Wednesday, March 23, 2016

An Interactive Cartogram of News

Unfiltered News is a new site that uses an interactive cartogram to help you find trending news stories from around the world. To find stories through Unfiltered News simply open the website and click on a topic listed within one of the circles on the map. Once you've made a selection a list of stories will appear on the right side of your screen. Click on a story to read it in full. From the menu on the right side of the screen you can choose a different location and a new list of stories will appear.

Applications for Education
Unfiltered News could be a good resource for social studies classes in which students are learning about current events. Unfiltered News does a nice job of showing visitors which stories are trending where in the world. This could lead to a good discussion with students about why certain topics are trending in one part of the world, but are not trending in another part of the world.

H/T to Google Maps Mania

5 Settings You Should Know for School or Classroom Facebook Pages

As I mentioned yesterday, maintaining a Facebook fan page for your school or classroom can be a good way to keep parents informed of upcoming events. When you create a Facebook fan page for your school or classroom there are some default settings that you will want to change in order to keep the page as school-friendly as possible. Those five changes are outlined below. You can make all of these changes from the general settings panel of your Facebook page.

1. Profanity filter. This one is self-explanatory. You'll want to turn it on.

2. Visitor posts. This setting enables you to decide if you want visitors to be able to write posts on your page's wall. I have this option turned off because I don't want to worry about parents or students posting things that they shouldn't share publicly and or airing a grievance in public. I also don't want to worry about having to manually filter spam from the wall.

3. Messages. I turn off the option for people to send private messages through the Facebook page. I turn it off because I want parents and students to use my school email address for questions. I do that just in case there ever needs to be an archive of a message or series of messages. The school can archive email, your Facebook page cannot.

4. Tagging ability. I set this so that only page administrators can tag the page in posts. It gives me a little more control over where page appears.

5. Expiring posts. Turn on this option to set expiration dates for posts. This is handy because you might be posting information that has a limited shelf life. For example, you probably don't need a reminder about an open house night to continue to appear three weeks after the event.

This topic and many like it will be covered in depth in the latest section of Blogs & Social Media for Teachers and School Leaders. Click here to learn how to earn CEUs or graduate credit for the course. 

10 Somewhat Interesting Things About Me and Free Technology for Teachers

Over the last few months there have been a lot of new visitors and subscribers to and the Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page. Welcome and thanks for joining me here. And thank you to long-time followers who have helped this blog and the corresponding Facebook page grow. Whether you're new here or you've been with me for eight years, here are some things you may not know about me and 

1. With very few and infrequent exceptions, everything that you see here is written or recorded by me. Last year only 32 of 1181 posts were guest posts. 

2. I love dogs and cats. I make regular contributions of time and money to Harvest Hills Animal Shelter and Buddy Up Animal Society. (Adopt, don't shop).

3. I was a high school social studies teacher before and other consulting work became my full-time job a few years ago. I also coached middle school basketball. (If you're thinking about becoming a full-time blogger/ consultant bear in mind that when I made the jump I was on the 10th step of my district's pay scale and still didn't make $35k. I also don't have any dependents other than dogs). 

4. I do miss being in the classroom on a regular basis. I especially miss the special education students that I worked with.  Fortunately, living in a small town means that I often run into former students. In fact, that happened last weekend at the grocery store. 

5. Inspiration for blog posts comes from questions from readers, press releases that I'm sent, conversations with teachers and administrators, and sometimes from my dreams (yes, I have dreamed about blog posts). 

6. Sitting still is not something that I do well. My hobbies are biking (road and mountain), skiing, fly fishing, and paddling. Other than home, Iceland is my favorite place in the world. 

7. is technically owned by Byrne Instructional Media, LLC. Income comes from advertising, speaking at conferences, running workshops in schools, hosting summer workshops, hosting online courses, and some consulting with start-ups. 

8. Instagram is the place that I post fun things like pictures of my dogs, places I ski and bike, or the goofy selfies that I take.

9. Outside of this blog I post content on the Free Technology for Teachers Facebook Page, on my YouTube channel, and on Practical Ed Tech.

10. My number one blogging tip is, "create helpful content." 

Questions? You can email me richardbyrne (at) or find me on Twitter

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Gauging Your Distraction - A Game to Show Students the Dangers of Texting While Driving

Update November 2020: This game was Flash-based. Flash is a standard that will be deprecated in December 2020. The game is no longer available.

The New York Times has a nice interactive game that every teen driver or aspiring driver should play at least once. Gauging Your Distraction requires players to try to read and reply to three text messages while negotiating lanes of traffic. At the start of the game players simply have to navigate a car through lanes of the highway. Once that is mastered a text message will appear on the screen that players have to reply to while navigating traffic. The game ends when three text messages have been sent.

Applications for Education
Gauging Your Distraction is an excellent activity to incorporate into a driver training program. The beginning of the game is easy which builds a player's confidence. The game gets tricky when a player's confidence is high. Much like in real life students might think, "I've got this" when they really don't have the control they think they do. 

Six Tools for Creating Videos on Chromebooks

As I've written many times over the years, creating videos is one of my favorite classroom projects. Recently, I shared some of my tips for planning classroom video projects. Shortly after publishing those tips I was asked for a recommendation for creating videos on Chromebooks. Here are some of my go-to video creation tools to use on Chromebooks.

WeVideo offers the most features of any of the tools in this list. It is an online video creation tool that I have written about many times over the last few years. WeVideo offers templates that new users can follow to create their first videos. Advanced WeVideo users can skip the templates, use the full editor, and apply themes to their videos by choosing them from the themes menu in the editor. In the video editor you can upload your own media clips or use stock media clips to produce your video. WeVideo's Google Drive app allows you to save all of your video projects in your Google Drive account. WeVideo also offers an Android app and an iPhone app that students can use to capture images and video footage to add to their projects.

Wideo is a neat video creation service that allows anyone to create animated videos and Common Craft-style videos online through a simple drag-and-drop process. A couple of months ago Wideo started offering templates to help users start their video projects. Wideo templates provide a basic framework for a video's theme. A couple of the templates that might be of interest to teachers are the slideshow template and the curriculum template.

PowToon is similar to Wideo and is also a great tool for creating animated videos online. PowToon provides a drag-and-drop editor for creating animated videos. The videos that you create feature digital paper cut-outs on a colorful background. Think of PowToon as an online tool for creating videos in the style made popular by Common Craft. PowToon provides drawings of people and objects that you can arrange on blank canvas. After adding your narration to the arrangement you can publish your video.

Within YouTube there is a free tool for creating audio slideshows. You supply the images and YouTube supplies the audio track. You can pick from thousands of audio tracks to match to your slides. After adding your slides and selecting an audio track you can add speech bubbles to your slides. I demonstrate all of these steps in the video embedded below.

Last year at the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp a number of us used Stupeflix to create videos. Stupeflix doesn't require users to register in order to produce a video. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to use Stupeflix to create a video without registering on the site.

For creating a screencast video on a Chromebook TechSmith offers Snagit for Chrome which supports creating screencasts that you can save into your Google Drive account. To use the screencasting option in Snagit for Chrome you will have enable the both the Snagit for Chrome extension and the corresponding Snagit Chrome app.  The Snagit Chrome extension is what allows you to capture your screen. The Snagit Chrome app allows you to save your screen captures in your Google Drive account. You do have to install both the extension and the app for Snagit to work correctly.

Topics like this one and many others will be covered in depth during the Practical Ed Tech Chromebook Camp on July 18th and 19th. Discounted early registration is now available. Group discounts are available. Email me richardbyrne (at) or click here to learn more.