Thursday, March 31, 2022

Reading and Games - The Month in Review

Good evening from Maine where the sun has set on the last day of March, 2022. The old saying of "March comes in like a lion and leaves like a lamb" does not really apply to life in Maine. In our case March came in like a lion, briefly acted like a lamb, and now ends like a lion with drizzly and cold weather. I hope that regardless of the weather you had a great month of March. 

A big thank you to everyone who participated in one of my webinars or purchased a copy of 50 Tech Tuesday Tips in March. Your support helps me keep this blog going. I couldn't do it without you. Thank you!

These were the most popular posts in March:
1. Readlee - Know How Your Students Read Online Assignments
2. Five Chrome Settings You Need to Know
3. How to Create Your Own Online Board Game
4. Plays.org - Educational Games Your Students Will Love to Play
5. Stop Printing the Internet
6. Five Ways to Create Online Drag-and-Drop Activities
7. How to Make Your Own Wordle-style Game
8. New Whiteboard Features in Microsoft Teams and New Excel Formulas
9. My Five Favorite Canva Features
10. Take Your Students on the American Ideals Virtual Field Trip Hosted by Discovery Education

Summer Workshops for Your School!
I'm going back on the road this summer to host professional development workshops in-person! If you'd like to have me come to your school, please get in touch with me soon.

Spring and Summer Webinars
I conduct professional development webinars throughout the year. I'll host a free one-hour webinar for any school or group that purchases ten or more copies of 50 Tech Tuesday Tips.

On-demand Professional DevelopmentOther 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 40,000 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.

This Could be a Great Opportunity for a History Teacher

The Library of Congress has a program called Innovator in Residence that provides funding for one person to develop innovative tools that incorporate artifacts housed by the Library of Congress. Over the last few years I've featured a couple of tools that were developed through the Innovator in Residence program. Those are Citizen DJ and Newspaper Navigator

Applications are now open for the next Library of Congress Innovator in Residence. Applications are due by May 2, 2022. Before the deadline the Library of Congress is hosting a couple of Zoom meetings to provide more information to potential applicants. You can find the application, links to the Zoom sessions, and more information about the program right here

This could be a great opportunity for a history teacher who is looking to take a year or two out of the classroom to work on a project of their own design. The Innovator in Residence program provides up to $80,000 per year for the innovator to develop and promote their proposed tool. 

How to Create B-roll Media Galleries to Share With Students

In last Sunday's Practical Ed Tech newsletter I wrote about the idea of creating a b-roll media gallery to share with your students. The idea of creating a b-roll media gallery is to compile a collection of image, video, and audio files that your students can use in their multimedia projects. By doing this your students will have a place that they can find media that you've already screened for content and for copyright compliance. 

In this short video I demonstrate two ways to create a b-roll media gallery to share with your students. The first method utilizes Google Drive. The second method utilizes OneDrive. 



Applications for Education
If you're an elementary school teacher, creating a b-roll media gallery is a good way to make sure that your students are able to quickly find appropriate images to use in their projects. At the middle school and high school levels, having a b-roll media gallery can be a good back-up option to have when students say that they "can't find anything" that's appropriate for their project.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Seven Sites and Apps to Help Students Learn Coding and Programming

The other day I was in a Zoom meeting with someone who is relatively new to field of educational technology. I was asked about any "must read" books or sites. The first thing that came to mind was Seymour Papert's Mindstorms. Mentioning Mindstorms then took me down the path of talking about Logo and its importance in the development of using personal computers in the classroom. 

Logo was my introduction to programming back in my elementary school days 30+ years ago. You can still find and use Logo and its many iterations today. There are also many other good sites and apps that can introduce your students to various types of programming and coding. Here's a short list of some of my favorite options today. 

MIT App Inventor
The MIT App Inventor is a free app development tool that I've used with students and teachers for over a decade now. It's a great tool to use to introduce students to some programming concepts while letting develop apps that they can actually use on their phones. While it might seem complicated at first glance, after they have mastered a few basic concepts students can create some amazing applications through the MIT App Inventor. Here's my video overview of how to create your first app with the MIT App Inventor. 



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


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

Scratch & Scratch Jr.
Scratch like the MIT App Inventor has been around for over a decade and is still the first thing that many people mention when talking about introducing students to programming concepts. Scratch allows students to program animations, games, and videos through a visual interface. Students create their programs by dragging together blocks that represent movements and functions on their screens. The blocks snap together to help students see how the "if, then" logic of programming works. Watch the video here to learn more about Scratch. And check out the ScratchEd team’s curriculum for teaching with Scratch (link opens a PDF). 

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

Snap!
Snap! is a drag-and-drop programming interface designed to help students learn to program. Snap! uses a visual interface that works in your browser on your laptop as well as on your iPad. To design a program in Snap! drag commands into a sequence in the scripts panel. The commands are represented by labeled jigsaw puzzle pieces that snap together to create a program. You can try to run your program at any time to see how it will be executed. After previewing your program you can go back and add or delete pieces as you see fit.

Grasshopper
Grasshopper teaches JavaScript coding through a series of easy-to-follow tutorials. It is available to use in your web browser or as an Android app. It starts off with an introduction to the basic vocabulary of coding before moving into the coding lessons. You have to pass the vocabulary quiz before your can jump into the lessons. Each lesson has a tutorial, a practice activity, and a quiz. You have to successfully complete each lesson before progressing to the next one. If you need to stop a lesson, Grasshopper saves your place until you can resume. Grasshopper offers an optional reminder service that will encourage you to practice on a daily schedule.

CodePen
CodePen is a code editing environment in which students can see how HTML, CSS, and JavaScript work together to form web applications. As you can see in the screenshot that I've included below, the screen is divided into four parts. There's a column for HTML, a column for CSS, and a column for JavaScript.

The best aspect of CodePen is that it is a real-time editor. That means you can change any aspect of the HTML, CSS, or JS and immediately see the effects of those changes in the preview panel. This is a great way to see what happens when a variable is changed in an application. If the change didn't work as anticipated, a quick "CTRL+Z" on your keyboard reverts it back to the previous state. The same is true when you edit an aspect of the HTML or CSS.  

CodePen does have a gallery of publicly shared projects that you can copy and modify. Those public projects make it easy for students to get started using CodePen as I demonstrate in this short tutorial video

How to Use Google Slides in Canva

This is an update to a blog post that I published a couple of weeks ago about the same topic. In that blog post I outlined how to use PowerPoint and Google Slides in Canva. I've since learned a couple of things that warrant publishing an update. 

First, a lot of Google Slides users ignored my previous blog post on this topic because I led with "PowerPoint."  Second, the feature to import slides into Canva is still a beta feature. Being a beta feature it might not be available in all accounts, yet. It also has a file size limitation of 50MB. All that said, here's my new video about how to use Google Slides in Canva



Applications for Education
Canva is one of my favorite tools for creating short video lessons with your existing slides. The process is less clunky than using a screen recording tool to capture your slides as you explain the key points on them. If you're a Google Slides, PowerPoint, or Keynote user who has ignored Canva's recording tool because you didn't want to have to recreate your slides, the method that I demonstrated in the video above is for you.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

A Huge Collection of Resources for Fun Phys Ed Activities

OPEN Phys Ed is an organization that hosts tons of great resources for physical education teachers. Additionally, OPEN organizes initiatives to encourage students to participate in physical education activities. One of those initiatives is National Field Day

OPEN National Field Day is an initiative that runs through May and June. It has a social media element that you can participate in to win prizes. If you don't want to participate in the social media component, you can still use the dozens of resources that are associated with OPEN National Field Day. 

Applications for Education
On the OPEN National Field Day site you'll find PDFs, Word docs, Google Docs, and videos that provide instructions for dozens of activities that your students can do as part of your own field day or as part of a regular physical education class. There are individual and team activities included in the catalog of activities. 

What I appreciate about the activities on the OPEN National Field Day site is that, for the most part, the activities are not what I would call "traditional" sports activities. Take a look at the Paper Plane Cornhole game or the the Tennis Shoe Tower game for examples of some of the nontraditional games you'll find for OPEN National Field Day. 

Make a Word Game With Google Sheets - A Fun Way to Learn About Formulas

Google's Applied Digital Skills website is a good place to find lesson plans and activities that you can use to help students learn how to use many features of Google Workspace tools. To capitalize on the recent trend of word games like Wordle, Google recently published a new Applied Digital Skills lesson called Make a Word Game

Make a Word Game is a lesson in which students collaborate in Google Sheets to develop word game that utilizes functions and formulas to randomly generate letters that are used in a word game. Furthermore, students learn how to use functions and formulas to generate scoring for their games. Students don't need to have prior experience using spreadsheets in order to complete this lesson. However, a little prior experience will definitely help avoid some frustration. 

Applications for Education
Google provides some extension activities that students can complete to further develop their spreadsheet skills. Before doing those extension activities I would have students repeat the process of the lesson and modify their input to try to create a thematic version of the word game.

If you're unfamiliar with Google's Applied Digital Skills lessons, here's a short video in which I demonstrate how to access the lessons and distribute them via Google Classroom.

Monday, March 28, 2022

Spaghetti Trees and the History of April Fools' Day

This Friday is April Fools' Day. It's a day that I've always enjoyed a little bit at home and at school. I've always enjoyed the various pranks and jokes that my students tried over the years. Where did the tradition of April Fools' Day pranks begin? If you've ever wondered about that or you want to be ready to answer that question from your students, here are a few short video explanations. 

Mystery Doug is a talking dog who answers questions from kids, he offers a short explanation In Why Do We Celebrate April Fool's Day?



Learn About April Fool's is a short explanation from WatchMoJo that was published ten years ago and is still good.



Perhaps the greatest April Fools' prank of all is the classic Spaghetti Tree hoax broadcasted by the BBC back in 1957. Here's a little interview with one of the producers of that hoax.

ICYMI - How to Create & Sell Your Own Digital Products

Last week I hosted a live webinar titled How to Create & Sell Your Own Digital Products. Since then a bunch of people have reached out to me to say that they wanted to attend, but couldn't because of the timing. Therefore, I've now made the recording available on-demand right here.

Bonus Live Q&A

People who attended last week's live session and those who purchase the recording by before 12pm ET on March 30th, can attend a live Q&A session with me on March 30th at 4pm ET. During the Q&A I'll answer any questions that you have related to the webinar. 



Purchase the recording and handouts here.

More Easy Ways to Save Paper & Ink When Printing

Last week I published a blog post titled Stop Printing the Internet in which I shared some ways to limit the amount of ink and paper you use when printing and also encourage others to do the same. There are even more easy ways to limit the amount of paper and ink you use when printing articles from the web. 

In this short video I demonstrate the built-in features of Firefox and Microsoft Edge that can help you limit how much paper and ink is needed when printing from the web. The video begins with a demonstration of a Chrome extension called Mercury Reader that is also helpful in streamlining your printing of web pages. 

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Maple Syrup Sunday! And Maple Syrup Sundaes

Today is Maple Syrup Sunday here in Maine. It's a day when many maple syrup producers open their operations to visitors. All of them offer some type of educational program about the production of maple syrup. Many of them will have samples of their products. My favorite one has maple syrup ice cream sundaes! 

A couple of weeks ago I shared some resources for learning about how maple syrup is produced and why it happens at this time of year. Since then SciShow Kids released a new video about how maple syrup is produced. It's a great explanation for students in Kindergarten through third grade. You can watch the video here on the SciShow Kids YouTube channel or as embedded below. If you click through to the YouTube version you can then find a list of all of the NGSS Standards the video covers. 

Chronicling America - A Great Place to Find Historic Newspapers

Chronicling America is digitized newspaper archive hosted by the Library of Congress. The Chronicling America collection contains millions of copies of newspaper pages printed in the United States between 1789 and 1963. You can search through the collection according to date, state in which the newspaper was published, and keyword. You can read, download, and print copies of any page that you find in the Chronicling America collection. In this short video I provide a demonstration of how to find newspapers in the Chronicling America collection. 



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

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



The Library of Congress hosted an online conference for teachers in the fall of 2016. One of the featured presentations of that conference was Teaching With Historical Newspapers. Chronicling America was featured in the presentation. You can watch the recording embedded below to learn how to navigate the Chronicling America collection and pick up some tips for incorporating the newspapers into your practice.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Games, Teams, and Mud - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where sunny weather has returned after a couple of days of sleet, snow, and rain. That sleet, snow, and rain is part of what makes this time of year Mud Season! How muddy? This week a school bus in our area got stuck in the mud while taking kids home from school. 

This week I hosted a webinar titled How to Create & Sell Your Own Digital Products. If you missed it, the recording is now available to access here. Get the recording this weekend and you'll be able to join me for a live Q&A follow-up session next week. 

We're going to enjoy the relatively nice weather today and play outside while doing some light yard work. I hope that you have something fun to do today too. Before doing that, I have this week's list of the most popular posts. 

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Stop Printing the Internet
2. Plays.org - Educational Games Your Students Will Love to Play
3. New Whiteboard Features in Microsoft Teams and New Excel Formulas
4. Take Your Students on the American Ideals Virtual Field Trip Hosted by Discovery Education
5. Five Chrome Settings You Need to Know
6. Readlee - Know How Your Students Read Online Assignments
7. Kikori App - Social Emotional Learning Activities for All Ages

Thank you for your support!
Your registrations in Practical Ed Tech courses and purchases of 50 Tech Tuesday Tips help me keep Free Technology for Teachers going. Purchase ten or more copies of my ebook and I'll host a free one-hour webinar for your school or organization. 

On-demand Professional DevelopmentOther 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 40,000 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.

Try This New Google Chrome Feature

Those of you who subscribe to my YouTube channel might have seen me share this yesterday. There's a handy new feature in Chrome that appears when update to the latest version. The new feature is a side panel reading list that could prove to be very helpful to those of us who tend to have a lot of browser tabs open at once. 

The new side panel feature in Chrome lets you create a list of your current tabs, view the list, visit the tabs, and keep track of which ones you have and haven't read. It's kind of like a more streamlined version of "traditional" browser bookmarking. Watch this short video to see how it works. 

Friday, March 25, 2022

How to Edit Your Videos in YouTube Studio

A couple of days ago a reader emailed me to ask for help cropping a video. Specifically, he wanted to know what I thought would be the simplest online tool for cropping the recording of a livestream. My suggestion was to use the editing tools that are built right into YouTube Studio (the place where you upload videos in your YouTube account). 

Answering that reader's question prompted me to record this video overview of the basics of using the editing tools that are built into YouTube Studio. Watch the video to learn how to:

  • Upload videos to YouTube
  • Use hashtags in your video's description. 
  • Crop videos in YouTube studio. 
  • Blur faces and objects in your videos. 
  • Use YouTube's library of music in your videos. 

Newspaper Map - Find and Read Newspapers Published Around the World

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

In this short video I provide a demonstration of how to use Newspaper Map to find newspapers published in Iceland. The concept I demonstrate works for finding newspapers in other parts of the world as well. 



Applications for Education
When I taught current events as a regular part of my social studies classes I would always show a map of where a story takes place. Tools like Newspaper Map can provide students with a geographic connection to current and historical news stories. Newspaper Map is also a good tool for students to use to discover interesting news stories that might not be featured on global sites like CNN or BBC News.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Kikori App - Social Emotional Learning Activities for All Ages

Kikori App is a new mobile app and website that offers a large library of social emotional learning activities for students of all ages. The mobile app (Android and iOS) and the web versions of Kikori work the same way. On Kikori you can search for social emotional learning activities according to age, energy level, skill development goal, group structure, and materials that are needed or not needed for the activity. 

All of the Kikori activities are written in an easy-to-follow structure. That structure includes how to prepare to use the activity with your students, a list of materials needed (if any), steps for playing the activity, and questions to ask before, during, and after the activity. You'll also find some suggested variations or modifications for each activity. 

You can also use Kikori to create your own social emotional learning activities. To do that simply click the "create" button in the Kikori App and follow the outline that is provided. You can make your activity public or keep it private. 

Applications for Education
Kikori could be a great resource for any teacher who is looking for some new ideas for bringing some social emotional learning activities into their classrooms. I appreciate that you can search for activities according to energy level and group structure. 

Three Ways to Share Videos Without Using YouTube

The days of heated arguments about whether or not YouTube should be accessible in school seem to be behind us. That doesn't mean that YouTube is always the best option for hosting and sharing videos in your school. In fact, just yesterday someone emailed me to ask for suggestions on how her students can share their book trailer videos without having to upload them to YouTube. 

There are three options that I generally recommend whenever I'm asked for alternatives to using YouTube to host and share students' video projects. 

  • Google Drive: this is probably the best option for teachers and students who have Google Workspace accounts. 

  • OneDrive: If you and your students have Microsoft accounts, OneDrive offers a convenient way to share video files. I particularly like that you can set an expiration date for access and a password for access. 

  • Flipgrid: An often overlooked feature of Flipgrid is to use it as a place for students to share videos that they have made outside of the Flipgrid app. You and your students can upload videos to share with each other. 
In this short video I demonstrate all of the above methods for sharing videos without using YouTube

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

New Whiteboard Features in Microsoft Teams and New Excel Formulas

If you regularly use Microsoft Teams or any component of Office 365 and you're not subscribed to Mike Tholfsen's YouTube channel, you need to subscribe to it. That's where I learn about all of the latest features available for Teams, Reading Progress, Immersive Reader, Word, OneNote, and many other Office 365 tools. Mike's latest videos demonstrate ten new Excel formulas and eight new whiteboard features in Microsoft Teams

I don't use Excel enough to get excited about new formulas and functions. That said, in reading the comments on Mike's video it appears that Excel power-users are excited about the new features. 

The video about new whiteboard features in Microsoft Teams is the one that I got excited about. In particular, I can see a lot utility in being able to aggregate reactions and saving pen settings for use between whiteboards. The new option to drag an image from my desktop to a whiteboard is also very convenient (I love anything that removes having to use file explorer to upload). 

How to Add Videos to Google Earth Projects

I'm currently developing a lesson plan that is loosely based on the reality television show, The Amazing Race. In my lesson students have to use a series of clues to find locations in Google Earth and then complete a task or challenge before adding a placemark to their Google Earth projects (tours). They have to record videos of themselves completing the challenge sand put the videos into the placemarks in their Google Earth projects. I created this short video to show students and teachers how to add videos to the placemarks in their Google Earth projects. 

In this video I demonstrate how to add videos to Google Earth projects (tours) in the web-based version of Google Earth. 


Applications for Education
While I created the video above specifically with my lesson plan in mind, the concept in the video can be used for any Google Earth project that your students are working on. 

Since YouTube has to be used to host the videos you want to include in Google Earth projects, I'm recommending using the "unlisted" option in YouTube for any videos that feature students. In this video I explain how to use the unlisted option in YouTube. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Stop Printing the Internet

Last weekend I got a new television (our old one died) just in time to watch some great NCAA basketball games. While watching one of the games on Saturday evening I saw a new Progressive Insurance commercial. The premise of the commercial is that Progressive can't prevent us from becoming our parents but can save us money on insurance. In the commercial there was a scene where we're told, "we don't need to print the Internet." The commercial made me chuckle and it inspired this blog post. 

How to Limit Paper and Ink Usage When You Print
There are some instances when we do need to print things. When those instances occur there are ways to reduce the amount of ink and paper you use. 

The easiest way to save paper is to simply make sure that you're only printing what you need. When the print dialogue box pops-up select a specific page or two to print rather than using the default "print all pages" found on most printers. 

Printliminator is a handy little bookmarklet for Firefox, Chrome, and Safari. Printliminator allows you to highlight a webpage and select only the elements which you wish to print. You can install Printliminator in seconds by just clicking and dragging it into your browser's toolbar.



How to Encourage Students and Colleagues to Limit Printing
If your school uses Google Workspace, you can encourage your students and colleagues to limit their printing by using a couple of Google Docs features. The first is to add a watermark to your Google Documents that reads something like, "Only Print if Essential" or "Don't Print." Another option is to disable the option for collaborators to print Google Documents




Dan Russell Teaches Us How to Search for Audio Files

Dan Russell, whose book and other work I've referenced dozens of times on this blog, recently published a good lesson on how to find audio files. His post is not a lists of places to find audio files (I have a list of those here). Dan's blog post teaches readers how to locate specific sounds and podcasts. 

There are three parts to the lesson and each one is useful on its own.

  • How to locate podcasts about a particular topic across multiple podcast platforms.

  • How to search within the transcript of an audio recording. That part introduced me to a couple of new tools including this one for analyzing audio and video

  • How to search for specific audio sounds like the bells of Notre Dame. 
Applications for Education
As more and more podcasts, and useful ones at that, are published they are going to become a good source of information for students to use as part of larger research projects. Knowing how to locate podcasts about a specific topic is going to become an important skill. Furthermore, being able to create transcripts and search within transcripts is a skill that will be important to students who create their own podcasts and videos. 

Last Call - Webinar - How to Create & Sell Your Own Digital Products

This afternoon at 4pm ET I'm hosting a new webinar titled How to Create & Sell Your Own Digital Products. Register by 3pm to join me!

If you have ever thought about trying to create and sell things like an eBooks, lesson plans and teaching materials, or online courses, this webinar is for you!

In How to Create and Sell Your Own Digital Products you'll learn how to create eBooks, lesson materials, and online courses. In some ways creating the materials is the easy part. Selling is the harder part for many teachers. That's why during the webinar I'll show you how to sell your products without paying huge commission fees to online marketplaces.

  

Learn more and register here to join me for this live webinar at 4pm ET today!.

Monday, March 21, 2022

Plays.org - Educational Games Your Students Will Love to Play

Disclosure: Plays.org is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

Plays.org is a new website that offers hundreds of games for students to play online. Students can play all of the games for free without the need to register or give away any personal details. And unlike many other online games websites, Plays.org doesn’t display advertisements and doesn’t use retargeting technology to track users across the web. Those statements alone make Plays.org worth trying. If you want a better sense of what you’ll find on Plays.org, read on.

All of the games that you will find on Plays.org are written in HTML5. What that means is they can be used in the web browser on any device including iPads, Chromebooks, and any computer that students have access to in your classroom or at home.

As a teacher and a parent my favorite aspect of Plays.org isn’t any of the technical components mentioned above. My favorite aspect of the site is that every game is on its own page that contains a summary of the game’s purpose, details about how to play the game (directions for using a mouse, a touchscreen, and on-screen controls), and strategies for playing the game. Additionally, every game page states who the target audience is for that game.

Three Games to Get Started
Reading the game summaries, target audience, and directions does make it possible to get a sense of what each game is about without even playing it. That said, as the dad of two kids who are just starting to get a little screen time (20 minutes a day, tops!) I still want to actually play the game before I let my kids or any kids I’m in charge of play it. To that end, I spent some time over the last few days playing some of the games on Plays.org. These are the ones that stood out to me.

Curious George Museum of Tens appealed to me because I loved Curious George stories as a kid and now my daughters do too! It’s a game that my five year old liked when I showed it to her on our family iPad. The concept of the game is a simple one. Curious George is in a digital museum and there’s a wall of artifacts behind him. He needs ten of them to complete the collection. The player has to identify how many more he needs in order to complete the collection. Once that is done, a new collection appears and the game repeats.
Sight Word Bingo is another game that I tried with my five year old. The concept of this game is a fairly simple one. I chose the range of words for the game then set the size of the bingo board. To play the game she had to listen to words read aloud then tap the corresponding word on the bingo board. When a line of words was connected she earned a little “bingo monster” avatar. Sight Word Bingo includes vocabulary words appropriate for Kindergarten through third grade.
Lest you think that Plays.org only has games for early elementary grades, here’s one for kids that are a little bit older. LEGO City Adventures Build and Protect City Simulation is a game in which players build a LEGO community from scratch. The game begins with players creating buildings in the city center then moving outward toward suburbs. Players earn coins (points) for completing a building. They then use those coins to purchase opportunities to dig for more building blocks to continue building their cities and towns. At first the blocks and buildings are cheap but they get more expensive as the game progresses and they build larger buildings and build farther away from the city center. I can see LEGO City Adventures Build and Protect City Simulation being used as a means to introduce students to some concepts about city and town planning and development.
Benefits of (Optional) Registration
As I mentioned above, you and your students can play all of the games on Plays.org without registering or giving away any personal information. That said, there is an option to register on the site if you want to. The benefit of registering is that you can create a list of favorite games that you can then quickly access whenever you visit the site on any device. You can register directly on the site by creating a username and password. Alternatively, you can register by using your Google, Facebook, or Twitter account.

Finding Games on Plays.org
If there was one thing that I’d change about Plays.org it is the navigation menu. Currently, to find games on Plays.org you can either scroll through the entire catalog or click on links to game categories like math games or spelling games and then scroll through the list of games in that category. It’s a fine system, but down the road I’d love to see a few more options to refine your game search according to target age range (4-7, 8-11) and or skill (addition, subtraction). Take a look at my short video overview of Plays.org to see how you can find games for your kids to play.

Take Your Students on the American Ideals Virtual Field Trip Hosted by Discovery Education

Disclosure: Discovery Education is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

Discovery Education hosts some fantastic virtual field trips throughout the year. These are open to all teachers who want to have their classes attend them, not just those who subscribe to Discovery Education. I’ve featured many of Discovery Education’s virtual field trips over the course of the last decade. Today, I’d like to highlight one that recently premiered and is now available on demand. That is the American Ideals Virtual Field Trip designed for middle school and high school classrooms.

The American Ideals Virtual Field Trip hosted by Discovery Education takes place inside The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum. The overarching themes of the virtual experience is civic engagement and civic leadership. Throughout the twenty-one minute tour students will hear from other student leaders who are engaged in civic leadership and pioneering change in their communities. As you might expect, the tour also provides a bit of history about Ronald Reagan’s political career and the legacy of his presidency including how he earned the nickname of “The Great Communicator.”

The American Ideals Virtual Field Trip is available on-demand so you can view all of it at once. Alternatively, you could start and stop it to share little segments with your students over the course of a few class meetings. There are many segments within the twenty-one minute tour that could be used as the basis for much longer lessons that you conduct in your classroom. That said, the educator’s guide (link opens a PDF) for the American Ideals Virtual Field Trip is based on students completing the virtual event in one continuous activity.

Artifacts Featured in the American Ideals Virtual Field Trip
Throughout the tour students will see physical artifacts housed at The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum. Those include an exact replica of the Oval Office as it was arranged when Reagan was in office and a look inside the airplane that served as Air Force 1 when Reagan was President. Perhaps the most significant of the artifacts shown during the American Ideals Virtual Field Trip is a piece of the Berlin Wall. Students will see it and learn about the significance of Reagan’s speech imploring Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the wall.

Interviews with Student Leaders
As I alluded to earlier, there are segments within the virtual field trip that are excellent on their own and better when viewed in the context of the entire tour. Those segments include tips for how to become a civic leader and how to gain trust as a leader. Additionally, there are lots of archival clips of Ronald Reagan’s presidency used as examples of leadership. Finally, the virtual field trip includes interviews with graduates of the Reagan Foundation’s student leadership program who talk about and show how they have engaged in civic leadership.

A couple of the interviews that stood out to me as I watched the American Ideals Virtual Field Trip were with Paige Barella and Alex Edgar. By watching the interview with Paige Barella students can learn about her Stop Bullying Me project, how she developed the idea for the project, and what it takes to be a good communicator and leader.

When they watch the interview with Alex Edgar, students will learn about his virtual voter registration project (featured in the VC Star as well as in the American Ideals Virtual Field Trip), the challenges he faced in getting it going, and the lessons about leadership that he learned through that process.

Educator’s Guide to the American Ideals Virtual Field Trip
As I mentioned earlier, there is a complete educator’s guide to the American Ideals Virtual Field Trip available as a PDF. The guide includes a list of the Common Core Standards addressed through the virtual field trip. More importantly, the guide provides a detailed lesson plan with activity handouts for you to use in conjunction with your students’ viewing of the American Ideals Virtual Field Trip.

In the educator’s guide to the American Ideals Virtual Field Trip there are activities to complete with students before starting the digital event, activities to complete while viewing the virtual field trip, and activities to complete after viewing the virtual field trip. Before beginning the field trip students will be asked to put into their own words what they think civic participation means and share any examples of it from their own lives. Then during the virtual field trip students will use a template provided in the guide to take notes about three themes of civic participation. After the virtual field trip students use another provided template to answer the question, “how has civic engagement been defined?” in a series of historical documents.

The questions in the educator’s guide to the American Ideals Virtual Field Trip don’t have clear-cut answers and that’s part of the beauty of the virtual field trip and teaching civic engagement. By watching the virtual field trip and engaging in discussion with you and each other students will develop new ideas and create informed opinions about civic engagement and American ideals. So while the American Ideals Virtual Field Trip itself is only twenty-one minutes long, the discussion and lessons from it could last for much longer.

Final note about the educator’s guide:
The guide is one PDF that contains handouts for students but also many notes for teachers. If you want to split the PDF so that you have digital copies of the handouts, watch this short tutorial video.


Spring is Here! Kind of...for Some of Us

Today is the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere. And even there is still plenty of winter-like days to come, here in Maine we're starting to have longer days, see and hear more birds around our house, and there's plenty of mud being tracked into the house by my kids and dogs. Those are all sure signs that spring is on the horizon. On that note, here are some short lessons about the arrival of spring. 

Why do birds sing? And how do they learn the songs that they sing? The answers to those questions and more are revealed in a TED-Ed Lesson titled How Do Birds Learn to Sing?



After learning how birds learn to sing, have your students explore The Wall of Birds interactive mural produced by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The mural features a variety of birds that when clicked on reveal information about that bird, audio of that bird's call, and a map of that bird's natural range.



Why do we have seasons? What causes the changes in weather patterns throughout the seasons? The answers to those questions and more are found in the following SciShow Kids video and Crash Course Kids video.




All of these videos are great candidates for use in an EDPuzzle lesson. Here's an overview of how to use EDpuzzle to turn existing videos into lessons of your own. 

PBS Learning Media's Classroom Posters collection contains more than a dozen colorful PDFs featuring the letters of the alphabet with representative icons, numbers, shapes, and short words. In the posters collection you'll also find seasons of the year, months of the year, and weather.

And if you'd like to take your kids outside to learn about the arrival of spring, consider creating some outdoor bingo activities for them. 

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Chrome, Cookies, and Canva - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where a steady rain is washing away the last of snow that is in my yard. We're heading into the time of year in Maine that is affectionately referred to as mud season. It's going to be a good day for catching up on some indoor projects and perhaps making some more cookies with my daughters. We had a great time decorating and eating some on St. Patrick's Day and I believe we still have a bit of dough in freezer. Whatever the weather where you live, I hope you do something fun this weekend!

This week I announced a new Practical Ed Tech webinar that will be held next Tuesday. It's all about how to create and sell your own digital products. If you've been thinking about doing this yourself, you don't want to miss this webinar in which I'll share the lessons I've learned from doing it for the last decade. Learn more and register here!

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Five Chrome Settings You Need to Know
2. Readlee - Know How Your Students Read Online Assignments
3. ICYMI - Two EdTech Guys Take Questions - Webinar Recording
4. My Five Favorite Canva Features
5. An Interactive Map of Surnames in Ireland
6. Watch Me Unravel an Email Scam
7. Why You're Seeing More of My Face

Thank you for your support!
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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.