Monday, January 8, 2018

The 2018 Practical Ed Tech Coaching Group Begins Tomorrow

The 2018 Practical Ed Tech Coaching Group kicks off tomorrow afternoon (4pm Eastern Time). It would be great to have you join us. This small group of teachers, librarians, and technology coaches will participate in three live meetings every month of the year. And between meetings we'll connect through a private Slack group to talk about how we're using technology in our schools.

If you have been thinking about joining, but have a question that you need answered first, feel free send me a question at richard (at) I also made this short video in which I answer a handful of FAQs about group membership.

The question that is most frequently asked about the Practical Ed Tech Coaching Group is, "what are the webinars about?" The first six webinar topics are:

Building Digital Portfolios – January 9th
AR & VR in the Classroom – January 23rd
Social Media for Teachers & Principals – February 6th
Video Creation as Assessment – February 20th
Copyright for Teachers – March 6th
Programming Simple Apps – March 20th

I hope that you will join us in the 2018 Practical Ed Tech Coaching Group.

formRecycler - Easy Reuse of Google Forms Questions

formRecycler is a free Google Forms Add-on that makes it easy to reuse questions from one Google Form into another form. When you have the formRecycler Add-on installed you can access all of your existing Google Forms and then pick questions from one of those existing Forms to use in a new form. You can use formRecycler multiple times on the same form and thereby include questions from multiple existing forms in your new form.

Applications for Education
formRecycler provides a great way to quickly assemble a review quiz by selecting questions from prior quizzes given through Google Forms. For example, at the end of the semester I often would give students a practice quiz that featured the most difficult questions from quizzes given earlier in the semester. formRecyler makes that process much easier than rewriting each question.

If you're not familiar with how to use Google Forms, take a look at my on-demand webinar titled Google Forms & Sheets for Beginners

Fire Forensics: Claims and Evidence - A Detailed Lesson in Forensic Science

Fire Forensics: Claims and Evidence is a detailed, interactive lesson in the forensics of fire investigations. The free module is part of Xplorlabs produced by UL (Underwriters Laboratories), the global safety science company responsible for the "UL listed" labels on things like extension cords, microwaves, and just about every other appliance in your house.

The Xplorlabs Fire Forensics module is an in-depth investigation into how fire investigators determine the cause of a fire in a home. Students begin the Fire Lab investigation by first learning about the elements necessary to create and sustain a fire. From there students will see videos and animations that illustrate how fires spread in a section called "live burns." In that section you will find a detailed lesson plan that includes data on temperature, pressure, and oxygen levels that students need to apply to their forensic investigations.

After learning about how fires start and spread in the Xplorlabs Fire Lab, students then move on to a guided investigation with expert investigators. When the guided investigation is complete students are ready to conduct independent virtual investigations. In the independent virtual investigation section, students will be presented with 360 degree images of post-fire scenes. From those images and a few other clues, students will create a hypothesis and submit a claim as to the cause of the fire.

Applications for Education
Xplorlabs' Fire Forensics: Claims and Evidence is not an activity that students will or should complete in one sitting. It is designed to be completed over the course of a few days in a middle school setting.

While it is an obvious fit for middle school science classrooms, the Fire Forensics module could also be used in other classrooms to help students develop their skills in making observations and developing hypotheses based upon the information available to them combined with their prior knowledge. Check out the Teacher Guide for a road map to implement the module in your classroom and supporting content for the lesson.

One quick reminder before you begin using Xplorlabs Fire Forensics: Claims and Evidence with your students: please review all animations and videos before having students use the site. While there is nothing offensive, some scenes of home fires are detailed and could be frightening to younger students. In other words, if you have a student who was upset by a scene during fire prevention week at school, he or she might be upset by some of the scenes in the Fire Forensics module.

Disclosure: UL Xplorlabs is an advertiser on 

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Three Classic Ed Tech Tools to Try in 2018

Over the last decade I've reviewed thousands of free educational technology tools. Some have been a hit, some haven't, and some have stood the test of time to become "classics" in the world of educational technology. Here are three classics with which every educational technology specialist should be familiar. 

Scratch is a is a free program designed to introduce students to programming concepts. Through Scratch students can create animations, games, and videos. Students program in Scratch through a process of dragging and dropping blocks into sequences. Each block represents a command. Student assemble sequences and in turn programs by arranging command blocks. 

When I first used Scratch more than ten years ago when it was only available as a desktop application. Today, you can still do that or you can use Scratch's online version. ScratchJr, a program based on Scratch, is designed for students under the age of eight to learn programming basics on an iPad, an Android tablet, or on a Chromebook. 

Plenty of tutorials abound for getting started using Scratch. The best place for teachers to start is on the Scratch for Educators site.

GeoGebra is a free program that math teachers and students can use to build interactive models of problems and concepts.

I am not a math teacher and I have never taught math beyond basic addition and subtraction of fractions therefore I am not an expert on GeoGebra's capabilities. That said, over the years I have had friends and colleagues who do teach mathematics rave about the capabilities of GeoGebra for modeling functions and graphing equations.

GeoGebra has a huge community of users who share ideas and tutorials for using GeoGebra in a wide variety of settings. You can join that community here. The GeoGebra YouTube channel is probably the best place to find tutorials to help you get started using GeoGebra on your laptop, tablet, or Chromebook.

EduBlogs or Blogger
Edublogs and Blogger have been available for free for as long as I have been blogging. Over the last decade I have used both platforms with students and helped countless teachers get started using both platforms. Edublogs has lasted because it offers fantastic support for teachers. That support comes in the forms of staff members active on Twitter, super responsive email support, and on-going blog posts designed to help teachers engage their students through blogging activities. Blogger's longevity is due in large part to being owned by Google. Blogger is also very easy to start using. In a manner of minutes you can get your blog up and running.

Even as social media exploded in the forms of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and services that came and went quickly (remember Plurk, FriendFeed, and Pownce?) Edublogs and Blogger endured. In all of my workshops and webinars about blogging I say that a blog is your online hub for activity. A blog gives your students a place to fully express their thoughts through words, images, and videos in a manner that can't be done through social media. A blog also provides you with an easy-to-search archive of the work that you and your students publish. Have you ever tried to find a three month old Tweet or Facebook post? It's not easy to do. But it is easy to do that on a blog.

g(Math) Has Been Deleted - Try These Three Alternatives

For years g(Math) was one of my most frequently recommended Add-ons for Google Forms, Docs, and Sheets. Last week it was shut down by its own, TextHelp. As a replacement for g(Math) TextHelp recommends their newer product called EquatIO. Unfortunately, while all of EquatIO's features are free for teachers, students need to have a subscription in order to access all of the features within EquatIO. Here are a couple of other Add-ons that you might consider using for inserting graphs and equations into your Google Documents and Google Forms.

Yob Graph Editor allows you to plot data and insert graphs into a Google Doc. It provides plotting and regression functionality inside of your documents. A convenient feature for teachers is that Yob Graph will store your work in Google Drive and let you insert the same graph into multiple documents without having to manually recreate it for each document. This could be helpful when you are trying to make multiple variations of an assignment for students.

Wizkids CAS is another Google Docs Add-on that offers a graphing calculator feature. Wizkids CAS offers tools for solve=ing equations and plotting graphs, finding numerical and exact solutions, and simplifying and factoring expressions with variables. The video embedded below provides an overview of the features in Wizkids CAS.