Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Menus, Backgrounds, and Videos - The Month in Review

The month of May has come to a close. I can tell by the traffic patterns on my blog that many of you have started summer vacation. And the rest are ready for vacation. I hope that everyone has something fun to do this summer (or winter for my southern hemisphere friends). One of the fun things we're excited about at our house is our garden boxes and all of the veggies that hopefully spring from them in the coming months. 

At the end of every month I take a look in my Google Analytics account to see what the most popular posts of the last month were. The list in posted below. Take a look and see if there is something interesting that you missed during the month of May.

These were the most popular posts of the month:
1. Add Dropdown Menus Into Sentences In Google Docs
2. Quick and Easy Ways to Remove Image Backgrounds
3. New Google Docs Features You Might Have Missed
4. Videos for Teaching and Learning About Memorial Day
5. An Interactive Map of the Roman Empire
6. New Google Docs Templates for Project Management
7. Three Tools for Quickly & Easily Creating End-of-Year Slideshow Videos
8. A Cool Lesson for a Hot Spring Day - How the Popsicle Was Invented
9. Broadcast Google Slides Directly to Your Students' Computers
10. TARA - A Planning Tool for New and Veteran Teachers

Webinars for Your School
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.

Other Places to Follow Me:
  • The Practical Ed Tech Newsletter comes out every Sunday evening/ Monday morning. It features my favorite tip of the week and the week's most popular posts from Free Technology for Teachers.
  • My YouTube channel has more than 41,000 subscribers watching my short tutorial videos on a wide array of educational technology tools. 
  • I've been Tweeting as @rmbyrne for fifteen years. 
  • The Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page features new and old posts from this blog throughout the week. 
  • If you're curious about my life outside of education, you can follow me on Instagram or Strava.
This post originally appeared on FreeTech4Teachers.com. If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission. Sites that steal my (Richard Byrne's) work include Icons Daily and Daily Dose. Featured image captured by Richard Byrne.

How to Quickly Remove and Replace Image Backgrounds

At the start of the month I featured four tools for removing image backgrounds. To end this month I have one more cool tool to share with you. That tool is called Strip Background. It does exactly what the name implies and a little more. 

Strip Background lets you quickly remove the background from any image that you own. Simply upload your image and let Strip Background do the rest. If the background isn't removed exactly as you hoped, there are some touch-up tools that you can use to finish the job. Once the background is removed you can download your new image. Strip Background also lets you replace the background of your original image with a new background color or new background image. All of these features are available for free and without any registration required. Watch my short demo video to see how Strip Background works. 




Applications for Education
Removing the background from an image is a good way to protect your privacy and that of people who might unintentionally be in the background of your pictures. Remove image backgrounds is also a good way to get a stand-alone image of yourself to then place in front of a different background. For example, I could take a picture of myself at my local ski mountain then replace the background so that I look like I'm climbing Mount Everest. In the past I've had students do this to create short travel narratives in which they place themselves into their stories.

As I mentioned in the video above, Strip Background was created by the same developers who made Toony Tool. Toony Tool is a great cartoon creation tool that I featured in this blog post.

Monday, May 30, 2022

What is Lightning? - Another Question from My Daughter

On Saturday we had the first thunderstorm of the summer at our house. I made it back from a bike ride just as the thunder and lightning started to crack overhead. The storm prompted my five-year-old to ask, "what is lightning?" We tried to give my daughter a short explanation that lighting is electricity traveling between clouds or between clouds and the ground. That, of course, led to the questions of "how does electricity get in the clouds?" Both were good questions that prompted me to turn to a couple of my old, reliable YouTube channels for answers to questions like these. 

The first place that I turn to for elementary school level explanations to questions related to earth science is SciShow Kids. There I found What Causes Thunder and Lightning? The video begins by explaining that the shock you feel when touching a doorknob after walking across a carpet is caused by static electricity. From there the lesson moves into explaining how static electricity works in a similar manner in clouds. I didn't actually show this video to my daughter, but it did give me a great idea for better answering her questions about what lightning is and how electricity gets in the clouds. 



The other place that I usually turn to for topics like this is National Geographic's 101 series. That was where I found Thunderstorms 101. This video is a bit more advanced than the SciShow Kids video but still appropriate for upper elementary school or middle school. The video explains different types of thunderstorms and the conditions that create them.



Applications for Education
If you teach elementary school and or have kids around the same age as mine, both of these videos could help you explain lightning and thunder to them. And if you have slightly older students, you might consider using these videos in a self-paced lesson in which students have to answer questions before playing each section of the video. Here are a few tools for doing that. 

(By the way, my four-year-old napped through the entire thunderstorm on Saturday).

Improve Your Typing While Reading Classic Literature

There is no shortage of typing games available on the web (find 700 of them right here). Most of those games are based on rote practice and patterns. That's why I was intrigued when the Support Real Teachers Twitter account tagged me in a post about a new typing practice site that wasn't just a big collection of animated games. That site is called TypeLit.io

On TypeLit.io you can develop your typing skills while reading classic literature. The way it works is that you pick a classic work in TypeLit's library and then start typing the text that you see on the screen. TypeLit provides you with feedback about the accuracy and speed of your typing. 

As you can see in my demo video, TypeLit will let you pick a chapter of a book to type or you can type through the whole thing. You can use TypeLit without an account. But if you do create an account you can save and resume your progress. 



Applications for Education
TypeLit.io isn't going to replace "traditional" typing instruction. That said, it could be a place for middle school and high school students to practice their typing skills while reading some classic literature.

Sunday, May 29, 2022

How to Archive Google Classroom

The end of the school year is here or at least very near for most of us. Google Classroom users will probably want to archive their classes at the end of the year. Archiving a class prevents students from accessing it so that you can go on summer vacation without any worry that a student is going to write something in it without you noticing it. 

If you're not sure how to archive a Google Classroom class or how to recover it if you accidentally archive the wrong one, watch this short video on how to archive Google Classroom classes

Two Ways to Quickly Turn Writing Into Videos

Last week I shared some observations from evaluating the websites of a handful of relatively large school districts. In that blog post I mentioned that the better websites put recent and relevant information on the homepage and don't rely solely on social media to disseminate news about their schools and their districts. That's because when you rely on social media, you're hoping that parents and students notice your posts in sea of all the other social media updates they see in a day. 

If you do choose to use social media to share updates about your school district or school, posting videos is a good way to increase the chances that people will see your message. But not everyone is comfortable on camera or is a good video editor. That's why you might be interested in using a tool that turns your writing into videos for you. The following tools will do that. 

Lumen5 is a service that will produce a video for you based upon your written work. To create a video with Lumen5 you can enter the URL of your published work or paste in the text of your blog post. Lumen5 will then select highlights from your writing to feature in a video. Lumen5 generates a preview of a video for you based on the title, keywords, and key phrases in your blog post. The video will consist of images and video clips matched to the words in your blog post. Completed Lumen5 projects can be shared directly to Facebook. You can also download your video to use on Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and anywhere else that you like post short videos. Watch this video to see how Lumen5 works. 



InVideo offers lots of tools and templates for making audio slideshow videos to share on social media and elsewhere. One of those tools lets you copy the text of an article into a template then have InVideo automatically select images to match the text of the article. A similar InVideo template lets you enter the URL of an article and have a video made with images that are automatically selected to make the text of the article. In both cases parts of the text appear on the slides with the images. And in both cases you can manually override the automatic image selections.

Saturday, May 28, 2022

History, Book Reports, and the Great Outdoors - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where a light drizzle is providing a damp start to the weekend. Despite the weather we'll still have fun at our Tinkergarten class this morning because it's always fun to explore nature. I hope that you also have something fun planned for your weekend. 

This week I announced that I will be hosting Teaching History With Technology in June. That proved to be the most popular post I wrote all week. If you teach history, I hope you'll join me in the course

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Teaching History With Technology - Online Course Starting in June
2. Videos for Teaching and Learning About Memorial Day
3. The Homestead Act and a Research Prompt
4. Five Google Earth Activities to Get Kids Interested in the Outdoors
5. New Google Docs Features You Might Have Missed
6. Classroom Posters - The Rules of Civil Conversation
7. Alternatives to Book Reports - A Post Inspired By My Daughter

Webinars for Your School
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.

Other Places to Follow Me:
  • The Practical Ed Tech Newsletter comes out every Sunday evening/ Monday morning. It features my favorite tip of the week and the week's most popular posts from Free Technology for Teachers.
  • My YouTube channel has more than 41,000 subscribers watching my short tutorial videos on a wide array of educational technology tools. 
  • I've been Tweeting as @rmbyrne for fifteen years. 
  • The Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page features new and old posts from this blog throughout the week. 
  • If you're curious about my life outside of education, you can follow me on Instagram or Strava.
This post originally appeared on FreeTech4Teachers.com. If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission. Sites that steal my (Richard Byrne's) work include Icons Daily and Daily Dose. Featured image captured by Richard Byrne.

Five Concepts You Can Teach Through Geocaching

Geocaching is one of the things that I spend a good bit of time talking about in both my workshop and in my webinar about blending technology into outdoor learning. Geocaching is a great activity to do to get kids outside for hands-on learning experiences. Here are five things that you can teach through geocaching activities.

Geospatial Awareness
The core of geocaching activities is locating hidden caches. This can be done through the use of GPS (either on a phone, a smartwatch, or on a dedicated GPS unit) or in an "old school" method of using maps. Finding a cache can require students to have an understanding of the distance between two or more places.

Cardinal Direction
Do your students know in which direction to turn if you tell them to walk north? Teach them about cardinal direction through geocaching activities. You can set up geocaching activities in and around your school yard that don't require students to use any electronic devices. Simply make a map or make a list of clues that give students information about the directions and distances they need to go in order to find a series of caches.

Earth Science
Let students test use their knowledge of rock types or plant types as they seek geocaches. You can incorporate a little civic duty into the lesson by asking students to pick up litter they find while geocaching.

Citizenship
If you or your students use the official Geocaching website to find caches in your area, you may find some that border on private property. This is an opportunity to teach students about respecting the property of others. Another opportunity to teach a lesson about citizenship is found in playing by the rules of geocaching. For example, students shouldn't move caches they've found.

Digital Citizenship
As with any activity that incorporates an online, public-facing component participating in official Geocaching activities provides us with a good opportunity to review the basics of good digital citizenship. Students who are placing caches for inclusion on the public listings of Geocaches need to be mindful of not including personally identifying and other sensitive information in their descriptions and hints.

Bonus item: It's hard for me to talk about geocaching without thinking about a couple of classic "geography songs." Enjoy!


Friday, May 27, 2022

Five Virtual Tour Creation Projects for Students

Google’s old VR Tour Creator offered a great way to create virtual tours that could be viewed in your web browser and or in the Google Expeditions app. Unfortunately, Google shuttered both the those programs last year. Fortunately, there is an alternative available in the form of Expeditions Pro which I reviewed a couple of weeks ago

360 imagery is the backbone of creating tours in Expeditions Pro. To start creating a tour you will need to capture your own 360 imagery or find some online that is Creative Commons-licensed or in the public domain. 

Expeditions Pro lets you add 360 imagery and audio to each scene and point of interest in your tour. The audio has to be recorded outside of the Expeditions Pro and then uploaded to the scenes or points of interest. Any MP3 file will work in your tour. Vocaroo.com and TwistedWave.com are a couple of simple tools for creating an audio recording.

Completed tours can be shared publicly or privately. Your tours can be viewed in your web browser and in the Expeditions Pro app. The benefit of using it in the Expeditions Pro app is that you can guide your class or you can let students guide the class through the tour.  

5 VR Creation Projects for Students
  • Virtual reality tours based upon students’ favorite books. (On a similar note, VR to illustrate stories that students have written.)
  • VR tours about places students study in geography / history lessons.
  • VR tours to illustrate examples of math and science used in the design and construction of landmarks. 
  • VR tours to illustrate examples of types of landforms, rocks, waterways, and bodies of water.
  • VR tours to illustrate examples of an animal’s natural habitat and range.
Expeditions Pro Tutorial


Ten Topics in Teaching History With Technology

My popular Teaching History With Technology course begins next week. There is still time to register right here

There are ten big topics that will be covered in the course. All of the lessons in the course can be applied to elementary, middle, and high school settings.

These are the ten big topics in the course:

  • Search Strategies & Research Organization
  • Video Projects & Video Lessons
  • Developing Primary Source Activities
  • Google Earth & Maps
  • Multimedia Timelines
  • Digital Portfolios
  • AR & VR in History Lessons
  • Making Virtual Tours
  • Making History Apps
  • Creating Cartoons in History Classrooms



Thursday, May 26, 2022

Big Mistakes in Cartography

When I taught geography one of the first topics that I covered was map projections and how some of them can distort how we view the world. Of course, a good bit of attention was paid to the Mercator projection. Mercator's world map is one of a handful featured in a new TED-Ed lesson titled The Biggest Mistakes in Mapmaking History

The Biggest Mistakes in Mapmaking History provides students with a good, basic explanation of how cartography evolved. Most importantly the video explains why early maps of the world had so many inaccuracies including labeling some maps with things like "here be dragons." Watch the lesson and read the accompanying questions here



If you're interested in learning how to incorporate tools like Google Maps and Google Earth into your history lessons, join me in June for Teaching History With Technology.

How to Create a Custom Theme for Your Google Site

Do you use Google Sites for your classroom website? Do you have students use it for classroom projects like making digital portfolios? Are you tired of using the same stock themes that Google provides? If you answered yes to any of those questions, you need to watch my new video about creating custom themes for Google Sites

By watching How to Create a Custom Theme for Google Sites you will learn how you can apply develop custom color palettes for your site, select different fonts for different elements of your site, and how to add custom logos and images to your site's theme. 



Applications for Education
Creating a custom theme for Google Sites could be a good way for students to express themselves a bit as they develop digital portfolios for your class. It could also be a good way to make your classroom website stand-out a bit from all of the other sites that use stock Google Sites designs.

Learn more about Google Sites in the following videos:

Three Observations About Quality School District Websites

This morning I spent a couple of hours looking at the websites of relatively large school districts. These are my thoughts and observations after viewing them from the perspective of a parent.

Make It Obvious!
The good sites make it obvious for parents to find recent and relevant information.

Don't make parents dig through a variety of vaguely named menus to find the information they need about your school. I looked at one district's website this morning to try to find the school calendar for next fall. There was not a single tab or menu anywhere on the homepage labeled "calendar" or "schedule." The school calendar was only found if you clicked on a tab labeled "menu" then scrolled down to the fourth sub-menu that was labeled "calendars." Information about the school board members, human resources information for staff, and an outdated 2015-2020 strategic plan were all listed higher than the school year calendar. 

What does it say about your district when parents have to dig through vaguely named menus to find out basic information about their child's school day?

Social Media Isn’t a Replacement for a Good Website
Posting on social media is not a replacement for having a well-designed and frequently updated school/ school district website.

Some of the better sites I looked at included embedded streams of district/ school social media postings. They do that because they recognize that not every parent or student uses social media. Additionally, when you rely on social media you're hoping that parents and students will follow your accounts. And even if they do follow your accounts you then have to hope that your postings will stand-out from all of the other updates that parents and students see from the other accounts they follow.

Who is running the website?
The better websites that I looked at this morning were from school districts that have someone on staff whose job title included communications director or public relations. The bad ones seemed to be run as almost an afterthought or lower priority task of the IT department.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

How to Make a Google Form

YouTube Studio has an interesting analytics feature that shows you what people are searching for on your YouTube channel. It will also show you something called a "content gap." Content gaps are terms that people have searched for but haven't found good content to match their searches. "How to make a Google Form" was a content gap that was identified on my channel. To fill that gap I created a new video that covers the basics of how to make a Google Form. 

In How to Make a Google Form you will see how to:

  • Find Google Forms
  • Customize the look of a Google Form
  • Create a basic questionnaire in Google Forms
  • Publish and share a Google Form
  • View responses to Google Forms
  • Create and distribute Google Forms through Google Classroom. 



Learn more about Google Forms by watching the following videos:

Getting Started With Jamboard - And Ideas for Using It In Your Classroom

This morning I received an email from a reader who wanted to know if I had a video about the basics of using Google Jamboard. While I've made a bunch about various uses of Jamboard, I didn't have a current one about just the basics of Jamboard (my previous one is a little outdated). So this morning I turned on Screencast-o-matic and recorded a new video to demonstrate the basics of getting started with Jamboard. 

In Getting Started With Jamboard I cover the following:

  • What Jamboard is and where to find it. 
  • How to share Jamboards with collaborators.
  • How to write on Jamboard.
  • How to add pages to Jamboard.
  • How to share Jamboard in Google Classroom. 



Watch the following videos for some ideas about ways to use Jamboard in your classroom.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

A Teacher's Guide to Creating Common Craft Style Videos

Yesterday, I published a post about a live course that I'm teaching in June. If you're looking for something that is self-paced, Common Craft offers an interesting course about making videos. 

For years Common Craft videos have been used by teachers to help students understand topics including digital citizenship, personal finance, and many big technology concepts. One of the things that makes Common Craft videos popular is the clear and concise manner in which information is presented using a whiteboard, simple cutouts, and voice over. That style has become known as the Common Craft style and many teachers including myself have had students make videos using that style. Common Craft offers their own free course for teachers who want to make Common Craft style videos in their classrooms.

A Teacher's Guide to Creating Common Craft Style Videos is a free self-paced course that contains five modules. The modules start with the key concepts of the Common Craft style before moving onto walk you through the tools you need (and don't need), the planning process (a downloadable template included), and the final production steps. Throughout the course there are examples of work done by teachers and students.

And if you have never seen a Common Craft video before, here's a good one to get started.

You might also be interested in my video in which I demonstrate how I use Google Slides to create videos. 



Disclosure: I have a long-standing in-kind relationship with Common Craft. 

Videos for Teaching and Learning About Memorial Day

Next Monday is Memorial Day. Students often confuse the origin and purpose of Memorial Day with those of Veterans Day. The following videos can help students understand the origins and meanings of Memorial Day and Veterans Day.


The Meaning of Memorial Day is a two minute video covering the origins of the holiday in the United States. The video is embedded below.



The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers the following video overview of the history of Memorial Day.


Jocko Willink isn't everyone's cup of tea, but I enjoy his podcast and found this video that he released a few years ago to be quite moving.



To find more resources for teaching about Memorial Day, visit Larry Ferlazzo's list of resources.

Try using EDpuzzle to add questions into these videos and distribute them to your students.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Alternatives to Book Reports - A Post Inspired By My Daughter

My five-year-old daughter has a healthy obsession with the According to Humphrey the Hamster series of books. She got one of the books for Christmas and we've been reading through the entire series since then. Last week I came home from a bike ride and she couldn't wait to show me her latest art project! It was a paper replica of how she pictured Humphrey's cage. She had even used some paper and tape to create a little hamster wheel to put in his cage. On a scale of 1-10 I was at about 15 for how impressed I was that she came up with that idea on her own. 

Inspired by my daughter's creation of a replica of Humphrey the Hamster's cage, here are some other ideas for alternatives to traditional book report assignments.

  • Create a book trailer video. This is a short video intended to get people excited to read a book. Students can summarize key points in the book and try to entice viewers to read the book. Canva's video editor and Adobe Creative Cloud Express are great tools for making book trailer videos.

  • Have students design and publish their own online games based on the plot and characters of a book. Flippity offers great templates that students can modify to create their own online games.

  • Students can use Google Earth to create virtual tour based on locations featured in a book. Students using the web browser version of Google Earth can include videos in the placemarks in their tours. Students who use Google Earth Pro can record audio narration for their entire tours.

  • Consider using the choose-your-own-adventure model and have students write some alternate endings to a story. They can do this in Google Slides. Here's a video about the process.

By the way, the picture I took of my daughter and her art project is a lot cuter than the cropped one in this blog post. Unfortunately, due to the plethora of shady sites that steal my work every day, I don't include pictures of my kids' faces in my posts anymore

Teaching History With Technology - Online Course Starting in June

This summer I'm not hosting the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp. I am, however, hosting a some online courses for those who are interested. The first one that I'm hosting starts in June. That course is Teaching History With Technology.

Teaching History With Technology is a five-part course that will meet via Zoom at 4pm ET every Thursday in June. It has been a year since I last taught this course so I've updated it with some new resources and new strategies for 2022. 

In Teaching History With Technology you will learn how to help students conduct better online research, how to make history videos, how to create online primary source-based activities, how to develop virtual tours, and more. You'll even learn how to make your own history app even if you don't have any computer science experience!


The course consists of five live meetings. Every meeting will be recorded for those who register but cannot attend all of the sessions. Handouts will be provided for every session. 

Save 10% if you register online by midnight (ET) Friday. Register here!

A note about cost:
I am able to keep Free Technology for Teachers running through the support of people who register to attend my webinars, courses, and workshops. While the tools that I feature in my courses are free, my time for teaching and hosting is not. 

Sunday, May 22, 2022

The Homestead Act and a Research Prompt

Last Friday the document of the day on the Today's Document from the National Archives blog was a copy of the Homestead Act passed on May 20, 1862. Seeing the document reminded me of a prompt that I used in a workshop about teaching search strategies that I hosted last summer. If you teach U.S. History, you might want to try the prompt with your own students. Here it is: 

The Homestead Act was signed into law 1862 and the first claims were made under it shortly after. Your challenge is to find out when the last claim was granted under the Homestead Act. Who was granted the last claim? 

Depending on where you live, you might want to modify the challenge to finding out when the last claim was made in your state or county. 

DocsTeach also has some activities built around Homestead Act. You might use those activities as is or modify them to meet your needs. Here's my overview of how to use DocsTeach

Classroom Posters - The Rules of Civil Conversation

When I taught civics learning to create sound, well-reasoned arguments and present them in a calm manner was a significant goal in every course. I always tried to remind them that they can disagree with another person's opinion without attacking the person. This was particularly tricky when my high school students hit upon issues that they had deeply held opinions about. It always helped to have some ground rules laid out before discussions began. To that end, the folks at School of Thought have recently released a new project called The Rules of Civil Conversation.

The Rules of Civil Conversation is a website designed to help visitors better understand how to hold a civil conversation in the face of differing opinions. One of the resources on the site is a set of posters outlining eight rules of civil conversation. These posters can be downloaded for free and printed for display in your classroom. (There is also an option to buy printed versions). 

School of Thought also created the sites Your Logical Fallacy Is and Your Bias Is. I've previously featured those sites in my larger collection of resources to help students recognize logical fallacies and cognitive biases

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Menus, Maps, and Broadcasts - The Week in Review

Good morning from western Maine where the warm weather is supposed to returned after a couple of cold and rainy days. We're planning to have fun enjoying the warm weather with a trip to Storyland! My kids love going there because of all of the kid-friendly rides. I love going there because it reminds me of happy childhood memories and I love watching my kids have fun making memories of their own. How much fun do we have there? My five-year-old yelled, "I'm living my best life!" while riding a rollercoaster at Storyland last summer. I hope that you have something as equally fun to do this weekend. 

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Add Dropdown Menus Into Sentences In Google Docs
2. New Google Docs Features You Might Have Missed
3. An Interactive Map of the Roman Empire
4. A Cool Lesson for a Hot Spring Day - How the Popsicle Was Invented
5. The National Archives to Host Online Professional Development This Summer
6. TARA - A Planning Tool for New and Veteran Teachers
7. Broadcast Google Slides Directly to Your Students' Computers

Webinars for Your School
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.

Other Places to Follow Me:
  • The Practical Ed Tech Newsletter comes out every Sunday evening/ Monday morning. It features my favorite tip of the week and the week's most popular posts from Free Technology for Teachers.
  • My YouTube channel has more than 41,000 subscribers watching my short tutorial videos on a wide array of educational technology tools. 
  • I've been Tweeting as @rmbyrne for fifteen years. 
  • The Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page features new and old posts from this blog throughout the week. 
  • If you're curious about my life outside of education, you can follow me on Instagram or Strava.
This post originally appeared on FreeTech4Teachers.com. If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission. Sites that steal my (Richard Byrne's) work include Icons Daily and Daily Dose. Featured image captured by Richard Byrne.

Five Google Earth Activities to Get Kids Interested in the Outdoors

In last week’s Week in Review I mentioned a new book titled Outdoor Kids in an Inside World. In the book Steven Rinella presents a lot of ideas for getting kids interested and involved in learning about nature. In the first chapter he presents a big list of ideas for things that you can do to spark kids’ curiosity before you even head outside. As I was reading through those ideas it struck me that many could be done or be aided by the use of Google Earth.

Inspired by Steven Rinella’s Outdoor Kids in an Inside World, here are five Google Earth activities that you can do to get kids interested in learning about the world around them.
  • Trace a drop of rain from your house to the nearest stream, river, lake, or ocean.

  • How many total feet or meters of elevation change would you cross to walk from your school to the highest point in your state, province, or country.

  • Create a tour of the five most interesting geological features in your state, province, or country. Let students decide what qualifies as “interesting.”

  • Use the historical imagery in Google Earth to view changes in shoreline over the last fifty years. Have students create a list of the factors that contributed to those changes.

  • Take a walk outside and look for bird nests. Record their locations in a Google Earth file. Repeat the process the following year with another group of students and see if the bird nests are in the same places.
If you're interested in learning more about Google Earth, enroll in A Crash Course in Google Earth and Maps or take a look at Around the World With Google Earth.

Friday, May 20, 2022

Reducing Stress Through Tech - Podcast

Earlier this week I had the pleasure to be a guest on podcast hosted by Paulie Gavoni and Drew Carter. Their podcast is called The Crisis in Education Podcast. In the podcast they explore opportunities for sustainable improvements in schools. 

In the podcast I talked with Paulie and Drew about how technology can be used to reduce teacher stress. It had been about a year since the last time I was a guest on a long-form podcast. They brought the rambler out in me and I hope that you enjoy the podcast as much as I did. You can listed to Reducing Teacher Stress Through Free Tech right here. Highlights of the podcast are available here.


If you're interested in starting your own podcast, Anchor makes it easy to do that. Here's my short tutorial on how to create a podcast with Anchor. And here's a list of podcast topics for students

NearbyWiki - A Mapped Display of Wikipedia

NearbyWiki is a new website that displays Wikipedia entries on an interactive map. The purpose of NearbyWiki is for visitors to learn about buildings, statues, and parks by clicking through a map. For example, a search for Boston on NearbyWiki will reveal more than 500 markers on the map in and around Boston. You can then click on any of those markers to learn more about the place they represent. 

In the screenshot below you can see that I clicked on the marker on NearbyWiki for Brewer Fountain in Boston Common. I was then able to click through to read more about the fountain and bookmark it for later reference. 


Applications for Education
NearbyWiki could be a good tool for students to use to discover and learn about some interesting landmarks in a city or town. The upside to using NearbyWiki instead of Google Maps for this purpose is that students won't come across things like restaurant reviews that are written and published on Google Maps. 

Another way to think about using NearbyWiki in your classroom is to have students use it to find the Wikipedia entries for places in their local communities and then fact-check those entries. 

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.

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