Monday, May 19, 2014

ISTE: What It Is and How It Changed My Life

This week I am giving some guest bloggers the opportunity to share their ideas and experiences. This is a post from Beth Still. 

If you’re an educator and you spend any time at all on Twitter it is likely that have heard someone mention that ISTE is just around the corner. ISTE is the International Society for Technology in Education, a professional organization with over 100,000 members from around the world. Their mission is to “empower learners to flourish in a connected world by cultivating a passionate professional learning community, linking educators and partners, leveraging knowledge and expertise, advocating for strategic policies, and continually improving learning and teaching.” ISTE provides numerous valuable resources including books, webinars, technology standards, and a variety of networking and advocacy opportunities. I will argue that the most valuable resource ISTE provides is their annual conference.

Each year around 18,000 educators from around the world make the trek to ISTE which is held in a different major city in late June. This summer it is going to be in Atlanta from June 28 to July 1. Attendees will be able to select from hundreds of sessions which are delivered in a variety of formats including poster sessions (similar to a science fair), workshops, lectures, panels, and BYOD’s. Attendees can also visit the vendor floor to meet with any of the the 4500 reps from over 500 hundred companies.

I had no idea how large of an impact attending ISTE would have on my life when I first attended in 2008. While the sessions and the speakers are fabulous, the one thing that keeps me coming back year after year is the opportunity to network face-to-face. I went from being lonely and isolated to having a huge network of colleagues from around the world!

I selected the image from Adam Bellow’s ISTE13 keynote because it is significant to me. Some of the people in this picture (including Adam) have had a huge impact on my professional learning over the years. George Couros, Summer Howarth, Beth Gross, David Warlick, John Spencer, Lee Kolbert, Scott McLeod, Paul R. Wood and Bob Hastings are just a few of the people who are in Adam’s network as well as mine. Attending ISTE allows me to build deeper and more meaningful relationships that I am connected to online. ISTE is a fantastic place to solidify friendships and create memories that will last a lifetime! The collage below contains my most memorable ISTE moments. I hope you will be able to attend ISTE in Atlanta so you can start making your own memories, but if you cannot make it then you might want to consider attending in the future:
  • ISTE2015 - Philadelphia - June 28-July 1 
  • ISTE2016 - Denver - June 26-29 
  • ISTE2017 - San Antonio June 26-29

Beth Still is a social studies from teacher from Nebraska. She has been an active member of the ed tech community since 2008. She will be putting her skills to good use next year as she begins her new journey as the Technology Integration Specialist for Gering Public Schools.

Blogs and Social Media for Teachers and School Leaders - A Practical Ed Tech Webinar Series

This summer I am offering a series of webinars about blogs and social media for teachers and school leaders. If you have been thinking about blogging, thinking about joining Twitter or another social network, then this course is for you. If you have tried blogging and social media in the past, but just didn't get into it, then this course is for you too.

Blogs and Social Media for Teachers and School Leaders is designed to help teachers and school leaders develop an understanding of the many ways they can use blogs and social media (Twitter, Google+, Instagram, and more) to enhance communication between school and home. After learning about how each of the tools works we'll dive into developing strategies for implementation.
Blogging isn’t new and it isn’t as flashy as say iPads in the classroom, but it is a very valuable activity for students, teachers, and school leaders. In fact, I think that too often it is under-utilized by teachers and school leaders. One cause that under-utilization is due in part to not having a clear strategy for implementation. Another reason for under-utilization of blogs is a lack of understanding of just how many ways blogs can be used by students, teachers, and school leaders. I developed this course to address all of those issues and help teachers and school leaders develop an understanding of the many ways they can use blogs and social media to improve communication between school and home. 
Blogs and Social Media for Teachers and School Leaders is a three week webinar series during which teachers and school administrators will learn the how to choose the best blogging platform for their situations, how to set-up a blog for classroom and school-wide use, and learn about strategies on how to manage blogs in classroom and school-wide settings. Participants will also learn how to avoid the mistakes that often lead to blogging endeavors being abandoned.  After establishing blogs we'll jump into using social networks like Twitter, Google+, and Instagram to reach out to parents, students, and other members of school communities.
Blogs and Social Media for Teachers and School Leaders will meet at 7pm Eastern Time on June 16, 23, and 30. All sessions are recorded for participants to watch as many times as they like.

 Click here to register today!

Who is this webinar series for?
Teachers, school administrators, media specialists, and teacher-librarians who:
  • Have never created blogs... or…
  • Have have tried blogging but didn’t get the results they hoped for...or…
  • Have wondered what all the fuss is about Twitter and Google+...or...
  • Are planning to lead PD sessions about blogs and social media and want to learn how to structure their trainings as well as access hand-outs they can use in their own training sessions.
  • This webinar series costs $97 per seat. (There is a $15 processing fee for registering with a purchase order. That fee is waived for those who register and pay online).
  • Click here to register today!
Participants receive:
  • Three hours of live instruction with Q&A opportunities.
  • Access to recordings of each session (recordings can be downloaded for unlimited personal use).
  • Digital hand-outs to download and re-use for personal use as well as re-use within their school districts.
  • A dedicated discussion forum to access throughout the three week course.
  • Certificate of completion.
Course Dates:
The live webinar sessions will be held at 7pm Eastern Time on June 16, 23, 30

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Getting Ready for GAFE - A Practical EdTech Webinar Series

This summer through I am offering a series of webinars about Google Apps for Education. These webinar courses cost less and provide more focused instruction than what you will find in most conferences that you might attend or consider sending teachers to attend.

Is your school moving to Google Apps for Education in the fall? If so, this summer is a great time to get ready for the transition. This summer I’m offering a new Practical Ed Tech webinar designed for teachers and administrators who are preparing to go Google in the 2014/2015 school year. Getting Ready for GAFE is a five week course covering everything you need to know to be ready to integrate Google Drive, Google Calendar, and Google Sites into your practice in the new school year.

Course highlights:

  • Get to know Google Drive.
    • What makes Google Docs better than your old word processor.
      • Tips & tricks for getting the most out of Google Docs
    • The ins and outs of Google Slides.
      • Customizations you didn’t know about.
    • Using Google Drive to store and share all of your digital creations (even those old files you made years ago in Word).
  • Take control of your schedule with Google Calendar.
    • Using calendars to keep your students, their parents, and your colleagues informed about happenings in your classroom.
    • Using Google Calendar as a reservation system for parent-teacher conferences.
  • Google Sites As Your Online Hub
    • Create a website that students and their parents will want to visit.
    • Using Google Sites as a blog.
    • Designing and developing digital portfolios in Google Sites.
    • Using Google Sites for wiki projects.

Click here to register today!

What’s included? What does it cost?

  • Registration for Getting Ready for GAFE is $147.
    • Register by June 1st and use promo code PETGAFE to save $15! (Discount only applies to registrations completed and paid online)
  • All live sessions are recorded. The recordings are made available to all participants to stream and or download.
    • Participants will receive digital handouts with directions for everything demonstrated in the webinars.
    • Participants have access to a dedicated discussion forum to use throughout the course.

When is it?

  • Three sections of this course are being offered this summer.
  • The June section of Getting Ready for GAFE will meet at 7pm Eastern Time on June 5, 12, 19, 26, and July 3rd
  • The July section of Getting Ready for GAFE will meet at 11am Eastern Time on July 2, 9, 16, 23, and 30.
  • The August section of Getting Ready for GAFE will meet at 7pm Eastern Time on July 30, August 7, 14, 21, and 28.

This sounds great! How do I register? What will I need to participate?

  • The easiest and cheapest way to register is by completing the registration online with a credit card or PayPal. (Register online by June 1st with the promo code PETGAFE to save $15)
  • You can register with a purchase order or check from your school. This process is a bit cumbersome, but it can be done. There is a $15 processing fee for registrations paid with purchase orders or school checks. Send an email to richardbyrne (at) for directions on registering with a purchase order or check.
  • The courses will be hosted through GoToTraining. To participate in the course you will need a laptop or desktop computer with an updated browser.
  • Register today and save $15 by using discount code PETGAFE

Have ten or more people in your school that you want to register?

That’s great! If you have ten or more people that you want to register we can arrange a special offering of Getting Ready for GAFE that is just for you. In a section dedicated just to you we can address the issues that are unique to your implementation of Google Apps for Education.
About the costs and my decision to advertise these opportunities on my blog:
Sometimes when I advertise one of these webinars I get messages from people who are upset that I am advertising it here and or that I am charging for it. I understand why some people feel that way. I thought long and hard about how to offer these opportunities. In fact, I thought about it and talked about it with trusted advisors for a year before offering the first webinar series last year. The purpose of this blog and my goal for years has always been to help people use free technology in their classrooms. The tools and strategies featured in my webinars and at the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp are free to use. However, my time for teaching isn't free. Further, I pay licensing fees to GoToTraining and to Wistia for hosting all of the media content of the courses.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Week In Review - Lots of Wires

Good evening from the Free Technology for Teachers World Headquarters in Woodstock, Maine. This week I wrapped-up a Practical Ed Tech webinar series on Monday and started thinking about the summer workshops. On Friday I visited the offices of CDW in Chicago where I learned quite about new servers (disclosure: CDW paid for the trip). They even left me somewhat unattended to look around. Though the little kid in me wanted to pull a few wires to see what would happen, I just settled for taking some pictures like the one to the left.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Read & Write - A Great Chrome App That is Now Free for Teachers
2. Twelve Good Tools for Building End-of-year Review Activities
3. Four Ways for Students to Create Multimedia Magazines
4. Use Your Voice to Give Students Feedback on Google Drive - Cool Kaizena Updates
5. Quill - Writing Worksheets Made Interactive
6. Learning About and From Obsolete Objects
7. Spell Up - A Fun Way to Learn to Spell in Chrome

Would you like to have me visit your school?
Click here to learn my professional development services.

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.
Class Charts provides a great way to record and analyze student behavior information.
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 offers professional development workshops in Boston and Chicago.
StoryBoard That is a great tool for creating comics and more.

How to Subscribe to Free Technology for Teachers
Subscribe via RSSSubscribe via Email.
Like Free Technology for Teachers on  Facebook.
Find me on Twitter, on Google+, or on Pinterest.

GeoCommons - Browse Mapped Data and Create Data Maps

Maps can be a great tool for visualizing sets of data. GeoCommons offers a couple of good tools for finding mapped data sets and creating maps from data sets. GeoCommons Finder is a great place to find publicly shared data sets for use in maps. GeoCommons Maker. GeoCommons Maker provides users a quick and easy way to take the datasets found in GeoCommons Finder and display those datasets on a map. Users can create multi-layered maps and customize the way those layers are displayed. Click here to see a two layer map displaying demographic data regarding single parent households in theUnited States.

Maps created through GeoCommons can be saved as KML files, saved as images, or embedded into a website.

Applications for EducationGeoCommons Maker is as easy, if not easier, to use as Google Maps. The benefit of using GeoCommons Maker is that students can find datasets without having to search the Internet for them. This should save time when you're trying to complete a lesson plan in one sitting. GeoCommons has datasets that are relevant for use in Social Studies, Math, and Science.