Thursday, May 19, 2022

TARA - A Planning Tool for New and Veteran Teachers

TARA is a new tool designed to help you streamline your lesson planning process. It was designed by a couple of teachers for teachers. Earlier this week I had the opportunity to see a live demo of TARA. There was one feature of it that really stood out to me as something that can be useful to new teachers as well as those of us who have been around for a while. 

In TARA there is a resource bank that you can access while planning your lessons. The resource bank includes collections of resources from around the web. That's not the part that grabbed my attention (lots of services have similar collections). What grabbed my attention was inside the resource bank there is what I would call a "strategy bank." That strategy bank could be useful for new teachers who are looking for a little guidance on developing a lesson. The strategy bank could also be useful for experienced teachers who are looking for some inspiration for new ways to teach a favorite topic. 

The TARA resource bank for strategies includes links to templates and resources that you can duplicate, modify, and store in your free TARA account. Take a look at my screenshot below to see what it looked like when I went looking for ideas for class discussion openers and closers. 

Applications for Education
There are many more things that you could do within the TARA environment including creating your own collections of resources, managing to-do lists, and crafting full lesson plans. In the future I may spend more time exploring those. For now, I think the resource bank with its associated strategies bank is a feature that makes TARA useful for all teachers who are looking for some new strategy ideas.

Broadcast Google Slides Directly to Your Students' Computers

A few weeks ago I wrote about and published a video about using Display Note to broadcast your computer screen directly to your students' screens. This week Display Note published some updates that teachers who use Google Classroom and Google Slides are sure to appreciate. 

Display Note now offers a free Chrome extension that you can use to broadcast your Google Slides directly to your students computers. With the extension installed not only can you broadcast your slides directly to your students computers, you can also annotate your slides and students will see those annotations appear on their screens. 

The default option for sharing your screen through Display Note is to give students a six digit code to access your broadcast. Entering the right code can be a little tricky for some students and can slow down the process of getting everyone on the same page. That's why Display Note now offers a new Google Classroom integration. With that integration in place you simply put a link in Google Classroom and students click it to access your broadcast to view whatever you're sharing from your screen. Watch this video made by Display Note to see how the integration works. 

And if you're interested in seeing how Display Note works without a Chrome extension, watch my video that I published last month. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

An Interactive Map of the Roman Empire

A few years ago I wrote about a must-bookmark resource from Stanford University for history teachers and students. That resource is called ORBIS and it has been updated since the last time that I wrote about it. ORBIS is Stanford University's Geospatial Network Model of the Roman Empire. 

On ORBIS students can calculate the distance and travel times between hundreds of settlements in the Roman Empire. The calculations happen according to the modes of travel that would have been used during the time of the Roman Empire's greatest height. For example, I calculated the time and cost to travel by foot, wagon, and boat between Roma and Londonium in the summer and winter. The calculations include the cost of feeding donkeys along the way. 

In this new video I provide an introduction to using ORBIS. 

Applications for Education
While you could certainly have students use Google Earth to map distances between settlements in the Roman Empire, ORBIS is a step above that because students can calculate travel times and distances according the modes of transportation that were available during the Roman Empire.

New Google Docs Features You Might Have Missed

This spring (fall for my friends in the southern hemisphere) Google has added some new features to Google Docs. I've written about a couple of them in the last month. There are others that I haven't covered until I published this new video

Watch Five New Google Docs Features You Might Have Missed to learn about the following:

  • Responding to documents and comments with emojis.
  • How to add a dropdown menu into a document.
  • How to use the new table formatting options. 
  • How to change page orientation for sections of documents. 
  • The new extensions dropdown menu. 

Watch this video to learn more about dropdown menus.

Watch this video to learn more about table formatting in Google Docs.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

The National Archives to Host Online Professional Development This Summer

The National Archives offers many excellent resources for history teachers. For example, they recently published a new guide to understanding perspectives in primary sources. And this summer the National Archives will be hosting free online professional development events for teachers

The first event is on July 12th through the 14th. It is the Truman Library Teachers Conference. The theme of the conference is Presidential Character and Decision Making. The conference will include presentations from representatives of ten presidential libraries and museums. 

The second event is a series titled We Rule: Civics for All of US. This series has two sessions for elementary school teachers and two sessions for middle school/ high school teachers. Dates and details for each session are available here

The Three Branches Institute is the third of NARA's summer professional development opportunities for teachers. This event will focus on new ideas and resources for teaching about the three branches of government. The event will be held via Zoom on August 2nd through 4th. Registration is free, but you must register by July 17th. The registration form can be found here

Ziplet Now Integrates With Microsoft Teams

Ziplet was one of my favorite tools in 2021. Ziplet has a few features that make it an outstanding tool for conducting online exit ticket activities. First, there is a large library of premade exit ticket questions that you can use. Second, students can respond in a variety of ways including with a just an emoji. Third, you can respond to students' responses on an individual basis or group basis. Here's my tutorial on using Ziplet.

Ziplet has long had a Google Classroom integration. This week they announced a Microsoft Teams integration. Now you can import your Microsoft Teams class rosters to use in Ziplet. The complete directions for connecting Microsoft Teams to Ziplet can be seen here

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

Monday, May 16, 2022

A Crash Course in Decisions About College

The folks at Crash Course have developed a new channel and series of courses called Study Hall. One of those courses is called How to College

How to College is a great series for high school students and first year college students. The course covers everything from deciding to go to college to picking a college to picking a major and how to pay for it all. It's a series that could be particularly useful to first generation college students who don't have anyone to rely on who has gone through the process before them.

I watched the How to Choose a Major video this morning. And while I can't say that it would have stopped me from changing majors a couple of times, it would have given me more ideas about what could be done with the degrees associated with those other majors I tried before getting a degree in history. 

If you're curious about the picture I selected for this blog post, it represents what drew me to Maine when I was a college student, fly fishing. For someone like me who didn't have the grades or the money to go to an elite university, picking a school based on my hobbies was about as good a selection criteria as any 25 years ago.

Two Easy Ways to Support This Blog

The popularity of my blog has waxed and waned over the years. But for nearly fifteen years I've published new blog posts almost every day. New blog posts even appeared on the days my daughters were born (no, I didn't write blog posts on those days, I just had them scheduled in advance). I've been fortunate to have the support of many great folks over the years. Some of that support has been financial by hiring me to speak at your conferences or to run workshops in your schools. But most of the support has come through folks just sharing my blog posts and videos with their colleagues. 

Creating new blog posts, recording new videos, and answering lots of questions from readers takes a lot of time and, in the case of delivering my newsletters, a lot of money. If you're interested in helping to support my work, there are two easy ways to do that.

Respectfully Share My Work
If you have a friend or colleague who you think could benefit from something I've written or recorded, please share it with that person. Tell them why you're sharing it and let them know where they can find more of my work. 

Grab a Copy of my eBook
50 Tech Tuesday Tips is an eBook that I created by combing through more than 400 editions of my Practical Ed Tech Newsletter. In the eBook you'll find ideas for interesting ways to use technology in your classroom, school, and library. 

How to Use Google Maps and Street View in Canva Presentations

This blog post and video is the result of my failure to get another service, that won't be named, to do what I hoped it would. I was trying to come up with a way for students to create online, interactive atlases. After banging my head against my keyboard for a while I finally said to myself, "hey, see if you can do this in Canva?" So I did and it works!

In this new video I demonstrate how to embed Google Maps and Google Street View imagery into Canva designs. There are a few things that are notable about this. First, you can interact with the map and the Street View imagery directly inside of your Canva design. Second, you can publish and share your design as a website where others can also interact with the map and Street View imagery. Third, the method that I demonstrate in the video works with any Canva design template. 

Applications for Education
Embedding working Google Maps and Street View imagery into a presentation could be a great way for students to build online atlases. It's a good way for you as a teacher to have a set of maps and images ready to go when teaching a lesson. Rather than searching in Google Maps in front of the class, you can have the exact map views that you want to share ready to go in a set of slides.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Add Dropdown Menus Into Sentences In Google Docs

A couple of weeks ago I shared some information about the new project planning templates in Google Docs that include dropdown menus. Today, I'd like to share how you can also insert dropdown menus into any part of a Google Document without using a template. 

It is possible to add a dropdown menu into any sentence in a Google Document. To do that simply write a sentence as you normally would until you get to the place where you want to insert a dropdown menu. You will then want to use the Insert menu in Google Docs to select "dropdown." Once you've selected "dropdown" you can customize the options that appear in the menu that you insert into your document. Watch my new video to learn how to add dropdown menus into Google Documents. 

Applications for Education
As I mentioned in the video above, adding dropdown menus into Google Documents could be a good way to create Mad Libs-style writing activities for your students or to create activities in which students practice identifying past, present, and future tenses of words.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Videos, Certificates, and Birds - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where we have gone from it feeling like it was barely spring to feeling like it's the middle of summer in the span of one week. The temperature got up to 86F yesterday and it's going to be even warmer today. It's going to be great for playing outside, riding bikes, and having fun wearing shorts and tee shirts for the first time in 2022. 

Another sign that spring is quickly turning into summer is the increasing number of bird nests around our house. We even have a grosbeak nesting on our property. This week a male grosbeak started visiting our window bird feeder during our dinner time. We enjoy the show that nature provides. I hope that you're able to do the same wherever you live. Speaking of which, Steven Rinella has published a new book that I highly recommend to anyone who is interested in getting kids outside and engaged with nature. It's titled Outdoor Kids in an Inside World

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Three Tools for Quickly & Easily Creating End-of-Year Slideshow Videos
2. How to Create and Send Personalized Certificates in Google Workspace
3. Quick and Easy Ways to Remove Image Backgrounds
4. Create Location-based Reminders in Google Keep
5. Living Wage vs. Minimum Wage
6. How to Create Your Own Virtual Reality Tours
7. SplashLearn - More Than Just Fun Math and ELA Practice

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.

Thanks to This Month's Banner Advertisers!
  • Kikori App offers a huge library of SEL activities for all ages. 
  • WriteReader is a great tool for multimedia writing. 
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 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 Cool Lesson for a Hot Spring Day - How the Popsicle Was Invented

It was 86F here in Maine yesterday. In the afternoon my kids had popsicles outside for the first time in 2022! That prompted my five-year-old to ask, "why are they called popsicles?" I didn't have a good answer despite the fact that I did recall watching a TED-Ed lesson about popsicles a few years ago. So I went and looked it up. 

How the Popsicle Was Invented explains the origin of the tasty treat itself as well as the name "Popsicle." This TED-Ed lesson doesn't include any multiple choice or discussion questions. It's just a fun little lesson for students to think about as the weather warms and ice cream trucks start to appear in neighborhoods (side note, ice cream trucks is one of the few things I miss about living in a suburb).

Applications for Education
You could extend this lesson by doing a little kitchen science lesson with elementary school students. They could experiment with sugar content and flavoring. And they could compare the time it takes for a Popsicle to freeze to the time it takes for an equal amount of water without sugar or flavoring to freeze.

Friday, May 13, 2022

The Season Finale of Two EdTech Guys Take Questions

In case you missed it, yesterday afternoon Rushton Hurley and I hosted the season finale of Two EdTech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff! This was the second full school of hosting these free webinars. If you're so inclined, you can go back and watch all of the episodes here on the Next Vista for Learning website. Or if you just want to watch yesterday's episode you can do so right here

All of the links and resources we mentioned in the webinar can be seen in this Google Doc.

We'll back in the fall with new episodes. Until then you can always email your questions to me and I'll be happy to try to answer them for you.

WeVideo and Vimeo Offer Great Tips for Recording and Editing Videos

Thanks to mobile devices and wealth of video editing tools we can all be video producers today. But creating a good video requires more than just having access to the tools of production. Creating good videos begins with some basic steps like holding your phone or camera the right way and knowing when to zoom with a lens or zoom with your feet.

In this short video WeVideo offers three key tips for shooting better videos.

The Vimeo Video School offers more than five dozen videos about creating better videos. Two of their videos are embedded below.

Quick Focusing Tips from Vimeo Video School on Vimeo.

Zoom vs. Moving Camera from Vimeo Video School on Vimeo.

This older post on the TED Blog offers a list of ten tips for editing video. The tips focus on when and where to cut videos for creating the smoothest video you can. Each tip is accompanied by "before" and "after" samples.

Applications for Education
Between commencements, spring sporting events, banquets, and award ceremonies as the end of the school year approaches there will be lots of occasions for capturing videos of school events. Take advantage of these tips to capture better raw footage that will in turn help you and your students edit better videos.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

A Good Place to Find Old Maps Online

Old Maps Online is an online map that you can browse and search to find historical maps to view online, to download, and to print. You can search the map by entering a location or you can just pan and zoom around the world to find historical maps. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to use Old Maps Online.

Applications for Education
The maps that you and your students find could be used as overlays in the Google Earth layers. You might also use the maps for a local history comparison activity by comparing your students' current vision of where they live with what it looked like in the past.

How to Create an Online Course With Three Simple Tools

Summer is coming (in the northern hemisphere) and for many of us that means spending some time participating in professional development activities as a leader, learner, or both. If you find yourself trying to create some online professional development courses for the summer, I have a new video just for you

In this video I demonstrate how to create an online professional development course by using Google Classroom, Screencastify, and EdPuzzle. In the video I show how to use Screencastify to record and build interactive questions into your videos before sharing them in Google Classroom. The video also shows you how to use EdPuzzle to add interactive questions to videos that you find on YouTube then share those activities in Google Classroom. 

On a related note, you might also be interested in these other ways to create online professional development courses to share in your school or school district.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

SplashLearn - More Than Just Fun Math and ELA Practice

When an email about SplashLearn splash landed in my inbox last week I didn't give it much thought because I get dozens of pitches every morning and because at first glance I thought it was just another rote practice app. It turns out that I was wrong about it just being a rote practice app. 

At its core SplashLearn is a service that provides a free and ad-free environment in which students can practice their math and ELA skills. Students can use it in the web browsers on their computers or use the free SplashLearn mobile apps. 

The way that students access the SplashLearn games and other activities is through your free classroom account. As a teacher you sign-up for SplashLearn then create accounts for them. Creating accounts for your students is quick and easy. You can manually enter names (or just initials), import a spreadsheet of names, or import a Google Classroom roster. The students are given little avatars to represent themselves. Students then access SplashLearn by going to the link that you give them and then tap their avatars followed by the image that represents the class password. (See my screenshot below for details). Alternatively, students can open SplashLearn then select "student" and enter the class code. 

As you might have guessed by now, because your students access SplashLearn through the classroom account that you create, you can see their progress in your teacher dashboard. It's in your teacher dashboard that you can find standards-aligned math and ELA activities to assign to your students. To find activities to assign to your students you simply pick math or ELA then the grade level followed by the standard for which you want to find activities. Activities can be assigned to the whole class or to individual students within your class.

Applications for Education
The value of SplashLearn is found in the teacher dashboard. Specifically, the way in which you can find activities and assign them to your students as needed is where SplashLearn becomes valuable. Through that dashboard you can quickly find activities to help your students practice and strengthen their skills while also monitoring their progress.  

Living Wage vs. Minimum Wage

Last night I was reading a discussion on FlyerTalk that got into the question of whether or not tipping should be an expectation of hotel housekeeping staff. That discussion veered off into a bigger question of minimum wage versus livable wage. That discussion reminded me of two resources that I've highlighted in the past to help students understand why minimum wage and livable wage are almost never the same thing. 

The Living Wage Calculator is a great resource hosted by MIT. The Living Wage Calculator displays the current minimum wage and livable wage in all fifty U.S. states, the counties within each state, and the largest metropolitan areas within each state. The data is provided based on individuals and families. For example, the livable wage for a single person in my county is $16.97/hour versus the minimum wage of $12.75 while the livable wage for a family of four with two working adults is $24.04/hour versus the minimum wage of $12.75/hour. To support these calculations the Living Wage Calculator includes a corresponding table of typical expenses for each given location. Those expenses include taxes, housing, transportation, child care, and food. 

Life on Minimum Wage (link opens a Google Doc) is an activity that I developed almost thirteen years ago to help my civics students recognize how difficult it is to save money when your only job(s) pay minimum wage without benefits. To win at Life on Minimum Wage the students have to reach five financial goals that they select. To earn money the students have to complete the tasks of their assigned jobs. The students then have to pay required bills before using money for their selected financial goals. As the game progresses students will be issued "surprise" cards which require them to spend money on things like speeding tickets, trips to a health clinic, and increases in rent. All of the jobs in Life on Minimum Wage are connected so that if one business slows production or closes, the workers of another business are also impacted. The goal here is to demonstrate the effects of a business closing on a small town's economy.

Important notes before using this activity:
I have not adjusted this activity to account for inflation since 2009. You'll probably want to do that.

Before you email me about the Browning rifle goal card, please understand that these were goals chosen by my students in a rural community in which hunting is often a family tradition. You're welcome to change that card for use in your own classroom.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

How to Create and Send Personalized Certificates in Google Workspace

As we get close to the end of the school year you may find yourself needing to create and distribute certificates to students. These could be for recognition of any number of things from honor roll to volunteer work. It used to be that giving certificates for these occasions required buying ream of pre-printed certificates from a catalog and then manually writing students' names on them. Today, there are some easy ways to create customized and personalized certificates. In fact, you can do that with the Google Workspace tools you may already be using on a regular basis. 

In the following video I demonstrate how you can design your own customized certificates in Google Slides. In the video I used Pixabay to find borders to use in my certificate. That's not the only source that you can use. Any site that offers public domain imagery could be used in the same way to design your own certificates.

Use Certify'em to Issue Personalized Certificates on an as-needed basis. 
This is the method to use if you don't have a pre-existing list of students that need a certificate or you want to be able to issue certificates on-demand. Certify'em is a Google Forms add-on that will let you automatically issue a certificate to students when the pass a quiz in Google Forms with a minimum score of your choosing. I use Certify'em to issue certificates to people who complete my professional development webinars and courses. Watch this video to learn how to use Certify'em. 

Use autoCrat to create personalized certificates in bulk. 
This is the method to use if you already have a list of the students who should receive a certificate for something like honor roll or perfect attendance. To use this method you will need to have or create a Google Sheet that lists the students' names. Once you have that list you can run the Google Sheets add-on called autoCrat to automatically personalize the certificate for each student on the list. The certificate template must be made in Google Slides. Watch my video to learn how to use autoCrat and Google Slides to create personalized certificates in bulk.

Another Easy Way to Create End-of-Year Slideshow Videos

Yesterday I shared three quick and easy ways to create end-of-year slideshow videos. Shortly after I hit publish on that blog post I realized that there was another great option that I've been overlooking for a few years. That option is built right into Google Photos. 

In Google Photos there is a section called "utilities." It is in the utilities section that you'll find the video creation tool. To use it all you need to do is select up to 50 pictures and or videos that you have stored in your Google Photos account. Google Photos will then automatically select display length for each image or video and automatically add background music to your video. If you don't like what was automatically selected for your video, you can manually adjust display length and choose different background music. 

Watch this short video to learn how to make an audio slideshow video with Google Photos. 

The video creation tool in Google Photos does limit you to 50 images per video. If you need to make a longer video, you could make two or three videos in Google Photos then download them and combine them in iMovie or WeVideo. 

Monday, May 9, 2022

Three Tools for Quickly & Easily Creating End-of-Year Slideshow Videos

In my weekly newsletter I mentioned that a sure sign that the end of the school year is near always lands in my inbox as an uptick in the number of questions I get about saving and moving files. Another sign that the end of the school year is near is an increase in questions like this one that just landed in my inbox, 

I have taken a lot of pictures this year. I would like to put them into a slideshow with music for my students for the last day of school. What program do you recommend? Thank you.

If you're also thinking about making an end-of-year slideshow video for your students, here are a few tools that I recommend. 

Adobe Creative Cloud Express Video
Adobe Creative Cloud Express was previously known as Adobe Spark. I've been using it since it's launch half a dozen years ago. Adobe Creative Cloud Express makes it easy for students to create succinct audio slideshow videos. It includes a library of background music that you can insert into your videos. Finally, Adobe Creative Cloud Express is a collaborative tool so you can invite a colleague to work on developing an end-of-year slideshow video with you. Watch this video to learn how to make a video with Adobe Creative Cloud Express.

Canva offers two ways to create audio slideshow videos. The first way is to simply put together a series of slides and then select a soundtrack to play in the background. That process is demonstrated here. The other method is to use Canva's full video editor to add narration an custom timings to an audio slideshow video. That process is demonstrated in this video.

Microsoft Photos
Microsoft Photos includes a video creation tool for making short audio slideshow-style videos. You'll find this by just opening the native photos app in Windows 10. Within the editor there are tools for adding animated effects to still images, insert your existing video clips into a video project, and tools for adding audio to your video. There's also a great option to search for Creative Commons licensed images and insert them directly into your video project. The best part of that feature is that attribution information is automatically added onto the images you choose through the built-in search tool. In the following video I provide a demonstration of how to create a video in Microsoft Photos in Windows 10.

How to Create Your Own Virtual Reality Tours

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about and gave a video demonstration of how to lead students on virtual reality tours with Expeditions Pro. In that video I mentioned that Expeditions Pro can also be used to create your own virtual reality tours. This morning I recorded a video about how do that. Watch my new video to learn how you can create your own virtual reality tours with Expeditions Pro

There are a few things to note from this video before you try creating your own virtual reality tours with Expeditions Pro. 
  • First, in the demo I used 360 degree imagery that I captured with my Android phone (Pixel 5) and saved in Google Photos. 
  • Second, I downloaded my 360 imagery from my Google Photos account then imported it into my tour. 
  • Third, I used to record the audio narration for the each view in my tour. I downloaded my audio from Vocaroo as an MP3 file then imported it into my tour on Expeditions Pro.
To learn how to use Expeditions Pro to guide students on VR tours, watch this video. The directions in the video can be followed for VR tours you create or those that you find in the galleries in the Expeditions Pro app.

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Create Location-based Reminders in Google Keep

Other than the Chrome web browser, Google Keep is the app that I use more than any other on my Pixel 5 phone (a phone I like, but don't love). I use it for bookmarking websites, creating to-do lists and shopping lists, and to set reminders for myself throughout the day. My favorite aspect of Google Keep is the ability to set location-based reminders. 

By creating location-based reminders for myself I can be reminded of things that I need to do when I get to specific place. For example, I use it to remind myself of things that I need to tell my daughters' preschool teachers when I drop them off in the morning. I've also used it to remind myself of the first thing that I need to do when I get to school in the morning. 

The value of location-based reminders is that they're not dependent on time. If I'm stuck in traffic and get to school a little later than I planned, the reminder doesn't appear when I'm still sitting in my car and can't act on it. The reminder only appears once I get to the place that I need to do the task that I've created in my reminder in Google Keep. 

In this short video I demonstrate how to create location-based reminders in Google Keep. 

For more interesting ways to use Google Keep take a look at the following videos. 

Two Webinars Coming Up This Week

The sun is shining, summer is so close, but there's still time to learn some new things to try in your classroom before the end of the school year. This week I'm hosting or co-hosting two opportunities to learn directly from me in live webinars. First, on Tuesday I'm hosting Blending Technology Into Outdoor Learning. Second, on Thursday I'm co-hosting Two EdTech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff

In Tuesday's webinar I'll teach you five ways that you can develop engaging activities for your students to complete as part of an outdoor learning experience. Learn more here and register here

In Thursday's webinar I'll join Rushton Hurley from Next Vista for Learning to answer any and all edtech questions you can throw at us. Register here to join us!

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Drawings, Templates, and Deer - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where we're recovering from the destruction of our tulip garden at the hooves and teeth of some whitetail deer. We'll be spending part of the day working on the gardens including planting some marigolds and other plants that are reported to be deer repellents (we'll see). 

Tomorrow is Mother's Day so my daughters and I have a little time to put the finishing touches on a surprise for tomorrow morning. Happy Mother's Day to all of the mothers, including my mom, who read my blog. I hope that you have a great weekend!

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Quick and Easy Ways to Remove Image Backgrounds
2. New Google Docs Templates for Project Management
3. How Not to Cite an Image Source - Eight Years Later
4. Book Widgets Now Offers Digital Rubrics
5. Three Registration-free Drawing Tools for Students
6. Mentimeter - Share Slides and Poll Your Class on One Screen
7. The Most Popular Posts in April

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.

Thanks to This Month's Banner Advertisers!
  • Kikori App offers a huge library of SEL activities for all ages. 
  • WriteReader is a great tool for multimedia writing. 
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 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 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, May 6, 2022

Understanding Perspectives in Primary Sources - A New National Archives Resource

Once they understood the difference between a primary and secondary source, helping students understand the context, meaning, and purpose of primary source documents was one of the things that I enjoyed the most when I taught U.S. History. To that end, I often used resources from the National Archives Daily Document RSS feed to spark conversations in my classroom. The National Archives recently published a new guide to help students understand perspectives in primary sources

Understanding Perspectives in Primary Sources (link opens a PDF) is a free guide that you can download and distribute to your students. The guide leads students through a series of questions designed to help them identify the type of primary source (writing, drawing, audio recording, etc.), who created it, and the context in which it was created (time, place). 

Applications for Education
One of the most important aspects of the Understanding Perspectives in Primary Sources guide is in the last section. In that section students are asked, "what evidences does the creator present that you should fact check?" This is important because, in my experience, a lot of students assume that just because something is an old primary source it is therefore infallible as a source of information. The question that I would always ask my students to consider was, "does what you're reading line up with what you already know about this topic?" 

Science Friday is a Must-bookmark for Science Teachers

Science Friday is a must-bookmark for teachers and students of science. As the name implies, every Friday a new batch of podcast segments about a wide range of science topics is released. Additionally, on Science Friday you will find interesting videos and articles about a wide array of topics in chemistry, biology, physics, space science, and much more. One of the segments that I liked from last week's Science Friday was this one about why a dog's breed may not be a great predictor of its behavioral traits

Applications for Education
Science Friday offers lesson plans, many of them hands-on, that you can find in the education section of the site. To find a lesson plan just head to the education section of the site and then choose a grade level, subject, and STEM practice. The lesson plans include links to the national science standards addressed in the lesson. Lighting Up Celery Stalks is one of the featured biology lesson plans that I think students will enjoy.

Gmail Settings to Avoid Embarrassment

We've all done it, you hit "send" on an email then realize you misspelled an important word or you click send and realize that you replied to all instead of just to the original sender. These situations can be either fairly innocuous or downright embarrassing depending upon who the email was sent to and or what was said. Fortunately, there are a couple of Gmail settings that can help you avoid these situations. 

Gmail has setting that allows you to unsend an email up to 30 seconds after it has been sent. Gmail also has a setting that lets you change the default reply behavior on group mailings. Both of these features are demonstrated in this video that I recently published on my YouTube channel

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Three Registration-free Drawing Tools for Students

Tools like Google Jamboard and Explain Everything can be great for creating drawings to illustrate concepts. They can also be good tools for students to use to illustrate stories. But sometime you just need a quick and easy tool for students to use to create a drawing or simple animation without having to jump through the hoop of logging into an account. In those instances, the following free tools provide a good way for students to quickly create digital drawings. 

Brush Ninja
For more than five years now I've been using Brush Ninja to create simple animations. Here's something I wrote about using Brush Ninja a few years ago in an eighth grade class. This video provides a demonstration of how to use Brush Ninja which is free and doesn't require registration. The featured GIF in this blog post was created by using Brush Ninja. 

Draw and Tell
Draw and Tell is a free iPad app that has been on my list of recommendations for K-2 students for many years. In this free app students can draw on a blank pages or complete coloring page templates. After completing their drawings students then record a voiceover in which they either explain the drawings or tell a story about the characters in their drawings.

ABCya Animate
ABCya Animate is a fun tool that allows students to create animated GIFs containing up to 100 frames. On ABCya Animate students build their animation creations by drawing, typing, and inserting images. Students can change the background of each frame, include new pictures in each frame, and change the text in each frame of their animations. The feature that I like best about ABCya Animate is that students can see the previous frames of their animations while working on a current frame. This helps students know where to position items in each frame in order to make their animations as smooth as possible. Students do not need to register on ABCya Animate in order to use the tool or to save their animations. When students click "save" on ABCya Animate their creations are downloaded as GIFs.

Electric Lessons - Energy 101

The ski mountain that is about ten miles down the road from where I live has a large array of solar panels. Their goal is to use as much renewable energy as possible. To that end, another solar array is being constructed about a mile down the road. I noticed the progress earlier this week when I drove past it. That got me thinking about how many solar panels will be needed and it prompted me to look in my archives for some resources for teaching about how electricity is generated. Here are a few that I picked out. 

How Do Solar Panels Work? is a TED-Ed lesson that covers the basics of what solar panels are made of and how electricity is generated from them. The video also delves into some of the political and societal barriers to solar panel installation and solar array developments. 

How Do Wind Turbines Work? is a TED-ED lesson that covers the basics of how wind turbines harness the power of wind to generate electricity. The basic math of wind turbine design is also explained to viewers of the video. Overall, it's a fine lesson but not the most detailed of lessons.

Energy Now News is a YouTube channel featuring videos about energy in the news and educational videos about electricity. Energy 101: Electricity Generation covers the process of producing electricity and getting it to homes and businesses.

Idaho Power offers a short video overview of how hydroelectric dams generate electricity and the process of getting that electricity from a dam to a house. Before you show this video to your students, it might be worth pointing out to them who produced and why they produced it. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Filmstrips and Rubber Trees

This morning as I was braiding my five-year-old daughter's hair she was playing with one of seemingly ten thousand hair ties that we have in our house. It was then than she asked me what they're made of. I told her they were made of rubber. Of course, I couldn't stop there. I had to then ask her, "do you know that rubber comes from trees kind of like maple syrup comes from trees?" She asked how I knew that. I told her I learned it in school when I was about her age. 

That whole conversation with my daughter lasted about thirty seconds. It had the effect of jogging my memory of watching a filmstrip about rubber nearly forty years ago in my first grade teacher's (Mrs. Anderson) classroom. The filmstrip projector is a piece of educational technology that today's students will never experience. They'll never get to be excited to get picked to be the person who turns the filmstrip when the record beeps. And I know that some of you reading this have no idea what I'm talking about. Others of you may feel a twinge of nostalgia thinking about your own filmstrip experiences. Either way, if you find yourself trying to explain what a filmstrip was, here's a little video demonstration of how they worked

If you have a child in your life who is also curious about where rubber comes from, Maddie Moate has a video for you. In Where Does Rubber Come From? Maddie visits a forest in Thailand to learn how rubber trees are tapped and how the sap is used to make products like rubber boots. 

New Google Docs Templates for Project Management

For years I've used tables in Google Documents to help students organize group notes and to keep track of who is doing what in group projects. On Monday Google introduced some new table templates that can be used for those same purposes.

The new table templates in Google Docs appear to have been developed with business projects in mind. However, as you can see in my video below, all of the templates can be easily modified for academic projects. 

Along with the table templates Google also introduced a feature called "dropdown chips." These chips are little dropdown menus that you can use inside of a table in Google Docs. The dropdown chips can be used to indicate if a part of a project is in progress, not started, under review, or approved. Those are the default options for dropdown chips, but as you can see in my video below, the dropdown chip titles can be edited for each template. 

Watch my new video to learn how to use the new table templates in Google Docs.