Sunday, January 19, 2014

New Newsletter Option - The Practical Ed Tech Tip of the Week

This weekend I finally set-up a newsletter option that many people have asked for over the years, a once-per-week email with a list of the most popular posts and a tip or two.

Beginning today you can sign up for my new newsletter, The Practical Ed Tech Tip of the Week. Along with an idea for making your technology integration experience better, the seven most popular posts of the week on Free Technology for Teachers will be included in the email. The email will go out on Sunday night/ Monday morning depending upon your timezone. If you prefer to see the posts directly rather than through email, they will be posted on

This week I'm including the Practical Ed Tech Tip of the Week on Free Technology for Teachers, but in the future it may only appear on and in email to subscribers.

Here's this week's Practical Ed Tech Tip of the Week:

error-63628_640One of the things that I've learned through introducing new web tools to thousands of students and teachers is that if something can go wrong, it probably will. So when I'm setting up a workshop or setting up a lesson for students, I try to eliminate as many opportunities for things to go wrong as possible. One of the ways that I do this is through unified browser use.

Not all browsers handle every website the same way. If it's at all possible, a day or two before your training session send an email to all participants asking them to install your preferred browser or update it to the latest version. If that's not possible, at the start of your workshop tell everyone which browser you are using and encourage them to use the same for the day. If getting all participants in your training session to use the same browser isn't possible, at the very least stress to them importance of having the latest version of their preferred browsers installed. Not only will doing that improve their experience with most web tools, it will lower browser security issues as older versions of browsers are more susceptible to security threats).

Initially, it might be uncomfortable for some people to use a new browser, but by the end of the day most people will be comfortable with a different browser. Having everyone use the same browser will make your day easier and in the long run make it a better day for everyone. When everyone uses the same browser if there are unexpected glitches or problems they will likely be the same for everyone in your training session. Solve the glitch once and you’ve solved it for the whole group for the day.

Here are the most popular posts of the week from Free Technology for Teachers. 
1. Seven Free Online Whiteboard Tools for Teachers and Students 
2. Free Ebook - Digital Storytelling With Comics 
3. Would You Rather - Quick and Fun Math Lessons 
4. TED Introduces TED-Ed Clubs to Get Kids Talking About Big Ideas 
5. Compare the Size of Countries and States With These Map Mash-ups 
6. Webinar Recording - Digital Storytelling With Comics 
7. Three Good Tools for Building Flipped Lessons That Include Assessment Tools 

Click here to subscribe to the Practical Ed Tech Tip of the Week. 

How to Create Contact Groups to Make Sharing Google Documents Easier

A couple of days ago I received a question about sharing Google Drive files. The person who emailed me wanted to know if there is an easier way to share with a group than typing each person's email address individually. The answer is yes. The method is to create a contact group in your Gmail settings (personal Gmail or GAFE). That group will then carry over to your Google Drive where you can use it to quickly share Google Drive files. Screenshots of process are included below (click the images to view them in full size.

Step 1: Open your mail, place your cursor over "Mail" and choose "contacts" from the drop-down menu.

Step 2: Click the "add contact" icon.

Step 3: Select at least one contact name to reveal and open the "contacts group" icon.

Step 4: Name your new contacts group.

Step 5: Your new group is now created. You can add more names by simply selecting them from your contacts list and assigning them to your new group. Contacts can be members of more than one group.

Step 6:  Now when you open the sharing menu on a Google Document you can type the name of a contact group rather than entering emails individually.

Applications for Education
By creating contact groups you can quickly share with a group of students or faculty members without having to enter individual email addresses. I've used contact groups frequently when teaching multiple sections of a course. This makes it easy for me to simply type, "period 1" into the sharing menu on a document to have all of my students in that class receive it at once.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Week in Review - In the Dog House

Good morning from Woodstock, Maine where the sunshine has given way to clouds and snow is on its way. This week I gave presentation at Archbishop Williams High School in Braintree, Massachusetts. Prior to that trip I had been home for over a month and my dogs had gotten out of their kennel routines. When I went to drop them off on Thursday morning Max refused to go into his kennel. Eventually, to get him in the kennel I did the sensible thing and went into the kennel first and lured him in. It proved to be a great photo opportunity for the kennel caretakers. Next week I am going to London for BETT and TeachMeet, but my housesitter is staying with Morrison and Max so that I don't have to get into a kennel again.

Morrison, Max, and I are heading out to spend the afternoon on some new snowshoeing trails I discovered. Wherever you are this weekend, I hope you have something fun to do too.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Seven Free Online Whiteboard Tools for Teachers and Students
2. Free Ebook - Digital Storytelling With Comics
3. Would You Rather - Quick and Fun Math Lessons
4. TED Introduces TED-Ed Clubs to Get Kids Talking About Big Ideas
5. Compare the Size of Countries and States With These Map Mash-ups
6. Webinar Recording - Digital Storytelling With Comics
7. Three Good Tools for Building Flipped Lessons That Include Assessment Tools

Would you like to have me visit your school this year?
Click here to learn more about my professional development offerings.

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
IXL offers a huge assortment of mathematics lesson activities.
Typing Club offers free typing lessons for students.
Discovery Education & Wilkes University offer online courses for earning Master's degrees in Instructional Media.
MasteryConnect provides a network for teachers to share and discover Common Core assessments. is a provider of free educational games for K-5.
The University of Maryland Baltimore County offers graduate programs for teachers.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology.
EdTechTeacher is organizing two iPad summits this school year.
Classmint offers a nice multimedia flashcard service.
StoryBoard That is a great tool for creating comics and more.
Fresno Pacific University offers a wide variety of technology courses for teachers.

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Find Vintage Public Domain Posters and Advertisments on Viintage

Viintage is a neat site that developed by a husband and wife graphic design and photography team. Viintage features collections of vintage posters, postcards, and various printed advertisements that have been released into the public domain. Viintage hosts thousands images organized into dozens of categories like vintage travel posters, classic alphabet learning books, and vintage nursery rhymes images. You can download medium resolution (600px-3000px) copies of the images for free and higher resolutions are available to premium site members.

Applications for Education
Some of the travel posters available through Viintage could be good for students to use in presentations about the history and or appeal of various places around the world. Many of the Viintage graphics could be used as part of a lesson on advertising methods (endorsement, appeal to emotions, etc) as well as lessons on the evolution of graphic designs.

You might also consider having students use the Viintage graphics of children's stories to develop audio slideshows in which they narrate they stories depicted.

An Interactive Timeline of Music Genre Popularity 1950 to Now

Earlier this week the folks at Google Research released an interesting Music Timeline depicting the changes in the popularity of various music genres from 1950 through today. The Music Timeline uses colored spaces to depict the increase and decrease of the popularity of each genre. Click on a genre to see the most popular albums of that genre over the last six decades. Popularity is calculated by how many Google Play users have the album in their libraries.

Applications for Education 
A couple of things came to mind as I explored the Music Timeline. First, the format of the timeline could be applied other areas in which you might want to visualize popularity over time. For example, students could develop timelines to depict the changes in popularity of political parties or politicians over time. Or they could develop a timeline to show changes in the popularity of various clothing styles.

The other thought I had while viewing the Music Timeline was that like From Gospel to Grunge: 100 Years of Rock that I shared a couple of weeks ago, Music Timeline could be a neat resource to include in a music appreciation course for a lesson about the history and evolution of American culture.