Monday, June 27, 2022

Short Lessons About American Independence Day

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

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



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



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


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

Transforming the Traditional Learning Environment with BookWidgets

Disclosure: BookWidgets is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Enroll in Tract’s Free Virtual Summer Creator Camp

Disclosure: Tract is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Disclosure: Tract is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

Automatically Forward Important Google Workspace Email to Secondary Email Address

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

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


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

Saturday, June 25, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stories, Studios, and Smoke - The Week in Review

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

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

 These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Tools for Asynchronously Collecting Stories
2. Five Ways to Work With PDFs in Google Drive
3. New Google Forms Customization Options
4. Ten Google Sites Tutorials for New and Experienced Users
5. Type Studio 2.0 - Edit Videos by Typing and More!
6. My Three Favorite Google Tools for Social Studies Teachers and Students
7. How to Record a Video Lesson in PowerPoint
   
July and August Webinars!
Starting in July I'm hosting a series of seven Practical Ed Tech webinars. You can register for one or all seven of them. Read about them here or follow the links below to register.
Other Places to Follow Me:
  • The Practical Ed Tech Newsletter comes out every Sunday evening/ Monday morning. It features my favorite tip of the week and the week's most popular posts from Free Technology for Teachers.
  • My YouTube channel has more than 41,000 subscribers watching my short tutorial videos on a wide array of educational technology tools. 
  • I've been Tweeting as @rmbyrne for fifteen years. 
  • The Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page features new and old posts from this blog throughout the week. 
  • If you're curious about my life outside of education, you can follow me on Instagram or Strava.
This post originally appeared on FreeTech4Teachers.com. If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission. Sites that steal my (Richard Byrne's) work include Icons Daily and Daily Dose. Featured image captured by Richard Byrne.

Friday, June 24, 2022

Spaces Adds New Features for Creating Better Digital Portfolios!

Disclosure: Spaces is currently an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A New Limit on Zoom Meetings

Most readers of Free Technology for Teachers who are hosting Zoom meetings on a regular basis are probably using a Zoom subscription through a school account. If that isn't the case for you and you're using a free Zoom account, there is a change coming that you need to note. 

All Zoom meetings, regardless of the number of attendees, will be limited to 40 minutes for hosts using a free Zoom plan. This is a change from current free plan that only implemented that limit on meetings with four or more participants. 

Again, this change probably won't affect most readers of this blog, but it is worth noting for those who will be affected by it. You can read more about the change and other Zoom plan options on this Zoom support page

On a related note, here are some helpful Zoom tutorials that I've created in the last year. 


Thursday, June 23, 2022

Amazing! This Interactive Story Building Lesson Still Works!

Last night I was scrolling through my archives to see what I was writing about ten years ago. I do that from time to time to see which of those things that I was writing about a decade ago is still relevant and viable. It was during that process last night that I came across Word Tamer. 

Word Tamer is a site for learning the process of developing characters, settings, and plots. Word Tamer is set up as an interactive journey through a carnival of literary devices. As students move through the carnival they develop characters, develop a setting, and develop a plot for their stories. At each stop in the Word Tamer carnival students can print out the words they have written. Along the way there are videos to help students understand the roles of characters, settings, and plot development in crafting a good story.

Applications for Education
I first learned about Word Tamer more than a decade ago when Kristen Swanson wrote about it. Kristen recommended Word Tamer because she thought that the narration and graphics make the site UDL-friendly. I think that Word Tamer has potential to get reluctant writers started on their way to crafting creative stories.

A Quick and Easy Way to Make Printable Mazes

Maze Generator is a free site that does exactly what it says on the tin, it generates mazes. To make a printable maze on Maze Generator just select the shape, size, and style you want your maze to have. The shape options are rectangle, triangle, circle, and hexagon. You can also choose the level of difficulty and starting point for your mazes. After you have made all of your size and style selections just hit the "generate" button to get a printable PDF.

Watch my short video to see how easy it is to create a printable maze with Maze Generator. 



Applications for Education
From time-to-time we all need a low-tech to no-tech activity for our students. You might need a no-tech activity for students to do after finishing a test. Completing a maze on paper is a decidedly no-tech activity for students. But making the maze on your computer for to replicate, modify, and print is low-tech activity. If you find yourself wanting to make a maze, take a look at Maze Generator.

Meet Otus - A Fun and Free ISTE Event

Disclosure: Otus is currently an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

Otus is a learning management system that first popped onto my radar nearly a decade ago. Since then I've watched it evolve from an iPad app to a complete learning management platform for teachers, students, parents, and administrators to use on any device. Along the way they've incorporate third-party resources and developed some great features to help teachers, parents, and administrators develop a full picture of student progress. 

At next week's ISTE conference Otus is hosting a fun and free event for all teachers, tech coaches, and school administrators. On Tuesday evening (June 28th) Otus is hosting a NOLA-themed cocktail reception featuring Kermit Ruffins. Kermit Ruffins is a jazz trumpeter, singer and composer, and an actor, from New Orleans. You can get more information and your free ticket to the event right here!

Earlier this week I got a chance to catch up with one of the co-founders of Otus, Chris Hull. We talked for quite a while about all things education, our kids, and why Otus is hosting this free event for educators. I recorded part of our conversation and published it on my YouTube channel. Watch the recording of our conversation here or as embedded below. 



Head to The Chicory in New Orleans on June 28th to enjoy an evening of live music and free food hosted by Otus. Tell them I sent you!

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

New Google Forms Customization Options

There is good news for those who are tired of the same old font choices in Google Forms. Starting today (for some users) you can now mix and match font styles in the Google Forms that you create.

On Tuesday Google announced the release of new font options. These options include using different fonts for the headings, subheadings, and body text on your Google Forms. The best part is that it appears there are now more overall font choices! Instead of being limited to the handful of built-in font choices, it appears that you can now use additional fonts like those that you would typically find in Google Docs and Slides. 

Applications for Education
This is a bigger development for some teachers than others. Those who like to customize the look of their Google Forms now have more options. If it turns out that you can import fonts like those in the Lexend family, that could improve the accessibility of Google Forms for some students.

As is the case with nearly all updates to Google Workspace, the new font options in Google Forms will be rolling out over the next couple of weeks. If you don't see the new options today, you should see them soon.

On a related note, here's a series of short Google Forms tutorial videos created to help new Google Forms users learn everything they need to know and some common mistakes to avoid. 

My Three Favorite Google Tools for Social Studies Teachers and Students

As longtime readers of this blog know, my background is largely in social studies with a smattering of teaching computer science and doing some corporate training. It's teaching social studies that will always be my first professional love. I've also been using Google Workspace tools with students (previously G Suite, previously Google Apps, previously Google Drive, previously just a collection of Google tools) for fifteen+ years. These are my three favorite Google tools for social studies teachers. 

Google Earth
Google Earth is available in two versions. The Pro version is the version that you can install on your desktop. That's the version that I prefer if given a choice because it includes more features that the web browser version. And while there are work-arounds for the web version, the Google Earth Pro is a lot better for recording narrated tours. You can find my playlist of Google Earth tutorials here.

Want a lesson plan for introducing Google Earth to your students? Check out Around the World With Google Earth

Google Books
This is an often overlooked search tool. Google Books provides students with access to millions of free books and periodicals. Google Books really shines when you start looking for work that was published in the 19th Century and early 20th Century. One of the best features of Google Books is the ability to search within a book for a phrase or keyword. Learn how to use Google Books by watching these tutorial videos.

Google Scholar 
Unlike search results on Google.com, Google Scholar search results isn’t a ranking of websites. Instead, Google Scholar search results are lists of scholarly articles related to your query. Google Scholar can also be used to locate United States patent filings as well as state and federal court cases. Here's an overview of five key features of Google Scholar that students should know how to use.

Tools for Asynchronously Collecting Stories

Nearly fifteen years ago I used VoiceThread to have my students collect stories from their parents about changes in the community since their time in high school. VoiceThread is still available today although it costs a lot more than it did when I used it (it was free back then). There are other free tools that can be used today to have students collect stories in the manner that mine did years ago. Three of those tools are Flipgrid, Synth, and Wakelet.
Flipgrid
Flipgrid was originally designed for classroom use for students to share video messages with their teachers and classmates. About a year ago Flipgrid introduced the option to invited parents to participate in conversations in Flipgrid. Inviting parents to participate in a conversation in Flipgrid can be a good way to collect short local history stories. Another good use of this feature is to host a virtual career day in which parents share information about their careers. This video shows you how to use the guest option in Flipgrid.



Synth
Flipgrid is great but some people don't like to put their faces in a video. In that case Synth is a good option to use to invite people to participate in online conversations. Synth is a simple podcasting tool that lets you record for about five minutes and publish your audio recording. People who listen to your recording can respond with their own recordings that get threaded below your original.



Wakelet
Wakelet makes it possible collect all kinds of files in one collaborative collection. Files can be video, audio, text, images, or links to other sources. If your students have made a multimedia book with something like Book Creator, it can be displayed on Wakelet. Wakelet also includes Flipgrid's video recording tool.


Tuesday, June 21, 2022

A Short Explanation of Book Creator in the Classroom

Just in time for the annual ISTE conference the folks at Book Creator have released a new video highlighting how their multimedia ebook tool can be used in classrooms. If you're a regular user of Book Creator, the video won't reveal to you anything you don't already know (I think some new things will be revealed next week). But if you're not familiar with Book Creator or you're responsible for introducing it to teachers in your school, the video provides a succinct overview of Book Creator's key features. 

Watch the video to see short demos of the following Book Creator features:

  • Shapes, fonts, images, and media embeds.
  • Audio recording. 
  • Read aloud. 
  • Magic pen.
  • Teacher dashboard and analytics.
  • Creation collaboration.


Two Ways to Make Your Own Wordle-style Games

Last week I wrote about Strive Math's new Custom Wordle game creator. That little tool can be used to create Wordle-style games based on words of any length. Flippity.net also offers a free template for making your own Wordle-style games for students to play online. Both are easy to use and don't require registration in order to use them or to play the games created with them.

In this short video I demonstrate how to create your own Wordle-style games with Strive Math's free tool and with Flippity's template. 

Monday, June 20, 2022

Five Ways to Work With PDFs in Google Drive

Some of the questions that receive more than frequently than others revolve around working with PDFs. The answers that people are looking for are often "hidden" in plain sight. Case in point, just uploading a PDF to Google Drive gives you a handful of ways that you can work with it. 

In this new video I demonstrate five things that you can do with PDFs in Google Drive. Watch the video to learn:

  • How to comment on PDFs in Google Drive.
  • How to share PDFs in Google Drive.
  • How to convert PDFs to Google Docs.
  • How to search within PDFs in Google Drive. 
  • How to annotate PDFs. 

How to Record a Video Lesson in PowerPoint

A few years ago I published a video about how to create a video by using the recording tool built into PowerPoint. Since then Microsoft has added more features to the recording tools in PowerPoint. So last week I recorded a new tutorial on how to record a video lesson in PowerPoint

In this short video I demonstrate how to record yourself talking while drawing on your PowerPoint slides. The best feature of the recording tool is the teleprompter mode that allows you to see your speaker notes displayed above your slides while recording. The final video doesn't display the speaker notes so your viewers won't even know that you were reading your notes. 

Watch my new video to learn how to record a video lesson in the desktop (Windows) version of PowerPoint. 



Applications for Education
If you have been teaching for a while, you probably have some slideshows that you've made and really like. With the built-in recorder you can quickly turn those slideshows into short video lessons.

If you like the idea of turning your PowerPoint slides into videos, but you don't want to appear on camera then you might be interested in trying Narakeet which turns your PowerPoint slides into narrated videos for you.

Quizdini is Shutting Down

Quizdini is shutting down after a decade of offering a good platform for teachers to create and give online quizzes. Its last day will be Thursday, June 23, 2022. 

In an email sent to users this morning, the founder of Quizdini said "All good things--even aging edtech platforms--must come to an end and it's time to put Quizdini out to pasture." 

While it was never a super popular tool, the closure of Quizdini is noteworthy because it was ahead of its time in some ways. It offered automated grading with student feedback before Google Forms or Microsoft Forms did. Unfortunately, as Google Forms and Microsoft Forms it becomes harder for small developers to compete in that area. 

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Type Studio 2.0 - Edit Videos by Typing and More!

Type Studio was one of my favorite new tools last year. What I liked about it was that it took a completely new approach to video editing. Instead of clicking and dragging on a timeline to cut or trim a video, you simply edited the words that appeared in the automatically generated transcript of your video and the video was trimmed for you. That cool feature is present in the recently launched Type Studio 2.0. Type Studio 2.0 offers a slew of new features for creating and editing videos in your web browser. 

The first version of Type Studio required you to upload videos in order to edit them. The new version of Type Studio includes options for recording with your webcam, recording a screencast, and recording just audio input. If you choose to record just audio input, Type Studio will create a video for you that displays the text of your spoken words (see my sample here or as embedded below). Notably, Type Studio 2.0 automatically removes "umms," "ahhs," and other filler sounds from your spoken audio. It also does a pretty good job of accurately inserting punctuation into the automatically generated transcripts. 




The other big improvement to Type Studio in version 2.0 is the ability to combine clips and split clips. Previously, you could only upload and edit one video. Now you can upload multiple video clips and combine them into one new project.



Applications for Education
As I wrote last year, Type Studio is a good tool to quickly and accurately edit recordings of video lessons and recordings of things like lessons conducted in Zoom. It's a heck of a lot quicker and easier to delete a few words and have that section removed from my video than it is to go back into WeVideo or iMovie and try to find the exact right moments in the timeline to cut my video.

Type Studio's latest version that supports recording and editing audio could make it a good tool for creating short podcasts or short audio lessons.

The Essays and Madness of King George III

I recently started reading The Last King of America by Andrew Roberts. It is an extensively detailed biography of King George III. I'm about fifty pages into as I write this blog post. So far it has been an enjoyable read although not one that I would deem a "quick read" or "light reading." 

I am not one to skip the author's notes, introduction, or acknowledgements and jump straight into the first chapter of a book. I like to know a bit of the author's background and, in the case of books like The Last King of America, I like to see who or what the author consulted in writing the book. It was in reading the acknowledgements that I learned about the online Georgian Papers Programme

Roberts used many of the papers in the Georgian Papers Programme in his research for writing The Last King of America. He doesn't say, but I assume he used physical as well as digital copies of papers in the collection. Not all papers in the Georgian Papers Programme are available online, but there are more than 200,000 that are accessible online

You could simply browse through the collections that are available online and start reading things that seem like they might be interesting. You can search through the collection for something specific. Here are some directions on how to search the catalog. But to get a good sense of what is in the Georgian Papers Programme and how researchers have used them, take a look at the virtual exhibitions of the Georgian Papers Programme

Two of the virtual exhibits of the Georgian Papers Programme that I found interesting were The Madness of King George Explored and The Essays of George III

The Madness of King George Explored is a set of papers that Mark Gatiss viewed in preparation for his role in the Nottingham Playhouse Theatre Company's production of The Madness of King George. The exhibit features the papers along with commentary to explain the context in which they were written and the significance of those who wrote the papers and who were mentioned in them. Reading through the exhibit was a bit of a crash course in how mental illness was viewed and treated in the late 18th Century. Reading the commentary also provided a bit of a refresher on the lineage of the royal family.  

The Essays of George III is a collection created by Jennifer Buckley. The collection of thirteen essays selected from 8,500 documents. The essays in this collection are focused on the education of King George III and essays that he wrote on a range of subjects from economics to the arts. For someone who is not an expert on the history of the Royal Family, the commentary is as valuable as the primary sources themselves. 

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Giraffes, Stories, and Bubbles - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where consistent summer weather seems to be eluding us. As I write this it's overcast and 50F! I guess we'll be wearing sweatshirts and fleeces to the graduation party we're going to this afternoon. 

This week I took a day off to take my kids to the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston. We had a great time watching the giraffes, observing the gorillas, and playing on some cool playscapes. I hope that you also had a great week and have a great weekend!

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. 45 Canva Tutorials for Teachers and Students
2. Lessons for World Bicycle Day
3. Unpoppable Bubbles - Another Fun Summer Science Lesson
4. A Quick and Easy Way to Make Your Own Wordle-like Game
5. Three Ideas for Telling Stories With Pictures
6. Screencasting on Chromebooks - Built-in Tool vs. Third-party Tools
7. A Giraffe in Our House - More Fun With Augmented Reality

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.

Ten Google Sites Tutorials for New and Experienced Users

Summer is here (in the northern hemisphere) and it's a great time to casually work on things that we don't always have time for during the school year. One of those things could be creating a new class website or revamping an existing site. Those who work in school districts that use Google Workspace already have access to a solid platform in Google Sites for building a classroom website. Whether you're interested in building your first website with Google Sites or you're looking for some ideas to tweak an existing site, the following tutorials have something for you. 

How to Create Your First Google Site



A Few Overlooked Google Sites Customization Options



How to Avoid a Common Google Sites Video Mistake

Friday, June 17, 2022

Short Lessons About the Longest Day of the Year

Perhaps my favorite thing about living in northern New England is the amount of daylight we have in the summer. I enjoy the early sunrises even more than I do that late sunsets (before I had kids it was the other way around). The longest day of the year is coming up and if your kids, like my kids, have questions about why it's still light outside at bedtime, take a look at these short lessons. 

SciShow Kids offers a nice video that can help K-3 students understand why the length of daylight changes throughout the year.



Reasons for the Seasons is a TED-Ed lesson appropriate for upper elementary and middle school students. The lesson explains the relationship between the shape of the Earth's orbit around the Sun, the Earth's tilt on its axis, and how those affect the amount of sunlight on different areas of the Earth.



And for a little perspective on winter vs. summer solstice here's a great side-by-side time-lapse of the winter and summer solstices in Manchester, England.

Conclusion to the Arthur Davidson Email Scam - Lessons in Context Clues and Motorcycles

Back in March I got an email from someone claiming to be a Boston-based intellectual property attorney working for the law firm of Arthur Davidson. The email was poorly formatted and had some other errors that made me think the email might not be from a legitimate attorney's office. The email also happened to arrive on a day when I was feeling particularly grumpy so I decided to do a little sleuthing to see if I could unravel what I was fairly certain was a scam designed to get me to put a link to a nefarious website on my blog. 

There were a lot of routes that I could have taken to pulling back the curtain on this scam. As you can see in the video that I made about it, I unraveled the scam by using some context clues which led me to then use some research tools including WHOIS lookup, reverse image search, Google Maps, and the Wayback Machine. 

April Update

In April I discovered that a few other folks had gotten the same email from Arthur Davidson and decided to also unravel the scam. So much so that that the scammers switched from using the domain ArthurDavidson.com to ArthurDavidsonLegal.com.

June Update and Conclusion...for now

Just out of curiosity I checked to see if ArthurDavidsonLegal.com was still being used to try to run a backlinking scam. It turns out that the website has been suspended by the host. I'm guessing that enough people or the right person complained to the hosting service and got the site suspended for running a fraud. 

Motorcycles!

If the name Arthur Davidson sounds familiar to you outside of the context of a fake legal firm, you probably have an interest in motorcycles and or you teach U.S. History. Arthur Davidson was one of the founders of Harley Davidson. Did the scammers who set up the fake legal firm of ArthurDavidson.com and ArthurDavidsonLegal.com know who Arthur Davidson was? Possibly. Did they choose those domains to attempt to rank well in search results? Probably, but I have no way of knowing that for sure. 

You can learn more about the real Arthur Davidson and the founding of Harley Davidson Motorcycles in this nice Google Arts and Culture story

Thursday, June 16, 2022

A New Way to Find Registration-free Tools

No-Signup Tools is a new site that features exactly what its name implies, web tools that you can use for free without having to sign-up for an account. You can browse through No-Signup Tools alphabetically, by ranking, or by category. Browsing the categories is probably the best way to use No-Signup Tools. 

The No-Signup Tools categories of interest to readers of this blog will probably be teaching, writing, and productivity. It was in those categories that I found helpful tools like Math Homework Generator, Egg Timer, and saw an old favorite called Hemingway App

Here's a demo of Hemingway App



Applications for Education
Web tools that don't require registration or other personal information can be great for students who don't have email addresses and they can be great for those of us who just don't want to give our email addresses to yet another website.

No-Signup Tools is good, but it isn't specific to education. For a similar resource that was specifically created with teachers and students in mind, take a look at Nathan Hall's list of No Registration Needed Tools.

How to Work While Going to School

Last month I started watching a new Crash Course series called How to College. The series is a great one for students who are first generation college students and or those who just don't have anyone to seek out for advice about things like paying for college and picking a major. The latest video in the How to College series is titled How to Work in College

Watching How to Work in College took me back to my days of loading trucks at RPS (now known as FedEx Ground) at night and in the early mornings to pay for my college education. I was fortunate that RPS put an extra 50 cents per hour into a tuition reimbursement fund that I used every semester to pay for my textbooks (they were a lot cheaper 20-something years ago). It's little perks like that and the networking opportunities that can come out of working in college that How to Work in College does a good job of explaining in the video. 

How to Work in College also does a good job of trying to help viewers understand the importance of scheduling their time and it provides some tips for blocking distractions when it is time to focus on school work. 



For more information about how to pay for college beyond working a part-time job, students should watch Crash Course's How to Pay for College.