Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Back to School - The Month in Review

The sun has set on the last day of August. Nearly every school in my area is now back in session. And those few that aren't in session will be next week. So while calendar says that autumn doesn't start for a few more weeks, it sure feels like fall around here. I hope that you have a great start to the new school year!

As I do at the end of every month, I've compiled a list of the most popular posts of the last month. Take a look and see if there is something interesting that can help you in the new school year. 

These were the most popular posts in August:
1. Ten Popular Back-to-School Tutorials for Teachers
2. Five Good Resources for Learning About Airplanes and Airlines
3. Icebreakers and Exit Tickets - 30 Questions
4. How to Quickly Broadcast Your Screen to Your Students' Screens
5. Google Classroom Now Has Add-ons - For Some Schools
6. Blackbird Provides an Innovative Way for Anyone to Teach Coding
7. Try Canva's New Whiteboard Templates With Timers
8. Worldle Daily - A Street View Game
9. How to Design and Print Classroom Posters Using a Standard Printer
10. Significant Changes to Screencastify's Free Plan

I'll Come You!
If you'd like me to come to your school or conference, please send me an email at richardbyrne (at) or fill out the form on this page

50 Tech Tuesday Tips!
50 Tech Tuesday Tips is an eBook that I created with busy tech coaches, tech integrators, and media specialists in mind. In it you'll find 50 ideas and tutorials that you can use as the basis of your own short PD sessions. Get a copy today!

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 42,000 subscribers watching my short tutorial videos on a wide array of educational technology tools. 
  • I've been Tweeting as @rmbyrne for fifteen years. 
  • The Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page features new and old posts from this blog throughout the week. 
  • If you're curious about my life outside of education, you can follow me on Instagram or Strava.
This post originally appeared on If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission. Featured image captured by Richard Byrne.

Quizalize Games - Turn Any Quiz Into an Epic Game

Disclosure: Quizalize is an advertiser on

Quizalize is a great teaching tool that I’ve used and written about since 2015 when it differentiated itself from the market by being the first classroom quiz game tool that offered an option to have your students play your quiz game as an in-classroom group activity or at-home activity. Today, Quizalize launched another new feature that is useful, exciting, and different from what other classroom quiz platforms offer. That new feature is called Quizalize Games. Quizalize Games let you take any of your quizzes and quickly turn them into video games!

Quizalize now offers six games in addition to the standard quiz game format. Those games are The Adventures of Kleo the Koala, Battlerzz, Bearzz, Hoopzz, First to the Flag, and Rockzz. The games follow the format of some classic arcade games like Zelda and Asteroids. You can preview the games here. All of the games are available to all teachers who have a free Quizalize account. By the way, if you haven’t signed into your Quizalize account in a while, you’ll also find an updated icebreaker game available to you.

The new Quizalize games can be played in single player mode, player vs. player mode, team vs. team mode, and classroom vs. computer mode.

Any Quiz Can Become a Quizalize Game
Creating a game in Quizalize has never been easier. The best part is that one quiz can be used to create all of the games. In other words, one quiz can become six different games!

To create a game in Quizalize sign into your free account. Then either choose one of your existing quizzes or create a new one. Once you have chosen a quiz you then assign it as an activity for your class. Finally, just before giving the activity to your students you select the game format that you want to use. See my screenshot below for an example of what you’d see just before giving your students a Quizalize game to play.
After choosing your game you’ll see a game code appear on your screen. Give students that code so that they can join the game. Alternatively, you can use the “magic link” option to give your students a link to click and join the game (that’s a convenient option for joining via Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams, or another LMS).
Watch or Play a Game Preview
You can preview all of the new games by watching the promotional videos on this page. You can also play previews of the games on that same page or by signing into your Quizalize account and clicking on the “play as a student” button that appears below every quiz.

Fun Games and Great Feedback!
The new Quizalize games add an additional element of fun to review activities. And as the games are based on the quizzes that you choose or create in your account, you can get a lot of information about your students’ knowledge and skills. Likewise, you can provide your students with some great feedback about their knowledge and skills.

When setting up a game in Quizalize you have options to give students immediate feedback on more than just whether they answered correctly. You can also provide them with video tutorials, PDFs, and links to websites to help them understand where they went wrong in answering the questions. You can set score ranges that determine which resources students see and whether they even see them at all. For example, if a student scores below 50% you can give them one set of resources while a student who scores between 50% and 75% will see a different set of resources.

Even if your students play the Quizalize games in team mode, you can still see how they did individually. The simplest way to do that is to download the spreadsheet of results that Quizalize provides. Other options include allowing Quizalize to group students according to scores and seeing which questions proved to be the most difficult. You can use that information yourself or turn on the differentiation mode in Quizalize that allows you to assign follow-up tasks to students based on their scores.

Bonus Characters!
If you already have a Quizalize account, you probably went and tried the new games before you got this far in this blog post. But just in case you need a little more incentive to try the games, you can get a bonus character for the new Battlerz game when you share the news about Quizalize games with your friends. Just head here to do that.

Get Started!
All of the existing features of Quizalize are still intact. The new games just build upon those features and provide a new element of fun for students. Watch the demo video below to learn more about the new Quizalize games!

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Tract Now Offers Guides for Project-based Learning

Disclosure: Tract is an advertiser on

Tract is an online platform for engaging students with fun, project-based learning activities. I’ve written about it quite a bit over the last year as it has grown in popularity. Part of the reason for its popularity is that it can be used in a variety of settings including Genius Hour and hybrid classrooms. Like all good edtech companies, Tract has listened to feedback from teachers and implemented their suggestions.

The latest update to Tract for the new school year is found in the form of project guides. Many teachers have asked for a bit more guidance on how to best utilize Tract. Tract’s response was to create comprehensive project guides for teachers.

Tract currently offers project guides for third grade, fourth grade, and fifth grade projects. Project guides for sixth, seventh, and eighth grade are on the way. To get a better understanding of how Tract’s project guides are formatted, take a look at the project guide for Should Art Class Be Required? (link opens a Google Drive file).

Each of Tract’s project guides is curriculum-aligned and designed to help teachers easily integrate short videos from Tract’s library into fun learning activities for students. In the words of Tract’s marketing department, the goal is to “turn kids' media consumption into a launchpad for an enriching, educational experience that supports project-based learning, Genius Hour, social and emotional learning, GATE, and more.”

Get FREE access to Tract and their turnkey project guides by using the access code BYRNE at

Learn more about how to use Tract by watching - A Great Place to Find Online Enrichment Activities.

Spaces EDU Adds Easier Enrollment and Faster Sharing

Back in June Spaces announced a bunch of new features that they were working on getting ready for new school year. Those features are now available!

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.

A Few Short Lessons About Labor Day

This coming weekend is Labor Day Weekend in the United States and Canada. For most of us it is a three day weekend. It is the traditional "end of summer" in the minds of many of us. If you're planning to answer questions about Labor Day or teach any lessons about it, here are some short videos to add to your list of resources.

Why Do Americans and Canadians Celebrate Labor Day? is a TED-Ed Lesson about the origins of Labor Day. In addition to learning about the origin of Labor Day students can learn a bit about changes in labor regulations over time.

History of the Holidays is a series of videos from History. Each installment explains a different holiday. The Labor Day video is embedded below.

PBS Kids offers a short animated overview of the history of Labor Day. It's not nearly as detailed as the two videos I've listed above, but it's probably adequate for elementary school kids.

For more resources for teaching about Labor Day, take a look at this list compiled by Larry Ferlazzo.

Monday, August 29, 2022

Schoolytics - Quickly Find the Information You Need to Help Your Students Succeed

Disclosure: Schoolytics is currently an advertiser on 

Schoolytics is a service that I’ve heard a lot about over the last few months. If you’re active on social media, you’ve probably seen a post or two about it too. Last week I finally got a chance to take a good look at it. To say I wish I had tried it sooner is an understatement.

At its core Schoolytics is a tool that ties together all of your Google Classroom information in one convenient place. Instead of having to look at each class individually to see who has missing assignments and view assignments that are awaiting feedback, you can do that from one dashboard for all of your classes. Additionally, you can send notes to students directly from your Schoolytics dashboard where you see all of your students in one place rather than having to do that from each individual class. But consolidation of Google Classroom information isn’t all that Schoolytics is useful for.

Schoolytics does more than just let you see all of your Google Classroom information in one place. It also helps you analyze how all of your students are doing across all of your classes. For example, Schoolytics will provide you with charts to view trends about things like assignment completion, assignment timeliness, and grade distribution. You can drill down through those trends by using Schoolytics tools like equity reports to find even more information about your students and the types of assignments that you are giving to them.

My Favorite Schoolytics Feature!
After I initially created my Schoolytics account and viewed my teacher dashboard I noticed a little prompt that included a little celebration emoji. The prompt read, “Send high fives to students!” I found that prompt intriguing and had to investigate it a bit. What I discovered was that “send high fives to students” is a little tool that you can use to send kudos to your students when they have reached an assignment completion goal that you have set for them. The default goal is an 85% on-time completion rate for assignments over the last 30 days.

You can set the standard for “high fives” in your Schoolytics account. If you want to make the high five interval shorter, say 15 days instead of 30, you can do that. If you want to make the on-time completion goal higher or lower than the default 85% goal, you can do that as well.

Sending high fives isn’t limited to just assignment completion goals. You can set goals based on points (scores) average for assignments and set goals for total assignments completed instead of completion percentages.

You can send high fives to your students privately or post them as announcements in your Google Classroom stream. I like the idea of posting the high fives as announcements as it’s a nice way to celebrate your students’ progress. At the same time, I understand that some students (or their parents) might not be comfortable with that and would prefer a private high five message. It’s great that Schoolytics provides you with an easy way to do both from one place.

Watch my short video that is embedded below to see how the high five feature works.

Identify and Catch Up With Disengaged Students
Disengaged Students is one of the many reports that Schoolytics will automatically generate for you. This report shows you at a glance the students in all of your classes that haven’t completed any assignments in a given range of dates. The default range is thirty days, but you can have Schoolytics generate a report for any range of dates from as short as seven days to as long as a whole school year. Once you’ve identified disengaged students, you can send them notes and reminders directly from your Schoolytics dashboard.

Schoolytics offers two convenient ways to remind students about missing assignments. You can first identify a student who has missing assignments and send them a reminder of all of their assignments (watch this video for a demo). Alternatively, you can run a Missing Assignments Report and email all students at once to remind them of the assignments they missed.
Speaking of contacting students, Schoolytics includes a student log where you can record notes about things like contact you have made with parents, notes from meetings, and any other information that is pertinent to helping your student succeed in school. Here’s a short demonstration of how to use the student log in Schoolytics.

Customize, Save, and Share Reports
As I mentioned above, the Schoolytics dashboard has a good selection of default report types that you can generate. All of those reports can be saved in your Google Drive and or downloaded as PDFs and CSV files that you can print. Having printed copies of those reports could be helpful in meetings with students, parents, guidance counselors, and administrators.

In addition to the standard report types offered by Schoolytics, you can also generate progress reports on any interval of your choosing for individual students, for whole classes, and for your entire student roster across all of your classes. You’ll find the progress reports option in your Schoolytics Toolkit.

The Schoolytics Toolkit has some other helpful features including a random group generator, a manual group creation tool, assignment creation tools, and assignment reuse options.

Learn More, Join a Free Workshop!
I’ve only scratched the surface of the many ways that Schoolytics could be helpful to you throughout the school year. The best way to see all of the potential for Schoolytics is to give it a try for yourself. It’s completely free for individual teachers to use. Schoolytics also offers free online workshops every week where you can learn the latest tips and tricks from their team of in-house experts. Sign up here!

Webinar Tomorrow! - A Framework for Technology Integration

Are you new to the role of tech coach or tech integrator this fall? If so, I have an eBook and webinar for you!

Tomorrow at 3pm ET I'm hosting A Framework for Technology Integration. Anyone who purchases a copy of my eBook 50 Tech Tuesday Tips between now and midnight (Eastern Time) tonight will get a link to join the webinar. And if you previously purchased a copy and want to join this webinar, just send me a note and I'll register you. 

In A Framework for Technology Integration I'll share my framework for helping teachers use technology in meaningful ways in their classrooms. I'll also provide some examples of how I've done it in the past and how you can replicate them in your school. 

About the eBook:

50 Tech Tuesday Tips was curated from more than 400 editions of The Practical Ed Tech Newsletter 50 Tech Tuesday Tips provides you with ideas for lots of helpful things that you can teach to your colleagues and to students. Throughout the eBook you'll find tutorials and handouts that you can pass along in your school. 

Some of the many things you'll find in 50 Tech Tuesday Tips include:

  • What to do when a web app isn't working as you expect.
  • Building your own search engine.
  • How to create green screen videos.
  • Improving instructional videos. 
  • Streamlining email management.
  • Creating educational games. 
  • DIY app creation.
  • Podcasting tips for teachers and students. 

Get your copy of 50 Tech Tuesday Tips right here!

No, this ebook isn't free but the tools that feature within it is free to use. Creating something like this takes many, many hours but reading it can save you many, many hours. Purchases of 50 Tech Tuesday Tips make it possible for me to create other free resources like The Practical Ed Tech Handbook that I update and give away to thousands of teachers every year.

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Two Alternatives to Kami for Annotating PDFs

Last week a reader emailed me to ask about some alternatives to Kami for annotating PDFs. She didn't ask because she didn't like Kami. She asked because her school was cutting back on what they would spend for software licensing. I gave her two suggestions which you might also consider if you find yourself looking for an alternative to Kami for annotating PDFs. 

Annotate PDFs in OneNote
OneNote has lots of neat features built into it. One of those neat features is a tool for annotating PDFs. In this short video I demonstrate how you can do that.

Annotate PDFs with Lumin PDF
Lumin PDF is a Chrome extension that enables students to draw on top of PDFs that you open in Chrome. After drawing on the PDF students can save the PDF as a new copy or replace the existing copy of the PDF that was sent to them in Google Classroom. Here's my video overview of how students can use Lumin PDF to write on PDFs that are assigned to them in Google Classroom.

Why Do We Get Dizzy? - Another Question from My Daughters

We're going to Storyland today for the sixth or seventh time this summer (it's one of our favorite family activities). My daughters love to go on a ride called the Turtle Twirl. I don't love it because it makes me quite dizzy and feel a bit of nausea. I've seen many other parents gingerly walk away from the ride. The last time we went to Storyland one of my daughters asked, "why do people get dizzy?" 

If you have children who are also wondering what makes people feel dizzy, SciShow Kids and PBS Kids for Parents have some good explanations to watch. The SciShow Kids explanation is suitable for a K-3 audience. The PBS Kids for Parents video is better suited to an audience of fourth grade through high school.

On a related note, TED-Ed offers a lesson on the mystery of motion sickness. The mystery for me is why do I experience it now (in my forties) but I didn't experience it when I was younger?

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Reading, Searching, and Fixing - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where the sun is shining on what should be a nice and sunny weekend after a few days of much-needed rain. We're going to have a little backyard camping adventure this evening. Tomorrow, we plan to have a fun day at Storyland! I hope that you also have some fun things planned for your weekend. 

This week I hosted a free webinar titled Get to Know Your Students With Tract. If you missed it, you can watch the recording here. Next week I'm hosting another webinar titled a Framework for Technology Integration. You can learn more about that webinar here

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Ten Popular Back-to-School Tutorials for Teachers
2. Worldle Daily - A Street View Game
3. DIY Tech Fixes for Teachers
4. Two Resources to Help Make Virtual & Hybrid Learning More Equitable & Effective
5. Readlee Adds Support for More Languages
6. Searching is a Thinking Skill
7. Read Write Think Animal Inquiry

I'll Come You!
If you'd like me to come to your school or conference, please send me an email at richardbyrne (at) or fill out the form on this page

50 Tech Tuesday Tips!
50 Tech Tuesday Tips is an eBook that I created with busy tech coaches, tech integrators, and media specialists in mind. In it you'll find 50 ideas and tutorials that you can use as the basis of your own short PD sessions. Get a copy today!

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 42,000 subscribers watching my short tutorial videos on a wide array of educational technology tools. 
  • I've been Tweeting as @rmbyrne for fifteen years. 
  • The Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page features new and old posts from this blog throughout the week. 
  • If you're curious about my life outside of education, you can follow me on Instagram or Strava.
This post originally appeared on If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission. Featured image captured by Richard Byrne.

How to Use PowerPoint Cameo

Cameo is a relatively new feature in PowerPoint that lets you insert your live camera feed into any and all of the slides in your presentations. Cameo is a different feature from the video insertion option and the presentation recording options that you may have previously used in PowerPoint. Cameo displays your live camera feed so that your face (or other objects in your camera) appears on your slides throughout your presentation. 

As you can see by watching my short video that is embedded below, PowerPoint Cameo lets you position your camera feed anywhere you like on your slides. You can even reposition the feed from slide to slide. And as you'll also see in the video below, Cameo has some neat editing tools that you can use to change the way that your camera feed appears to your audience. 

Watch my short video to learn how to use PowerPoint Cameo

Applications for Education
PowerPoint Cameo provides a great way to make sure that your students can see you throughout a presentation that you are giving virtually in Teams, Zoom, or even in Google Meet.

Friday, August 26, 2022

How to Add a Timer to Your PowerPoint Slides

One of the all-time most popular videos on my YouTube channel was about how to add a countdown timer to your PowerPoint slides. Unfortunately, the method used in that video no longer works. I was contacted earlier this week by someone who wanted to know if I could suggest another way to add a timer to her PowerPoint slides. I made this new video to answer that question. 

In the new video that is embedded below I demonstrate how to add the Breaktime timer to your PowerPoint slides

For those who are not PowerPoint users or those would simply prefer to have a countdown timer option that is not tied to PowerPoint, here are four other timer tools that I recommend.

Free PDFs for Lessons on Telling Time

A couple of days ago I shared a few resources for helping students learn to tell time. One of those resources that I mentioned, but didn't demonstrate, was Canva's templates for making clocks and their templates for making lessons about telling time. The templates can be used as is or you can modify them to fit your needs before downloading them as PDFs. 

In the short video that is embedded below I demonstrate how to use Canva to create PDFs that you can use for lessons about telling time

Applications for Education
As I mentioned in the video above, I printed a few of these PDFs because my daughter is learning to tell time on an analog watch. I modified the templates a bit to make them a little easier for her to use. For example, I replaced the prompt of "quarter past ten" to simply "10:15am."

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Webinar Recording - Get to Know Your Students With Tract

Disclosure: Tract is an advertiser on

Yesterday afternoon I hosted a webinar titled Get to Know Your Students With Tract. I was joined in the webinar by Tract's co-founder Ari Memar. If you missed the webinar, you can now watch the recording of it. The recording is embedded below along with links to resources highlighted during the webinar. 

To create a free Tract account go to and use the code BYRNE.

A copy of the slides that I used today can be seen here.

Two of the activities that I featured in the webinar are linked below.

ClassroomQ - A Neat Way to Keep Track of Who Asks for Help

ClassroomQ is a neat tool that solves a problem that anyone who has ever had a classroom full of students working on individual or small group projects at the same time has experienced. That problem is feeling like every student is asking for something at once and you're not sure who asked for help first or how long they've been waiting for help. 

To use ClassroomQ simply sign up for a free teacher account. Once in your ClassroomQ account just click the start button to launch your session. When your ClassroomQ session is launched you will be given a class code and a unique link to share with your students. Students then simply click that link to join the session. Students see an "assistance needed" button that they can click to indicate that they need your help. They can also add a little comment to indicate how you can help them. In short, ClassroomQ is a bit like a digital deli counter for your classroom. 

Watch my short video that is embedded below to see how ClassroomQ works from a teacher's perspective and from a student's perspective. 

Applications for Education
One of the features of ClassroomQ that I didn't mention above or in the video is the option to export a record of which students asked for help and the comments that they wrote. Reviewing that record could be helpful in identifying which students ask for help the most and which questions or topics are frequently raised by your students. 

How to Create an Around the World With Google Earth Tour

The Amazing Race is the only reality game show that I've watched with interest for as long as it has been on television. Years ago I created a classroom game based on the same premise of the show. This spring I updated that game with some new graphics and new challenges and then published it as a PDF on

Recording a Google Earth tour is the capstone activity in Around the World With Google Earth. There are a couple of ways that students can do that. Students who are using the desktop version of Google Earth can use the built-in recorder. Students who are using the web version of Google Earth can use a screencasting tool like Screencastify to record a tour

In this short video I demonstrate how to record a Google Earth tour in your web browser by using Screencastify. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Worldle Daily - A Street View Game

The Wordle craze seems to have settled down a bit since its height earlier this year (or at least fewer people are sharing their scores on social media). That hasn't stopped developers from creating many variations on the game. One such variation that I recently tried is Worldle Daily

Worldle Daily is a combination of the Wordle concept and Google Street View imagery. The game is played by looking at a featured Street View image then trying to guess, by clicking on a map, where in the world that image was captured. After each guess you're shown how far away you are from being correct. A circle covering the area in which the image was taken is also displayed after each guess. As you get closer, the circle gets smaller until you either use up all of your guesses or guess correctly. 

Here's my short video overview of how to play Worldle Daily. 

Applications for Education
Worldle Daily is free to play and doesn't require registration in order to play it. Playing the game could be a fun way for students to practice using the context clues in Street View imagery to identify places around the world. Likewise, it could be a fun way to discover new and interesting landmarks. For example, today's correct answer featured a giant cowboy statue on Route 66 in Oklahoma.

Learning How to Tell Time on Analog Clocks and Watches

My oldest daughter got a little analog wristwatch for her birthday a few days ago. So far she loves wearing it (she wanted to wear it to bed last night) and is rather quickly learning how to tell time with it. As you might expect, the watch has prompted a few questions including "how does it work?" If you students or children of your own who need to learn how to tell time on an analog watch, here are a couple of good resources to explore. 

ABCya offers a free game called the Time Travel Game that is designed to help student practice telling time. The concept of the game is that students are given a prompt like "set the clock to 4am" and they have to move the hands of the clock to the correct position. Each level of the game contains ten prompts. A little rocket ship is launched when they correctly answer the ten prompts on a level. I played the game this morning and I would highly recommend that students either play it on a touch screen or use a mouse rather than a trackpad to move the hands of the clock in the game. 

What Time Is It? is an activity book template available from Canva. The template has ten pages. Each page has a clock on it and a prompt like "it's eleven." Students have to draw in the hands of the clock to match the prompt on the page. As this is a Canva template, you can make a copy and modify it for your students' needs. 

Animagraffs has a popular video that explains how a mechanical watch works. The animations combined with the voiceover make it easy to understand how the parts of a watch work together to keep time. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Read Write Think Animal Inquiry

This morning I'm taking my daughters to a little petting zoo near our home. They love to pet the goats, sheep, ponies, horses, and bunnies. Both of my daughters love learning about animals and they are both learning to write right now. Thinking about those things reminded me of a writing template hosted by Read Write Think.

Read Write Think's Animal Inquiry template is an online graphic organizer template that students fill in as they learn about animals and or fill in from memory. It's a simple template that doesn't require students to sign-up or sign into any kind of account which makes it perfect for elementary school use. On the same page that you find the template you will also find some suggested lesson plans that you can access for free.

In this short video I demonstrate how to use Read Write Think's Animal Inquiry template.

Back in January Read Write Think relaunched all of their popular interactive writing templates and activities for students. Here's a list of some of my favorite RWT templates

A Simple Tool for Finding Related Search Keywords

Brainstorming lists of alternative words and phrases is one of the strategies that I have students use when conducting online research. Doing this before they start a search and or whenever they feel stuck can help them generate new search result pages that doesn't duplicate the results of their previous queries. But sometimes our brainstorming sessions need a little jumpstart. That's when a tool like can be helpful. 

On you can enter a search term and have a list of related search terms generated for you. These are different and more comprehensive lists than Google's default "people also search for..." suggestions. 

Applications for Education
It should be noted that is a service that is designed for search engine optimization and search engine marketing professionals. For that reason, you'll see a lot of ads for purchasing marketing products that offers. You can ignore those ads and just look at the lists that are generated for free. Those lists can help you and your students come up with some new search terms to use when conducting online research in Google, Bing, and elsewhere.

On a related note, you might also be interested in these articles that I've previously published about search strategies:

Monday, August 22, 2022

Two Resources to Help Make Virtual & Hybrid Learning More Equitable & Effective

This is a guest post from Dr. Beth Holland (@brholland), Research & Measurement Partner at The Learning Accelerator (TLA) - a national nonprofit.

As the school year ramps up again, teachers and leaders have to confront the same challenge that has been plaguing schools since the start of the pandemic: how to develop more effective, engaging, and equitable virtual or hybrid learning environments. However, a major challenge exists in the field: there are few models to help educators define quality in virtual and hybrid contexts.

At The Learning Accelerator (TLA), we have designed two, freely-available, research-based resources to address this need. Our individual self-assessment survey and team assessment tool serve as catalysts for conversations that can lead to improvement, provide a concrete means to identify quality, and help educators, schools, and districts to identify what really might be affecting their students’ experiences within virtual or hybrid settings.

Resource #1: Individual Self-Assessment Survey
Using a research report describing the Key Factors that Help Drive Virtual and Remote Learning Quality as a framework, we designed a self-assessment survey that asks individuals to rate either their level of confidence or the likelihood that certain factors exist in their context. For example, within the Pedagogy section, questions ask individuals to indicate how confident they feel that students experience elements of mastery-based learning such as “giving and receiving feedback from peers.”

Although this self-assessment was designed to be the first step of a team process at the district-level, individual teachers could certainly use it to understand ways in which they might make improvements within their own classrooms. Coaches might review the questions with teachers to identify areas of support, and principals could leverage the questions to gain an understanding of what might be happening across classrooms or grade levels.

Resource #2: Team Assessment Tool
Where the self-assessment captures individual perceptions, the team assessment identifies the prevalence of different factors in context. This tool uses the same survey questions as the self-assessment, but instead of asking individuals to rate their confidence, it prompts teams to use a modified version of the Stoplight protocol to determine whether factors occur consistently, in pockets, or not at all. This second tool also prompts teams to add evidence to support their observations.

For example, one district in our Strategy Lab: Virtual & Hybrid cohort indicated that they consistently “prioritize building relationships with students.” In addition to describing evidence such as having an advisory structure and regular individual meetings with students, the district also noted that 81% of their students responded favorably to a culture survey question asking whether they had a positive relationship with an adult.

Although initially designed to support district teams, teacher teams could also use this tool to better understand students’ experiences across classrooms. Similarly, principals or coaches might form teams to identify areas for improvement across grade levels.

Next Steps
We have already started to see how these two resources can foster meaningful, evidence-based dialogue. As teachers and leaders launch into the new school year, we hope that they can continue to help to identify areas for improvement so that every student experiences a more equitable, engaging, and effective learning environment – whether in-person or online.

Searching is a Thinking Skill

Have you ever had a conversation with a student that went like this?

Student: “Mr. Byrne, Google has nothing on my topic.”

Mr. Byrne: “What is your topic?”

Student: “The Civil War.”

Mr. Byrne: “Are you sure that Google has nothing about the Civil War?”

Student: “Well I looked at a bunch of links, but they didn’t say anything about what I was looking for.”

If you have had a conversation like the one above then you have experienced one of the flaws of the digital native concept. Yes, most students today do know how to navigate to and enter a search term. But that just proves that they can remember a web address and use a keyboard. Increasingly, due to the proliferation of voice commands on mobile phones, it doesn’t even mean that they can use keyboards. Typing or speaking a query into a search engine isn’t difficult. Knowing which terms to type, which type of resources to search for, and how to discern the good from the bad are the skills that search requires.

Those of us who grew up without ubiquitous access to the Internet remember searching through libraries to find one good book on the topic we were researching. Then diving into the bibliography to hopefully find more resources that we could track down through an interlibrary loan or by making phone calls and driving to libraries far away to find a good reference. The process was long in part because of the time it took to locate resources. And it was long due to the fact that when we did find good resources, we pored over them to squeeze everything we could from them. Whether we knew it or not, the length of the process was good for us as it provided more time for thinking, asking more questions, and analyzing what we did know. Unfortunately, all three of those things are often shortcut by students when they rely on just typing things into Google.

Researching is a thinking skill. It requires that the student first state what it is he or she is trying to determine. Without a clear purpose for the research, students will simply click around the web hoping to find “something useful.” That’s why years ago I developed a pre-search checklist for students to complete before embarking on a research project. A copy of that pre-search checklist is available for free at

History Discussion Prompts for All 50 States

This morning I discovered a new-to-me U.S. History resource created by C-SPAN Classroom. That resource is a collection of video clips and "bell ringers" for every state in the United States. Bell Ringers are short video clips that are accompanied by discussion questions to start a lesson. 

In looking at C-SPAN Classroom's collection of state history resources it appears that the clips and bell ringers cover a wide array of topics related to each state. For example, the collection of Maine resources includes a video of top policy issues according to former governor Paul LePage, the Missouri Compromise, and the removal of a dam on the Kennebec River. The collection of resources about Iowa includes a bell ringer about the history of the Iowa caucuses, a bell ringer about African American migration to Iowa, and a lesson plan about the Louisiana Purchase.  

Applications for Education
C-SPAN Classroom's State History Resources collection could be helpful to middle school and high school teachers who are looking for some resources and ideas to help students make and understand connections between their state's history and broader U.S. History topics. For example, I might use the bell ringer about the removal of the Edwards Dam in Augusta to help my students understand how federal policies and initiatives (Clean Water Act and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) can have an impact on local projects (the removal of the dam and the associated impacts on local town and state policies).

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Mailbag - Three Answers to Frequently Asked Reader Questions

I regularly invite readers of Free Technology for Teachers and subscribers to my newsletter to send me questions. Many of the questions that I receive are fairly similar and in my lane, but every once in a while I get some that are a little different. Here's a smattering of questions that I've received this summer and the answers that I've given. I hope you find the questions and my answers helpful.

#1 - My school has Chromebooks and we've always used Screencastify for making videos. Now that Chromebooks have a built-in screencast tool is there any reason to keep Screencastify?

As I write this, I don't think the screencasting tool that is built into Chromebooks is quite up to the level of Screencastify (or Loom for that matter). I wrote about this in more depth in June, but in short, the Chrome screencast tool just doesn't have enough editing options for my liking. 

#2 - My new school district is all-Google Workspace and they don't want us using Flipgrid because they have some privacy concerns. I used it a lot at my old school and loved it. Do you have any suggestions for alternatives that I could use? 

That's a bummer about your school not wanting you to use Flip (the new name for Flipgrid). I'm not sure I understand their stance on Flip privacy. Nonetheless, here's what I'd do. I would use Padlet to create a Flip-like environment. You and your students can use the camera function in the notes on a Padlet to record videos. As a teacher you can moderate video submissions and you can disable comments if you like. Here's a tutorial on recording videos in Padlet

#3 - I'd like to have my students create "about me" videos to start the year. Do you have any recommendations on the best tool for doing something like that?

I'm not entirely sure what you have in mind for the finished product, but I'm guessing you want the vides to be relatively short. I'd use Canva to have students create a few slides about themselves then turn those slides into a video. Here's a short demo of how that works. 

DIY Tech Fixes for Teachers

The content of this post originally appeared on my other site, and subscribers to my newsletter got a copy of this poster sent to them as a high resolution PDF

Many of the problems that people experience with their computers and with web-based tools, can be remedied through simple fixes like running updates and rebooting. But if you’re not aware that these simple things can fix your problem, you might not try them and skip right to calling the IT help desk. To help you fix your own classroom tech problems, I’ve put together a short list of simple fixes.

The following list isn’t meant to be all-inclusive. It’s simply meant to address common problems and their solutions. If you’re a person who is called upon to help with classroom tech problems, feel free to forward this article to your staff.

1. Run updates. If you see that updates are available for your computer, run them. This will probably mean restarting your computer which can be inconvenient, but it’s not as inconvenient as having a computer that isn’t running well. Additionally, using a computer and software that is not updated can make it more vulnerable to security breaches.

2. Turn it off, count to ten, turn it on. Even if your computer is up to date, restarting it can fix glitches. This is particularly true when dealing with issues related to connecting to things like printers and projectors.

3. Cookies! Do you have cookies enabled? Many websites (web-based apps) require cookies in order to offer you the best possible experience and or full functionality. Similarly, you may need to clear cookies in order to clear information stored in your browser for a particular site. Here’s a short video on how to do that.

4. Close a few tabs and background apps. If your computer is running slower than you’d like, the problem might be that you have too many unnecessary things running in the background. If you’re not sure what’s running in the background on a Windows computer, press CTRL+ALT+Delete to open the task manager. On a Mac open the Activity Monitor to see what’s running in the background.

5. Enable pop-ups. It is not uncommon for web apps to use a pop-up window for account log-ins and for additional functionality like audio recording (WeVideo is one web app that comes to mind as an example). If the pop-up is blocked, you won’t be able to log-in or see those additional functions.

6. Are you on the right network? Many schools have different networks for students and staff. There may be different permissions granted to staff than to students on those networks. Additionally, broadcasting your screen on a wireless projector and screencasting from your computer to your students’ computers usually requires that you’re all on the same network.

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Readlee Adds Support for More Languages

As I wrote last week, Readlee was one of my favorite new tools of the last school year. It's a tool that you can use to gain great insight into how your students read. Readlee does that through the use of AI that provides you and your students with feedback about things like how many words they've read, how many unique words they've read, how long they spent reading a passage, and much more. 

Last year Readlee only supported English. As of this week Readlee now supports Spanish, French, and German in addition to English. As they wrote in their announcement, the new language options in Readlee could be great for students who are learning a new language to get feedback on their pronunciation and fluency as well as motivate them to practice on a daily basis. 

Watch the video embedded below of a complete overview of how Readlee works from a teacher's perspective and from a student's perspective.

Watch the video embedded below for an overview of the new Readlee features

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