging information about multiple goals like independent reading, outdoor play, or behavior goals? If so, consider placing links to all of those forms in one convenient app. You'd do this by placing the links to your Forms in the columns in your spreadsheet before publishing it through Glide.

5. Room Use Schedule: For many years I worked in a school that had more teachers than classrooms so it was always kind of a guessing game as to who was using which room when. Having an app that made it easy to find out who was using which rooms at which times would have been amazing! With Glide Apps you could create that kind of app.

How to Use Custom Fonts in Google Forms to Improve Readability

One of last week's most popular posts was about the news of Google adding new font customization options to Google Forms. Like all updates to Google Workspace tools, the new font customization options were immediately available to some users and not others. It took about a week for the new options to appear in my Google accounts. If you haven't seen the new Google Forms font customization options, take a look this short video I made to demonstrate how to use them. 



Applications for Education
The Lexend family of fonts is now an option in Google Forms. Lexend fonts are designed to improve the accessibility of writing by reducing visual stress. You can learn more about these fonts here and on Lexend.com.

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Bikes, Bubbles, and Forms - The Month in Review

Good evening from Maine where the sun is setting on the month of June. Despite some crummy weather to start the month, we're ending with a great stretch of warm and sunny weather that is perfect playing outside. I hope that you had a great month!

This month I hosted my Teaching History With Technology course. In July and August I'm hosting another series of Practical Ed Tech webinars. You can learn more about them and register here

As I do at the end of every month, I've gone through my Google Analytics account to find the ten most popular posts of the last thirty days. Take a look and see if there's something interesting that you missed in June. 

These were the most popular posts of the month:
1. Lessons for World Bicycle Day
2. Tools for Asynchronously Collecting Stories
3. Five Great Chrome Extensions for Teachers
4. 45 Canva Tutorials for Teachers and Students
5. A TED-Ed Lesson for Every Element on the Periodic Table
6. Videos for Teaching and Learning About Memorial Day
7. Five Ways to Work With PDFs in Google Drive
8. Two Ways to Quickly Turn Writing Into Videos
9. Unpoppable Bubbles - Another Fun Summer Science Lesson
10. New Google Forms Customization Options

July and August Webinars!
Starting in July I'm hosting a series of seven Practical Ed Tech webinars. You can register for one or all seven of them. Read about them here or follow the links below to register.
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 41,000 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 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 Icons Daily and Daily Dose. Featured image captured by Richard Byrne.

A Whole Bunch of Resources for Learning About the Tour de France

The Tour de France begins tomorrow. Watching the race every morning for three weeks is one of the things I look forward to every summer. I also find that it provides some neat opportunities for science, health, and physical education lessons. Here are some of my go-to resources for teaching and learning about the Tour de France.

What do the Tour de France jerseys mean?
The yellow jersey is worn by the overall leader of the race. The goal is to be wearing it at end of the race in Paris. Riders competing for this jersey are often referred to as competing for the general classification. The odds-on favorites this year include Tadej Pogačar, Primož Roglič, and Ben O'Connor. My hope is that Geraint Thomas makes a good run at the GC this year (he won in 2018 and he has a great podcast).  

The green jersey, also known as the points jersey, is typically won by riders who aren't built for uphill speed, but are faster than everyone else on flat ground. Mark Cavendish won this jersey last year, but this year's favorite is Wout Van Aert. Peter Sagan has won the jersey seven times and is back to try again. 

The polka dot jersey is known as the King of the Mountains jersey. This won by having the most points for ascending the hills and mountains the fastest. Riders who win this are typically those who are great at riding up hill, but for one reason or another aren't competitive enough to win the general classification. There are lots of riders who have the potential to win this depending on team and individual goals. Thibaut Pinot, Romain Bardet, and Nairo Quintana are names to watch for this competition. 

The white jersey is a prize for the best young rider (under 25). The last three white jerseys were won by riders who also won the yellow jersey. 

VeloNews has  complete breakdown of how standings are calculated for each jersey and the money awarded for winning jerseys and stages of the race. 

How Fast is the Slowest Tour de France Rider?
Last year I evaluated the Strava data of the rider who finished last in the Tour de France. It shows that even the last-place finisher is incredibly fast! You can read my breakdown of the data here

The Science of Bicycles and Bicycling
There is a lot of physics involved in casual bike riding and in racing. Here's a selection of videos that explain the physics of bicycling.

The first time that you ride in a pack of experienced cyclists you'll feel the power of drafting. Besides their incredible fitness and bike handling skills, drafting helps cyclists in the Tour de France move quickly. The following video explains how drafting works.


Minute Physics offers two videos about the physics of bicycles. In How Do Bikes Stay Up? we learn how bikes stay upright, how design and weight influences balance, and why bicycles are difficult to balance in reverse. The Counterintuitive Physics of Turning a Bike explains how we turn bicycles.




The Diet of a Tour de France Racer
I've done some long days on my bike over the years including a double-century ride and at the end I've always felt like I could eat anything in sight. That's because I burned thousands of calories. But even then I didn't burn the 6,000-8,000+ calories that a typical Tour de France racer burns every day of the race.

What does it look like and feel like to eat like a professional cyclist? That's what the Wall Street Journal's Joshua Robinson set out to discover in his 6,000 calorie challenge. Take a look at the video below to see how he did it. Pay attention to the professional cyclist at the 2:40 mark in the video for commentary about energy gels because it surprise you and make you rethink the whether or not the average weekend warrior needs the expensive "sports energy" products for a simple hour workout.


If you want to get into a bit more of the science of nutrition of cyclists, take a look at this video featuring the team nutritionist for EF Education First's professional cycling team.



How Much Do Professional Cyclists Make?
In his book Draft Animals, Phil Gaimon, a retired professional cyclist, detailed his struggles to makes end meet while racing. The take-away from reading that book is that unlike professional Major League Baseball or National Basketball Association teams in which even the last person on the bench is paid ten times what a teacher makes in a year, professional cycling teams have one or two highly-paid ($1 million+) athletes and most of the rest make salaries in the range of teachers and school district administrators. In this 2019 article Cycling Tips detailed how much riders can earn in the Tour de France and throughout the professional cycling season. 

A Google Maps and Earth Activity for Art Classes

When I conduct workshops on Google Maps and Google Earth I always point out that the uses for those tools extend beyond the realm of geography and history. One example of using Google Maps and Earth outside of the typical geography setting is using Google Maps and Earth to have students place art and artists on an interactive map.

Students can map the locations of where a piece of art is housed, where it was created, where the artist lived, and the places that inspired the artist. Each placemark on a student's map could include a picture of the artwork, a picture of the artist, and or a video about the art and artist. To provide a complete picture a student can include text and links to more information about the art and artist.

This project can be accomplished by using either Google's My Maps, Google Earth in your web browser, or Google Earth on your desktop. I have a bunch of Google Earth tutorials on my YouTube channel that can help you get started on a project like this.



Are you a geography or history teacher looking for a fun way to introduce your students to Google Earth? If so, check out my Around the World With Google Earth activity.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Flipgrid is Dead!

If you're attending the ISTE conference in person this week or you're following updates from it on social media, you probably heard a thing or two about Flipgrid hosting a big event they called Flipfest. I didn't go because I wasn't at ISTE and even if I was there corporate "fests" are generally not my thing (my thoughts about corporate "fests" are something I'll save for another day). But even though I didn't go to Flipfest I did learn via Twitter that Flipgrid is dead. That's right, it's over, no more Fipgrid.  

Microsoft has rebranded Flipgrid as simply Flip. Other than that nothing is changing for now. 

Microsoft's official announcement of the rebranding of Flipgrid does mention a bunch of features that are "coming soon." Some of those sound like they'll be helpful. For example, an improved caption editing tool, a Spanish version of the mobile app, and a new tool called ASL Learning Lens all have practical uses. Some of the other features coming soon appear to be mostly cosmetic. You can read the full announcement here or watch a two-hour recording of Flipfest if you like.

Two Ways to Make Your Own Classroom App This Summer

Summer is here in the northern hemisphere and for many of us it's a time to work on things that we'd like to use in our classrooms when school resumes in the fall. One of those things could be developing a mobile app specifically for your classroom or courses you teach. It might sound like a daunting task, but it's not if you use either of the following tools.

Glide Apps
Glide Apps enables anyone who can make a spreadsheet in Google Sheets to create his or her own mobile app. If that sounds simple, that's because it is just that simple. The headers that you put into your spreadsheet and the data that you enter into your spreadsheet is used by Glide to generate a mobile app for you that will work on Android and iOS devices.

In this video I demonstrate two ways to use Glide Apps to create your own mobile app. The first method is to pick one of the Glide Apps templates and then modify the information within the template. The second method is to start from scratch with a blank Google Sheet. In my demonstration of the second method I explain and show how you can include maps and other multimedia elements.



MIT App Inventor
If you want to create a fully functional Android app, the MIT App Inventor is the place to start. The MIT App Inventor works in your web browser (Chrome is recommended). The only download that is required for App Inventor 2 is the optional emulator. The emulator allows people who don't have Android devices to text their apps on their desktops. If you have an Android device then the emulator is not required and you don't need to worry about installing it. MIT provides excellent support documentation and curriculum for new users. My tutorial on how to use the MIT App Inventor is embedded below. 

50 Ideas for Short Tech Workshop Sessions

Are you a tech coach, tech integrator, or media specialist who has been asked to run a summer workshop for your staff? Or are you (gasp!) already thinking about back-to-school season workshops. 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!

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

25 Ideas for Whiteboard Videos

Years ago apps like ShowMe and Educreations helped to popularize creating whiteboard-style instructional videos. Today, screencasting tools like Screencastify and Google's Chrome screencast tool along with Flipgrid's whiteboard tool make it easy to create a whiteboard style video in your web browser. Regardless of the tool used, the basic premise is to draw on blank screen while talking at the same time. 

Often teachers make whiteboard videos to use as lessons for their students to watch independently. But having students make videos can be a great way to learn what they know about a topic and how they think about a topic. Here are twenty five topics that you could have your students make whiteboard videos about.

Science
  • Why volcanoes erupt
  • The water cycle
  • Ocean tides
  • Tectonic plates
  • Inertia
Math
  • Adding and subtracting fractions
  • The Pythagorean theorem
  • Slope intercept form
  • Compound interest
  • Long division
Social Studies
  • Ranked choice voting
  • Branches of government
  • Latitude and longitude
  • Map projections
  • Gerrymandering 
Language Arts
  • Parts of speech
  • Phonics lessons
  • Plot structure
  • Prefixes and suffixes
  • Types and structures of poems
Other
  • Rules of various sports
  • Bass clef and treble clef
  • How to read a clock
  • Verb conjugation
  • How wi-fi networks work

Climate Kids Helps Kids Learn About Climate Change

NASA's Climate Kids website has many excellent online and offline resources for teaching students about climate change. One of those resources is the Big Questions page. The Big Questions page guides students through the basic concepts and issues related to climate change. Six big questions are featured on the page. Students select a question to discover the answers through the exploration of a series of smaller questions. Each question is addressed with a mix of image, text, and video explanations.

The Climate Kids Big Questions are:

  • What is climate change?
  • Why is carbon important?
  • What is the greenhouse effect?
  • How do we know the climate is changing?
  • How does climate change effect the ocean?
  • What else do we need to find out?
Applications for Education
After working through the Big Questions you could have students play some of the Climate Kids online games which address topics including recycling, renewable energy, and climate history. Some of the hands-on activities featured on Climate Kids include re-purposing old clothing to make re-usable shopping bags, creating your own paper, and garden projects.

Climate Kids includes a page for teachers. On that page you can find a directory of resources aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards.

Monday, June 27, 2022

Short Lessons About American Independence Day

American Independence Day, the Fourth of July, is one week away. Most of you reading this aren't in school right now. That said, I can't help sharing a few video lessons about the Declaration of Independence the celebration of Independence Day. Take a look then bookmark these for your U.S. History lessons in the fall.

History offers the following excerpt from the America: The Story of Us series. The clip is commentary from talking heads like Tom Brokaw and Aaron Sorkin. It could prompt some thought and discussion amongst your students.



TED-Ed has a lesson titled What You Might Not Know About the Declaration of Independence. It's a lesson that provides overview of the key points in creation of the Declaration of Independence along with a short discussion prompt at the end. The lesson is probably best suited to middle school students.



In History of the 4th of July John Green offers a short overview of the history of Independence Day and the ways in which Americans have celebrated the holiday since 1776. As he always does, Green includes plenty of sarcastic comments throughout the video so if your students have trouble recognizing sarcasm then this won't be an appropriate video for them.


Keith Hughes has stopped producing new videos on his YouTube channel, but if you go back in his archives you'll find this gem from 2012. In the upbeat and concise style that made Keith's YouTube channel popular he provides an overview of the Declaration of Independence. 

Transforming the Traditional Learning Environment with BookWidgets

Disclosure: BookWidgets is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

BookWidgets is an online tool that you can use to create interactive activities for your students to use in Google Classroom, in Canvas, in Moodle, in Microsoft Teams, and right on the BookWidgets website. I covered BookWidgets in depth back in October. Throughout the year BookWidgets added more features for teachers and students. Those features and more will be highlighted at an ISTE session titled Transforming the Traditional Learning Environment With BookWidgets.

Transforming the Traditional Learning Environment With BookWidgets will be presented at the ISTE conference on June 29th at 1:30pm in the La Nouvelle Ballroom at table 17. The presentation will highlight the many types of interactive activities that teachers can create for students, how teachers can view students’ progress in realtime, and how to give meaningful feedback to students when they complete BookWidgets activities on the website or in the LMS of your choice.

For Those #NotatISTE
Are you, like me, not going to the ISTE conference this year? That doesn’t mean you can’t learn about many of the same things that are announced and highlighted during the conference. Case in point, BookWidgets has a series of more than a dozen free webinars highlighting the ways that teachers and students can use BookWidgets in a variety of content areas including science and world languages. The webinars also cover everything you need to know to create interactive activities to share with your students in Google Classroom, Canvas, Moodle, and Microsoft Teams.

BookWidgets All-Access
BookWidgets is a freemium service. In other words, there are a lot of things you can do with it for free, but there are even more features available to paid users. The first 100 people who use this link can get access to all features for free for the next six months instead of the usual 30 day trial of all the features.

My Favorite BookWidgets Activities and Features
BookWidgets offers more than thirty templates for creating interactive activities for students to complete online. Some of the templates are for traditional activities like matching pairs and memory games. It’s the other templates for activities that benefit from being online that are my favorite ones.Those templates include multimedia timelines, adding interactive markers to images, and templates for showing a sequence of animation and video frames.

Last fall I also highlighted a few other unique BookWidgets activity templates. Those are worth noting again. They are split whiteboards and split worksheets.

The split whiteboards template lets you create an activity in which students read text and or view a video on one side of the screen and use freehand drawing and writing on the other side of the screen to answer questions. The split worksheets template, like the split whiteboard template, shows students text on one side of the screen and questions on the other side.

Realtime progress monitoring and scoring are helpful components of BookWidgets templates. Most of the templates in BookWidgets include an option for viewing students’ progress in realtime. To find those templates look for a little camera icon next to a template’s title. A little checkbox icon next to a template’s title identifies it as one that offers automatic scoring.

Speaking of scoring, late in this past school year BookWidgets introduced digital rubric templates. These can be used to create a rubric to attach to any activity in BookWidgets. You can use the rubrics to give feedback with or without scores attached. There is also an option to use emojis and symbols in your rubrics.

BookWidgets in Action!
Again, BookWidgets will be presenting at the ISTE conference on Wednesday. If you can’t see them there, take a look at one of their free webinars or watch my short demo video embedded below. My demo includes the teacher and student views of the platform.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Enroll in Tract’s Free Virtual Summer Creator Camp

Disclosure: Tract is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com.

Throughout the school year I published a handful of blog posts and videos about an exciting platform called Tract. Tract is a place where students can learn a wide array of things from other students through a sequence of videos and challenge activities. Some of the things that you’ll find on Tract include lessons on making video games, composing music, and taking better photographs. You’ll also find lots of lessons about things that are “on trend” in the middle school and high school world.

On Tract teachers can register their classes for free and create a place where their students can teach each other (use the code BYRNE at https://teach.tract.app/ to get free access). That can be a great place to start when looking for some Genius Hour activities or when seeking inspiration for fun activities your students can do to introduce themselves and get to know each other. But now that the summer is here (for my northern hemisphere friends) your students' use of Tract doesn’t have to stop.

Level Up in Tract This Summer
If you have been using Tract during the school year, you know that the emphasis of the platform is on helping students learn by having them not only watch other students’ lessons but to also create video lessons about the things they are passionate about. To that end, Tract has a three tiered approach to student participation with the goal being that students will “level up” as they use the platform.

The levels that students progress through in Tract are Creator, Affiliate, and Partner. As the graphic below shows, you can think of these levels as beginner, intermediate, and advanced.
What’s important to note about each of these levels is that they all require students to make videos. The first level asks students to respond to challenge activities by recording a short video to demonstrate learning. The second level asks students to go a little deeper in their responses and start to create lessons of their own. The final level is where students not only create their own lessons for others to watch, they also provide feedback to others who are trying to level up.

This summer Tract is hosting a free summer program for students in third through eighth grade. The goal of Tract’s free summer program, called the Virtual Summer Creator Camp, is to help students level up their video creation, editing, and presentation skills. Through the guided Virtual Summer Creator Camp students will progress through a series of activities beginning with the basics of making videos to making stop motion videos to creating the ultimate cover image for their videos. Along the way they’ll also develop editing skills so that they can add special effects to their videos, overlay text and graphics, and create remixes of multiple videos.

Tract’s Virtual Summer Creator Camp begins tomorrow (June 27th) and runs for six weeks. You can learn more about it and register for free at summer.tract.app.
Bookmark These Tract Ideas for the Fall
I get it, it’s summer and this announcement about Tract’s Virtual Summer Creator Camp might be a bit late for you to use it. In that case, keep the following ideas in mind for the fall.
  • Letting students choose their own learning paths in Tract is a great way to get to know what your students are interested in outside of the classroom. There are learning paths about everything from nature photography to Minecraft to making music.
  • Tract offers ready-to-use, grade-specific lesson plans for teachers to easily integrate in their classrooms.
  • Tract can be a great platform for introducing your students to project-based learning. Read more about that idea right here.
Meet the Tract Team and More
The annual ISTE conference begins today in New Orleans! If you’re going to be there, you can meet Tract’s co-founder Ari Memar and other members of the Tract team for happy hour at Lula Restaurant and Distillery on Monday night between 6pm and 9pm.

If you’re not going to be at ISTE, follow the hashtags #ISTELive and #NotatISTE and #ISTELive22 to see news about your favorite edtech tools like Tract. Or just jump into using Tract by going to teach.tract.app and signing up with the code ISTE or BYRNE.

Finally, to learn more about how Tract was developed and how they work to protect student information, watch this video that I recorded with Ari Memar last fall.



Disclosure: Tract is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

Automatically Forward Important Google Workspace Email to Secondary Email Address

It's summer (in the northern hemisphere) and for many people reading this blog that means it's time to cut back on reading work email. Some folks simply turn on a vacation responder for the summer and come back to a pile of email in late August. Others like to occasionally check their email during the summer. And some will selectively forward work email to a personal account so that they only have to look in one inbox for important messages during the summer. 

In this short video I demonstrate how to create a filter in your Google Workspace email to have only certain types of messages automatically forwarded to a personal Gmail account. 


I should not that if your Google Workspace domain administrator has prevented forwarding outside of your school's domain, the method featured in the video above won't work for you. 

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Ten Good Templates for Science, Social Studies, and Language Arts Activities

At the start of this year ReadWriteThink re-released all of their popular interactive templates for creating all kinds of things including poems, story plots, timelines, compare & contrast maps, and much more. If you haven't looked at ReadWriteThink in a while, take a look at these updated templates that can be used for lessons in language arts, science, and social studies.

ReadWriteThink offers a good interactive guide that can help students craft a good persuasive essay. The Persuasion Map asks students to start with a thesis statement before walking them through developing support for that thesis. Students can print their persuasion maps or email them to you. RWT offers a number of lesson plans that incorporate the Persuasion Map. You can find those lessons at the bottom of this page.

Essay Map provides students with step by step guidance in the construction of an informational essay. Some of my students seem to struggle most with constructing an introduction and conclusion to their essays. Essay Map is particularly good for helping students visualize the steps needed to construct good introductory and conclusion paragraphs. After students complete all of the steps in their Essay Map they can print their essay outlines.

Read Write Think's Crossword Puzzle Generator makes it easy to create your own crossword puzzles. To create your puzzle simply enter a list of words, a set of clues for your words, and then let the generator make a puzzle for you. You can test the puzzle before printing it. You can print blank puzzles and answer sheets from the puzzle generator.

Alphabet Organizer is a great little tool from Read Write Think that students can use to create alphabet charts and books. The idea behind Alphabet Organizer is to help students make visual connections between letters of the alphabet and the first letter of common words. Here's my demo of how it works.

RWT Timeline provides a good way for elementary school students to create timelines that include pictures and text. It doesn't offer nearly as many options as some other timeline creation tools, but it's easy to use and more than adequate for elementary school settings. 

RWT's Animal Inquiry guide is a good fit for elementary school science lessons. Animal Inquiry provides students with four templates; animal facts, animal babies, animal interactions, and animal habitats. Each template is an interactive template in which students respond to three prompts to help them create short reports about animals they are studying. Read Write Think suggests using the questions in the Animal Inquiry template as prompts for research. The questions in the templates could also be good for helping students brainstorm additional questions to research.

RWT's Theme Poems interactive provides students with 32 pictures to use as the basis for writing short poems. To write a poem students launch the interactive then choose a theme. Within each of the five themes students will find related images. Once they choose an image students are prompted to write the words that come to mind as they look at the image. Students then create poems from those words. The finished product can be saved as a PDF and or emailed to a teacher from the RWT site.

The Trading Card Generator is one of my all-time favorite templates from RWT. With this template students can create trading cards about people (real and fictitious), places, and things. Here's the video that I made about the Trading Card Generator earlier this year. 

The RWT Flip Book template lets students create books by typing or by drawing on the pages in their books. There is a variety of page templates that students can choose to use within their books. Some templates are text-only, some are drawing-only, and some are a mix of drawing and text templates. To use RWT Flip Book students simply open the template, enter their first names, then start creating their first pages.

Read Write Think's Word Mover helps students develop poems and short stories. When students open the Word Mover app they are shown a selection of words that they can drag onto a canvas to construct a poem or story. Word Mover provides students with various background colors and patterns on which they can construct their poems. If the word bank provided by Word Mover doesn’t offer enough words they can add their own words to the word bank.

Stories, Studios, and Smoke - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where the sun is rising on what is going to be a warm and sunny summer day. It was a busy week here that started with Father's Day for which my family gave me a smoker! Then in the middle of the week we had preschool graduation. And finally I wrapped-up the week hosting a webinar and then announcing a series of webinars for July and August

I'm ready to relax at the lake and that's exactly what we're going to do today. I hope that you also have something fun and relaxing to do this weekend. 

 These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Tools for Asynchronously Collecting Stories
2. Five Ways to Work With PDFs in Google Drive
3. New Google Forms Customization Options
4. Ten Google Sites Tutorials for New and Experienced Users
5. Type Studio 2.0 - Edit Videos by Typing and More!
6. My Three Favorite Google Tools for Social Studies Teachers and Students
7. How to Record a Video Lesson in PowerPoint
   
July and August Webinars!
Starting in July I'm hosting a series of seven Practical Ed Tech webinars. You can register for one or all seven of them. Read about them here or follow the links below to register.
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 41,000 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 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 Icons Daily and Daily Dose. Featured image captured by Richard Byrne.

Friday, June 24, 2022

Spaces Adds New Features for Creating Better Digital Portfolios!

Disclosure: Spaces is currently an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

Spaces is a great digital portfolio service that I’ve been using and recommending for the last couple of years. Like all good edtech tools, it started with a handful of really good and unique features. Since then it has steadily added more features based on feedback from teachers like you and me. And just in time for the annual ISTE conference, Spaces has unveiled a bunch of new features.

If you’re going to the ISTE conference you can learn all about Spaces by dropping by their booth (#1549 located north of the BrainPop booth and two rows south of the NearPod set up in Hall H). You can also book time for a demo with the Spaces team and get a free t-shirt when you meet with them. Those who aren’t attending ISTE and those who are attending and would like to get a preview of the new features should read on.

Faster Enrollment and Easier Activity Sharing
Nothing stops momentum in a classroom like having to go around to each student and say “click here” or respond to students saying “it won’t let me in.” That’s why Spaces has introduced new enrollment and sharing options.

There is now an option to generate QR codes for your students to scan to join your Spaces classroom account. Students simply scan a QR code and are enrolled in your class. Watch this short video to see how it works.

In Spaces you can create activities for your students. Students can view the activities by logging into Spaces. But that’s not the only way to share activities with your students. The easiest way for students to find activities is in the LMS that you’re using for your classes. Unique URLs are generated for each activity. You can post those activity URLs in your LMS. Additionally, Google Classroom users have the option to post directly to their Classrooms from their Spaces accounts. Take a look at this brief video to learn more about activity URLs and sharing.

Curriculum Standards, Goals, and Proficiency
Last fall Spaces added the option to tag student work with curriculum goals and or alignment to state standards. The best part of that for me was that Spaces made it super easy to find the standards and apply the tags to submitted work (watch my demo). Spaces is now expanding that capability to activities.

Now when you create an activity in Spaces you can tag it with the standards to which it aligns. The benefit of doing this is every artifact submission that a student makes for that activity is automatically tagged with the correct standard. This is helpful in showing students’ progress toward meeting standards. For a glimpse of a students’ view of activity completion, watch this brief video.

Speaking of progress toward meeting standards, in August Spaces will be rolling out proficiency scales. Proficiency scales will appear as color-coded labels that you can apply to your students’ submitted work in Spaces. Think of this as a quick way to tell students if their work meets a proficiency standard, needs more work, or if it exceeds expectations. Jump to the 27 second mark in this video to see Spaces proficiency standards in use.

Create a “Best of” Portfolio
One of the things that first drew me to Spaces was the ability to create individual, group, and whole class portfolios. But until now there wasn’t a way to quickly put the same submitted work into multiple portfolios. That has changed with the latest update to Spaces. Now you can quickly copy students’ work from a group or class portfolio into an individual portfolio. This makes it possible to do something like create a “best of” portfolio for students to share work that they have done in groups and done individually throughout the year.

Learn More and Get Started!
As mentioned at the beginning of this post, Spaces will be at ISTE this year. You can find them at booth 1549 located north of the BrainPop booth and two rows south of the NearPod set up in Hall H. Tell them I sent you!

If you’re not attending ISTE and you want to learn more about Spaces, take a look at my demo videos here and then sign-up for a free account to get started.