Monday, February 5, 2018

Free Hands-on STEM Lesson Plans and Projects

"Hacking STEM" was one of the initiatives that Microsoft was heavily promoting at the BETT Show last month. I asked a few Microsoft employees what "hacking STEM" meant. They all replied with explanations that centered on the idea of providing teachers with hands-on STEM lessons and projects that can be done without having to spend much money, if any, on physical materials. One of the many examples that Microsoft had on display to represent their hacking STEM projects was the homemade wave machine pictured in this blog post. You can find directions for that project here (link opens PDF).

Microsoft's Hacking STEM Library is divided into activities that take multiple days to complete and activities that can be completed in one day. All of the activities in the Hacking STEM Library include detailed directions, materials lists including places to acquire materials, and lesson objectives. The homemade wave machine project is an example of a one-day project. This lesson on harnessing electricity to communicate is an example of a multiple day project.

Try the Redesigned Make Beliefs Comix

Make Beliefs Comix has long been one of my favorite tools for creating comics. In fact, I recently featured it in this post about using comics in social studies lessons. Over the weekend the founder of Make Beliefs Comix sent me a note about the redesign of his free comic creation tool.

The new version of Make Beliefs Comix offers a streamlined homepage. Streamlining the homepage made it easier to find the comic creation tools and other resources that the site offers. The new version has been optimized to run efficiently on iOS and Android phones and tablets. Another new feature of Make Beliefs Comix is a capacity for creating comics containing up to nine frames.

The thing that Make Beliefs Comix has been known for is its support for multiple languages. Previously, that feature was limited to six languages. That feature has been expanded to support any language that you can type on your keyboard.

Applications for Education
Make Beliefs Comix doesn't require students to register on the site in order to create, share, and print their comics. In addition to excellent comic creation tools, Make Beliefs Comix provides dozens of free ebooks that contain writing prompts and story starters that you can access for free.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

FAQs About G Suite for Teachers

In January 36 people completed my Practical Ed Tech course called G Suite for Teachers. A couple more people started this weekend. The course is designed to equip you with the skills you need to feel confident using G Suite for Education tools in your classroom. If you have been thinking about taking the course, but had some questions, take a look at the following FAQs.

1. When can I start?
The first lesson of the course is available to you as soon as you complete your registration. After that two new lessons will be sent to you ever week until you have all ten lessons. If you want to move through the course more quickly than that, that's an option too.

2. My school doesn't have G Suite for Education yet, can I still take the course?
Yes, you can. In fact, many people have taken the live version of this course without their schools having G Suite for Education in place. They took it as a way to get familiar with what they would be using when their schools did make the complete transition to G Suite for Education.

3. Is there graduate credit available?
There is not graduate credit available for this course. I am, however, able to provide you with a certificate for five hours of professional development.

4. Is there a time limit on the course?
You can start the course any time that you want to and finish it whenever you like. The default pacing is two lessons per week, but you can complete it quicker or slower than that.

5. Are there any discounts available?
Yes. If you register five teachers from the same school/ school district, you can register five more for free! In other words ten people can join for the cost of five. Have more people than that? Want to register your whole school? Contact me at richard (at) for information discounts for larger groups.

6. I teach math/ science/ elementary school/ will there be anything for me?
Absolutely there will be! This course is designed to teach you how to use the tools within G Suite for Education as well as get you thinking about how the tools apply to your classroom. In the course I've included examples for math, science, social studies, and language arts in elementary, middle, and high school settings.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

These Google Docs Add-ons Make It Easy to Find Public Domain Images

Whenever I talk about copyright I always encourage teachers and students to use their own images when they need to include visuals in a paper or presentation. If you don't own an appropriate picture then look for images that are in the public domain. While Google Docs does have a built-in image search tool, Google Images is far from the best place to find images that are in the public domain. Pixabay and Unsplash are better places to find public domain images. If you need to use images in a Google Document, both of those sources are accessible through Google Docs Add-ons.

Pixabay for Google Docs is a free Add-on created by Learn In 60 Seconds. With this free Add-on installed you can quickly search for an image. Search results appear in the right hand margin of your document. Double-click on an image to insert it into your document. You can resize the image just as you would any other image that you upload to a Google Document.

Full Deck for Google Docs is a free Add-on that uses Unsplash to locate public domain images to use in your documents. Once you have found an image that you like, click the insert button that appears just below it. Like the Pixabay Add-on, you can resize your selected images by clicking and dragging the borders.

Join my G Suite for Teachers course to learn more about using Google Docs in your classroom. 

Docs, Games, and Expeditions - The Week in Review

Good morning from the Free Technology for Teachers World Headquarters in Paris, Maine. Those of you who have been following the saga of my office renovation should note that it is once again functional except for the lack of heat which will be fixed on Thursday. In the meantime, this hardy blogger is making do by wearing a down coat to work.

This morning I'm taking my daughters to an indoor playscape because -5F windchill is a tad too cold for them to play outdoors. But before they get up, I have this week's list of the most popular posts to share with you. Have a great weekend!

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Ten Overlooked Google Docs Features
2. Gamifying Writing Instruction
3. A Periodic Table of AR and VR Apps
4. Create Your Own Google Expeditions
5. Add Live Polls and Q&A to Your PowerPoint Slides
6. Code for Life - Coding Challenges and Lesson Plans
7. Three Ways to Add Audio to Google Slides

Online PD for Your School
Did you know that I offer group discounts on my Practical Ed Tech G Suite for Teachers and Teaching History With Technology courses? Register five people from your school district at the same time and you'll get five more registrations for free! For less than the cost of sending two people to a Google Summit, you can get direct PD for ten people.  

Book Me for Your Conference
I’ve given keynotes at conferences from Australia to Alaska for groups of all sizes from 50 to 2,000+. My keynotes focus on providing teachers and school administrators with practical ways to use technology to create better learning experiences for all students. I like to shine the light on others and so I often share examples of great work done by others as well as my own. Click here to book me today.

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.
MySimpleShow offers a great way to create animated videos for free.
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.
QuickKey provides an efficient way to conduct online and in-person formative assessments.