Friday, August 18, 2017

Crowdsourcing Advice for New Teachers

Every year new teachers join our profession not knowing what they don't know. To help new teachers, five years ago I crowdsourced advice for new teachers. It's time to update that list of tips for new teachers. I put together this simple form for veteran teachers to submit their best advice for new teachers. If you have been teaching for five or more years, please take a moment to complete the form. Next week I'll publish the advice in a slideshow format with credit to each contributor. There is a place in the form to include a link to your Twitter profile and or blog.

Practical Ed Tech Live - Episode 15

On Thursday morning I hosted another episode of my fairly regular Practical Ed Tech Live series. In each episode, hosted on YouTube and on Facebook, I answer a handful of questions that I have received from readers during the previous week. The questions that I answered in yesterday's episode can be seen here. The video is embedded below.

One More Round-up of Solar Eclipse Resources

Throughout the last month I have shared some resources for teaching and learning about the solar eclipse that is passing over the United States this coming Monday. Here's one last round-up of resources related to the solar eclipse.

The Solar Eclipse Computer is a free tool from the Astronomical Applications Department of the U.S. Naval Observatory. The Solar Eclipse Computer lets you enter a city and state to determine the time the eclipse will start and end in that location. It will also provide you with the level of obscurity at a chosen location. For example, Portland, Maine will only experience 58.8% obscurity.

Earlier this week Steve Spangler went on a rant about schools that are keeping kids indoors during the eclipse. Thankfully he didn't just rant, he offered some suggestions on safe ways to experience the eclipse. Steve Spangler's video is embedded below.

In his video above Steve mentioned making eclipse viewers. Here's an article from Time about how schools made viewers in the 1960's. The same process still works. (Thanks to Bethany Virginia Norris Smith for sharing the article on Facebook).

This video from Physics Girl explains the difference between a solar eclipse and a lunar eclipse.

Star Net, a production of Space Science Institute's National Center for Interactive Learning, has partnered with American Library Association, the Lunar and Planetary Institute, and the Afterschool Alliance to provide more than 2 million free eclipse glasses to public libraries across the country. You can use this Star Net interactive map to find a library near you that is hosting an eclipse viewing event and is offering free eclipse viewing glasses.

On Thursday SciShow kids released a new video about making eclipse viewers (AKA pinhole projectors).

If you're not in the "path of totality," you may want to check out Exploratorium's live stream of the eclipse. Exploratorium has additional resources on their streaming page.

Finally, National Geographic offers Solar Eclipse 101.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

8 Free Timers to Help You Keep Activities on Schedule

One of the challenges of teaching in a block schedule is that some high school and many middle school students struggle to focus for 80 minute, 90 minute, or longer blocks of time. I always try to break up blocks like this into shorter segments with breaks. To prevent breaks from running too long, I always use a timer. I also use timers to time break-out activities. Whenever it is possible to do so, I like to display the timer countdown on a projector or whiteboard so that all of the students can see it. Here are eight free timers that you can use for these purposes.

1. Simply type into a Google search "set timer" followed by an amount of time and a countdown timer is displayed. An alarm beeps when time is up. You can make the timer appear full screen without advertisements by clicking a little box icon to the right of the timer.

2. Russel Tarr's Classtools Countdown Timer has two slick features. You can create and set multiple timers on the same page. This means that if you had students sharing in rapid succession you wouldn't have to reset the timer for each student, you simply move onto using the next timer on the page. The second feature of note in the Classtools Countdown Timer is the option to add music to your timers. You can have your countdown timers set to music. Mission Impossible, The Apprentice, and Countdown are the standard music options. You can add other music by using the YouTube search tool built into the timer.

3. Zero Noise Classroom is a free Chrome App that lets you simultaneously display a countdown timer and a noise meter to your students. The directions about how to use Zero Noise Classroom are kind of hidden in the app so I made the following short video to demonstrate how to adjust the settings in the app.

4. Timer Pop allows you to create and save multiple timer settings. For example, if I want to have a count down that lasts for five minutes, a count down of fifteen minutes, and a count down of three minutes I can save them all. Then when I need one of them I'll just click on it to start the count down.

5. Online Stopwatch is a free website that gives you the choice of a stopwatch function or a countdown function. You can set the countdown timer for any length of time and an alarm sounds when time is up.

6. Online Egg Timer is a simple website offering three countdown timers on one screen. You can set just one timer or run all three at the same time with different settings. Registration is not required in order to use Online Egg Timer. Just go to the site, set the countdown timer(s) using the up and down arrows, then click "start timers."

7. Timer Tab is a free application offered through the Chrome Web Store and as a stand-alone website at As a Chrome app Timer Tab can be used online or offline. The website version of Timer Tab can only be used online. Both versions of Timer Tab offer a count-down timer, an alarm clock, and a stopwatch. For the count-down timer and the alarm clock you can select a video to play when time expires or when you've reached your specified alarm time. You do this by pasting the URL of a YouTube video into the "alarm" field below the timer. Also in both versions of Timer Tab you can customize the background by specifying an image URL.

8. offers two versions of their free countdown service. The regular Timerrr displays a dial like my grandmother used to have on top of her stove. The "egg timer" version displays an egg timer as the countdown device. Both can be used to set a countdown of up to sixty minutes.

5 Updates to Google Docs to Note

Throughout the summer Google added many new features to Google Forms and Google Classroom. Now it's time for Google Docs to get some updates.

Yesterday, Google announced some updates to Google Documents. Those updates mostly center around how keeping track of revisions to documents. One update was made to the Google Docs Templates Gallery.

1. Revision History is now called Version History. 
This isn't a huge change. It just reflects that you can now name the different revisions or versions of your Documents, Slides, and Sheets.

2. A new "clean" preview. 
This lets you see preview your document without the comments or edit suggestions made by your collaborators being displayed.

3. Make suggestions from Android or iOS devices. 
The menu in the bottom right corner of the document that you're viewing includes a new "suggest changes" option.

4. Accept or reject all changes in one fell swoop. 
Rather than manually rejecting or approving every suggested change individually, you can approve or reject them all as one group.

5. Add-ons included in new Google Docs templates. 
Not all of the templates in the Google Docs templates gallery include Add-ons, but some of them now do include pre-installed Add-ons. For example, the "reports" template now includes the EasyBib Add-on already installed.