Tuesday, July 22, 2014

I've Joined Best Keynote

Update: On September 14, 2015 I terminated my relationship with Best Keynote. If you would like to have me speak at your event, please email me directly at richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com or call me at 1-207-890-6922.

Earlier this year I was flattered when Kevin Honeycutt invited me to join his Best Keynote speakers bureau. This month I officially joined. Best Keynote is a collection of  thirty speakers, consultants, and writers. Each person has something different and great to share about education and technology. Click here to learn more about Best Keynote and my presentation offerings.

I still offer my webinar services through PracticalEdTech.com. And I can always be reached directly at richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com (if you're reading this in email, just click the reply button to get in touch with me).

FluencyTutor for Google - Students Listen and Practice Reading Aloud

FluencyTutor for Google is a new offering from Texthelp. FluencyTutor for Google is a Chrome web app (works on Chromebook, PC, Mac) that allows teachers to share selected reading passages with their students. Students can hear the passages read aloud. The text being read aloud is highlighted to help students follow along with the reading.

After hearing passages read aloud through FluencyTutor, students can create recordings of themselves reading the passages. Those recordings can be downloaded.

FluencyTutor offers a 47 page list of passages that teachers can share with their students. The passages are labeled with lexile scores and suggested grade levels. Teachers share the passages through Google Drive.


The video above includes demonstration of premium (paid) features. The text of this post deals only with the free aspects of FluencyTutor.

Now You Can Create Accounts on TodaysMeet and Close Rooms Early

TodaysMeet is a backchannel tool that I have promoted for years. Recently, I discovered that you can now create an account on TodaysMeet. By creating an account on TodaysMeet you can manage multiple rooms from one screen. You can now require people to sign-in with verified Google Accounts before they post in your TodaysMeet room. Perhaps the best benefit of creating a TodaysMeet account is that doing so allows you to close your rooms before their planned expiration dates.

Important tip: I was not able to create a TodaysMeet room when I was using Chrome as my browser. I switched to Firefox and TodaysMeet worked perfectly.  This issue has been resolved.

Applications for Education
I have long used TodaysMeet to provide my students with a place to ask questions throughout the day. By using a backchannel tool like TodaysMeet my students who have a lot to say don't dominate the classroom conversation. At the same time my shy students are given a place to comfortably ask questions.

The new TodaysMeet option to close a room before its scheduled expiration is a feature that teachers have wanted for a long time. Being able to close a room early will be helpful in case the conversation in the backchannel starts to go too far off course.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Try Using Google Maps Street View Imagery to Solve Search Challenges

As I have mentioned many times in the past, Daniel Russell's weekly search challenges provide a fun way to hone your search skills. Last week's challenge included a series of questions around Sesame Street. In his explanation of how to solve the challenge he outlined the strategy of using Google Street View imagery to help solve a search challenge. Specifically, he suggests comparing past imagery with current imagery to find clues. Read the full explanation here.

Applications for Education
One of the points that Dr. Russell makes in his post that I often stress to students is to use the information you have available to you in formulating your search strategies. Sometimes, before students ever touch the keyboard to perform a Google search I make them write out a list of things that they already know about the topic they are researching. In writing those lists they often come up with better search terms and questions than they otherwise would have.

Two Good Resources for Helping Students Learn Proper Typing Technique

From time to time I like to highlight the offerings of the financial supporters of Free Technology for Teachers. Typing Club and ABCya are two of the longest running backers of this blog. 

Typing Club is a popular website offering free online touch typing lessons for students of all ages. Whether you use the Typing Club website or the free Chrome Web App the lessons work the same way. Typing Club provides 100 free activities that begin with the basics and progress in difficulty until you can touch type on your entire keyboard including the use of lesser-used keys like "<" and "{." As you type during each lesson you are given instant real-time feedback about your accuracy and speed. Unlike other typing lessons that make you wait until an activity is completed to determine your accuracy or speed, Typing Club recalculates that information with each keystroke.



Type Rocket is a free typing game from ABCya. There are two versions of the game; Type Rocket and Type Rocket, Jr. Type Rocket is a sixty second game in which students make fireworks explode by typing the letters that appear on the rockets in the games. In the sixty second span of the game students try to correctly type as many letters as they possibly can. The rockets speed up as the game progresses. Type Rocket, Jr. has a three minute time limit and moves a bit slower.