Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Image credit: Jen Deyenberg
Good morning from Maine where it is a nice summer morning for paddling. Earlier this week I spoke at the Ed Tech Teacher Summit in Chicago. On the webinar side of things I wrapped-up one Practical Ed Tech series and started another. We still have space available in Blogs and Social Media for Teachers and School Leaders starting in a couple of weeks, click here to learn more.

In short, this week was a busy one and I'm looking forward to a day on the water. Before I head out, here is this week's list of the most popular posts.

Here are the most popular posts of the week:
1. Ten Popular Ed Tech Tools That Were Updated This Summer
2. Three Things to do With QR Codes On Back-to-School Night
3. A Handful of Google Calendar Tutorials for Teachers
4. Blendspace Joins Wikispaces and TES - Premium Features Now Free!
5. How to Use Google Slides to Organize Research
6. Math Slicer - Fun Alternatives to Math Flashcards
7. MultCloud Provides a Single Dashboard for All of Your Cloud Storage Accounts

Would you like to have me speak at your school or conference? Click here to learn about my keynote and workshop 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.
ABCya.com 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, Chicago, and Atlanta.
StoryBoard That is a great tool for creating comics and more.

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Hip Hughes History Goes on Location to Tell the Story of William McKinley

Keith Hughes, producer of the wildly popular Hip Hughes History video series, went on location this summer to create a video about the assassination of William McKinley. As always Keith entertains while educating us about a significant event in U.S. History. Keith explains why it's a notable event, check out the video below.

Friday, August 1, 2014

A Round-up of This Summer's Google Drive, Apps, and Maps Updates

As the new school year begins many teachers and students may notice that some things have changed in Google Drive, Apps, and Maps over the summer. Here's a round-up of updates that occurred this summer.

Google Apps for Education users will soon have access to Google Classroom if they don't already have access. Google Classroom will make it easier than ever use Google Apps for Education to distribute assignments to students. This video offers a short overview of Google Classroom.



In June Google announced the release of a new version of Google Drive. The new version features a new interface intended to offer simplicity of design and function. In the new interface you will be able to right click on any file to open it, share it, move it to a folder, or see the most recent activity on it. The new version of the Google Drive dashboard is available to all Gmail users and is available in most GAFE domains (you may need to pester your GAFE admin to get the new version enabled). The video below provides a short overview of the new version of Google Drive.


iPad and Android tablet users celebrated earlier this summer when Google updated the Drive iOS and Android apps to allow for creation of slides on the apps. Along with creating the slides you are now able to share them and collaborate on them as you can when using Google Presentations in your web browser.

Speaking of collaboration, Google Documents now has a feature called "suggested edits." Suggested edits work in a fashion similar to that of commenting on a Google Document. Suggested edits can be made by anyone who has commenting permissions on your document. A suggested edit will be placed in a document but won't become permanent until approved by you.

And more good news on the collaboration front, Google Drive now supports editing, commenting, change tracking on Microsoft Office files. You do not need to convert the files in order to work with them in Google Drive.

Many of the updates that happened to Google Drive and Google Apps for Education were targeted at the user interface. One of the updates that you won't notice unless you're a Google Apps domain administrator is the new option to recover files for your users. If your users delete items and remove them from their trash, you can search for the files and recover them if your users can give you an idea of when they think that they deleted their files.

While technically it happened in the spring (April) a lot of Google Drive users still aren't aware of Google Drive Add-ons. Add-ons replace the scripts that you previously found in the script gallery. Add-ons were added to Google Apps for Education domains. If you are a GAFE user and have not seen Add-ons appear as an option in your Google Drive account, contact your domain's administrator. GAFE domain administrators can enable or disable Add-ons for users. Some of the Add-ons that I recommend are EasyBib for creating bibliographies, Kaizena shortcut for adding voice comments to Google Documents, and Table of Contents. Learn more about Add-ons in the video below.


Google Maps received an update this summer in the form of a new measurement tool. This brings the "new" (18 months old now) version of Google Maps up to speed with the old version of Google Maps that offered a measuring tool. To use the measurement tool just right-click on a map and select "measure" then left-click on another location to measure the distance between the two locations. One of the best uses of the measurement tool in Google Maps is to have students complete activities like the Maths Maps activities developed by Tom Barrett. In the video below I demonstrate how that feature works along with a couple of other neat options.


Last but not least, Android users will be happy to learn that Chromecast now supports mirroring Android devices to your television or other monitor. Read more about that feature in this announcement from Google.

Video - How to Add Apps to Your Edmodo Account

Earlier this year I published a set of screenshots that demonstrate how to add apps to your Edmodo account. Recently, I was asked if I could make a video about the process for teachers to share with their colleagues who are new to using Edmodo. That video is embedded below. To learn even more about Edmodo, check out EdmodoCon 2014 online next week.

WordWriter - A New Way of Learning Vocabulary Through Writing

Disclosure: BoomWriter is an advertiser on Free Technology for Teachers. 

WordWriter is a new writing tool from BoomWriter. WordWriter allows teachers to create vocabulary lists that they want students to incorporate into a writing assignment. Assignments are distributed directly to students through the class lists that teachers create in their BoomWriter accounts. Students do not need email addresses to receive the assignments. Teachers can log-in at any time to see if and when a student has completed an assignment.

To create an assignment in WordWriter open your BoomWriter admin panel and select WordWriter. Then choose "create a WordWriter project." In your project creation panel enter a set of words that you want students to use in their writing assignments. You can enter as many words as you like. You can specify a word limit for each assignment too. When you're ready to have students start working on the assignment, add them to the assignment by selecting their names from your BoomWriter roster.

Applications for Education
WordWriter assignments offer a good way to have students practice using new vocabulary words in context. Through the assignments you can have students demonstrate their understanding a word's meaning. You could also use WordWriter assignments to assess a student's ability to use the correct form of a verb.