Saturday, October 8, 2016

Weekend Project - Identify a Goal for Your Blog

When it comes to blogging one of the patterns that I see every school year starts to emerge around this time of year. That pattern is, our blogs that we started with the best of intentions in August start to lose their momentum. It's easy to blame the tasks of the daily grind of the school year for getting in the way of maintaining your blog. That is definitely a valid challenge. Another challenge is thinking of things to publish on your blog.

When you're struggling for ideas for things to post on your blog, ask yourself, "what is the goal of my blog?" Here are some common goals and actions that you can take toward reaching those goals.

  • Goal: Reaching more parents.
    • Action: think about the questions that parents have when they email or call you. Write some blog posts that address the most frequently asked questions. Close your post by inviting parents to ask more questions. 

  • Goal: Encouraging students to write.
    • Action: expand the topics of your blog posts. For example, if you're a history teacher it is easy to fall into the trap of only publishing posts directly related to a topic in history. Expand your topics to include things that might not be directly related to one of your recent lessons. Try publishing a post about a current article from the fields of science or technology then asking students to share their thoughts on it. Or better yet, let them choose a topic for group discussion on the blog. 

  • Goal: Helping other teachers:
    • Action: first identify your area of expertise then make a list of ten things you wish you had known before you became an expert on that topic. Then draft one blog post about each of those ten things. For example, let's say you're good at helping emerging readers decode text. Create a list of things that you do to help students in that area. Then write a blog post about each of those things. 
Topics like this one and many others are covered in Blogs & Social Media for Teachers & School Leaders. 

The Week in Review - Feels Like Fall

Good morning from Maine where it looks and feels like fall. This week we were blessed with great weather to enjoy the outdoors.

This was a busy week of online instruction. On Monday and Tuesday nights I started new professional development courses. This week I also provided webinar instruction for two schools during the day. Learn more about my webinars for schools here or contact me at richardbyrne (at)

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Zing! - Thousands of Free eBooks for Students
2. How to Use Voice Typing in Google Documents
3. How to Use the New Explore Function in Google Slides
4. 5 Types of Stories Students Can Tell With Digital Maps
5. 5 Formative Assessment Tools You Can Embed Into Your Website or Blog
6. - Save Time, Shorten URLs, and Track Interactions
7. A Cute Video About Email Etiquette for Students

Need a keynote for your conference? 
Click here to learn about my keynotes and workshops.

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
Storyboard That is my go-to tool for creating storyboards.
Pixton provides a great way to create comics. 
QuickKey saves teachers tons of time when scoring formative assessments.
SeeSaw is the best platform for creating digital portfolios with K-8 students. 
Discovery Education & Wilkes University offer online courses for earning Master's degrees in Instructional Media.
PrepFactory offers a great place for students to prepare for SAT and ACT tests.
The University of Maryland Baltimore County offers graduate programs for teachers.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology.
EdTechTeacher is hosting host workshops in six cities in the U.S. in the summer.
My Simpleshow provides a great way to create explainer videos.

Friday, October 7, 2016

How to Password-protect Shortened URLs

Earlier this week I posted a tutorial on how to use to create, distribute, and track use of shortened URLs. After posting that tutorial on Facebook someone asked if it was possible to make the shortened URL private. Unfortunately, doesn't let you do that, but there are services that will let you do that. Thinfi is one of those services that lets you create shortened, password-protected URLs. In the video embedded below I provide a short demonstration of how to use Thinfi.

Applications for Education
As I mentioned in the video, Thinfi could be a good tool to use when you want to share a preview of a project before it is ready for public consumption. For example, if my students are working on developing websites and they want to gather feedback before showing the site to the whole world, sharing a password-protected URL could be a good way to do that.

How to Create Google Alerts

In one of yesterday's posts I mentioned using Google Alerts to track a topic on the web. A few hours after I published that post I was asked for clarification about how to create a Google Alert. In the following video I demonstrate how to create a Google Alert.

Differences Between American & Canadian Thanksgiving

This coming Monday in the United States is generally referred to as Columbus Day. In Canada this coming Monday is Thanksgiving. Start your Friday morning on a lighter note by watching one or both of the following humorous videos that explain the differences between Thanksgiving in Canada and Thanksgiving in the United States.

Definitely preview these videos and decide for yourself if they're appropriate for your classroom. I know a lot of high school teachers who will have no problem sharing these, but teachers of younger students probably won't want to share them.