Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Month's Most Popular Posts on Free Technology for Teachers

Good evening from Maine where the month of November is coming to a close with a few snow flurries in the air. I have to close this month by once again thanking Beth Still for doing an outstanding job of keeping the blog running for half of the month while I was taking some paternity leave. The second half of the month has been busy as I prepared new materials for the webinars that I hosted this week and those that are starting in the new year (more on that in a post tomorrow).

As I do at the end of every month, I have compiled a list of the most popular posts of the month. This list is based on clicks, views, and shares.

These were the most popular posts in November:
1. Whisper for Google Classroom
2. Using Icons to Help Organize Google Drive Folders
3. Collection of Google Drive Templates
4. Document Studio - The Google Sheets Add-on You've Been Waiting For
5. Improvements in Google Classroom
6. EquatIO is Now Free for Teachers
7. Seven Tips for New Google Classroom Users
8. Science Journal App from Google
9. Using the About Tab in Google Classroom
10. AutoMastery Google Forms Add-on

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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.
SeeSaw is my favorite digital portfolio tool.
Metaverse enables anyone to create amazing things.
Kids Discover provides fantastic tools for helping kids discover new information. 
University of Maryland Baltimore County offers a great program on instructional design.
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.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology.

View the Evolution of Digital Technology

Thanks to Larry Ferlazzo's recent Ed Tech Digest post I just took a little trip down memory lane. In his post Larry mentioned the Washington Post's What Tech World Did You Grow Up In? timeline. Enter your birth year at the top of the timeline and it will display to you how digital technology has changed over the course of your life.

What Tech World Did You Grow Up In? uses graphs to show viewers when things like cassettes were replaced by CDs, when cell phones started to appear in the hands of American consumers, and when Internet access became prevalent in homes.

Applications for Education
What Tech World Did You Grow Up In? has a few neat interactive displays that will show students how much digital technology has improved in the last 20 years. There is a side-by-side animation that shows how long it takes an image to download on dial-up and an broadband. There's a running animation in which students can see how long they could run if they had to use a Walkman or Discman. And there is an animation that replicates rewinding a VHS tape of the movie Say Anything (persona note, my high school girlfriend and I watched that about 100 times on VHS).

As a follow-up to showing this timeline to your students, have them think about the technology that they currently use and how it might become obsolete in twenty years. Then ask them to predict what will replace the digital technologies that they currently enjoy.

Distraction-free YouTube Viewing

On Monday night, during How to Teach With Video, someone asked, "what do you do about all the yucky ads on YouTube?" A couple of members of the class suggested ad blocker extensions. I suggested trying Quietube.

Quietube is a convenient tool that you can add to your browser's bookmarks bar. Quietube will remove all the clutter from YouTube allowing you to view only your selected video. Quietube removes all advertising, sidebar content, comments, and ratings. Installing Quietube requires nothing more than dragging the Quietube button to your toolbar. Then anytime that you're on YouTube click the Quietube button to remove all of the clutter and just watch your selected video.

Other methods for watching videos without sidebar content.
View Pure is a useful site that strips way all of the distractions of related videos, comments, and promoted videos. To use View Pure just copy the link of a video into the "purifier" on the View Pure website and then click purify. Your "purified" video will be displayed on a blank white background. You can also install the View Pure bookmarklet to accomplish the same goal. 

Watchkin is a service that allows you to watch and project YouTube videos without seeing the related sidebar content typically seen on Watchkin can be used in a few ways. You can enter the direct URL of a video into Watchkin to have the sidebar content removed. You can search for videos through Watchkin and have family-friendly results displayed (if a video appears that is not family-friendly Watchkin has a mechanism for flagging it as inappropriate). Watchkin also offers a browser bookmarklet tool that you can click while on to have the related content disappear from the page.

Practical Ed Tech Live - Episode 22 - Recording

Yesterday afternoon I hosted another episode of Practical Ed Tech Live on Facebook. If you missed it, you can now watch the recording on Facebook or as embedded below. The questions that I answered in the broadcast can be read here.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

WriteReader - Honoring the Emergent Writing of Young Learners

This is a guest post provided and sponsored by WriteReader.

Last spring, I discovered WriteReader. Sign-up was easy and free, and the site is very user-friendly. I was pleased to find that it didn’t take hours of my time to figure it out before using it with my students.

Most importantly, it’s “kid-friendly.” It’s designed with K-5 students in mind. They can log-in easily and the simple format allows young learners to manage the site independently. There are embedded supports for students, such as large buttons and an accessible picture bank or a safe search for photos. It’s appealing, engaging, and fun!

Emergent and Conventional Writing
Our elementary school was so impressed with WriteReader that we quickly bought subscriptions for the upgraded version. The students, parents, and teachers all love it! One thing that we really love about it is that it honors the "emergent" writing of young learners. Audio support can give either the letter name or sound to the students to encourage independent work. Also, there are two spaces for writing on the screen – one for emergent writing (child) and one for conventional writing (adult). The adult does not edit or delete the child’s work. The space below is for the parent or teacher to offer feedback or encouragement, or to transcribe the child's writing into "adult" writing (using language conventions, such as correct spelling, grammar, sentence structure, sequence, and punctuation).

Another feature that we love about this app is that it encourages fluent reading. Once students have finished writing and an adult has added conventional writing underneath, the child uses his or her own writing for reading practice. Since the writing is about the child's own experiences and knowledge, it makes word prediction much easier; not all words need to be "sounded out" because the child already knows how the story unfolds. This is known as the reading-writing connection, which is deeply grounded in educational research and is widely recognized as a necessary component of effective literacy instruction.

Cross-Curricular Tech Tool
WriteReader is a cross-curricular tech tool. Other than story books, you could also use it for math/science journals, lift-the-tab books, dual language texts, makerspace logs, cards, song booklets, poetry collections, or self-assessment statements. Check out their website for lesson plans; their blog and monthly newsletter offer lots of innovative teaching ideas too.

You’ll be amazed at how engaged the children are when using this app. They are proud of their creations and are excited to read their stories aloud. Young writers and readers deserve no less.

Vicki Den Ouden (M.Ed.) is a Reading Intervention Teacher in Kelowna, BC, Canada. She has been a sessional instructor at several Canadian universities and is the TV host of “Learning Lab.” Her blog is and you can find her on Twitter at @vicki_den .