Monday, April 30, 2018

Today's Blogging Q&A Recording

This afternoon I hosted a live Q&A session about blogging. I used YouTube's relatively new desktop livestreaming tool for the broadcast. If you missed the broadcast, you can watch the recording as embedded below. A list of the questions that I answered is included below the video in this post.

  • How do I get started?
  • What is the best blog provider? For school issues.
  • Resources/Websites to create blogs and attract audiences.
  • Picking it back up after being off for a few years and want to learn from someone (you) I've followed for years and know is successful.
  • How do I keep it up?
  • In a world with so many blogs, how do I find my own voice? I sometimes feel like everything is already being said.
I do offer an on-demand webinar all about how to build a great classroom blog. You'll find that webinar right here on

How to Automatically Issue Certificates When Students Pass a Quiz in Google Forms

The quizzes setting in Google Forms makes it easy to quickly score quizzes and return quiz scores to your students. The Google Forms Add-on called Certify'em makes it possible to not only give students their grades right away, it also issues them a certificate for passing the quiz. Watch my video embedded below to learn how to use Certify'em to automatically issue certificates to students when they pass a quiz in Google Forms.

Certify'em was developed by the same person who developed the very popular Flubaroo Add-on for Google Sheets.

Learn more about Google Forms in my online course, G Suite for Teachers

Old Google Sites vs. New Google Sites

Last week I published a video about converting old Google Sites to the new version of Google Sites. That post prompted a lot of emails from readers who wanted to know what would happen when they switch from the old version to the new version of Google Sites. To answer those questions I've put together the following brief overview of what you gain and what you lose when you switch from the old version to the new version of Google Sites.

What you gain when switching to the new version of Google Sites:

  • Better handling of third-party embed codes. The old version of Google Sites is notoriously finicky when it comes to embedding media from sources outside of the G Suite ecosystem. The new version of Google Sites is much improved in that area.
  • Design templates optimized for phone and tablet viewing. The old version of Google Sites does have a "mobile-friendly" option hidden in the settings but even that with that setting enabled old Google Sites don't always function correctly on mobile phones.
  • Streamlined integration of docs, slides, forms, spreadsheets, videos, and other files stored within your Google Drive account. You've always been able to include these items in Google Sites, the new version just makes it a little easier to do. 
What you lose when switching to the new version of Google Sites:
  • Page-level permissions. This feature lets you give students access to edit specified, individual pages within a site. So far this feature has not been added to the new version of Google Sites.
  • "Announcements." The "announcements" page format in old Google Sites essentially enabled you to create a blog section within your site. This feature has yet to appear in the new version of Google Sites. 
Bottom line
Google hasn't announced a firm deadline for when they're ending support of the old version of Google Sites, but it's going to happen sooner than later. If you're thinking about using Google Sites for the next school year, you should use the new version to save yourself headaches down the road. 

The new version of Google Sites is the version that I now teach in my G Suite for Teachers online course as well as in my on-site G Suite workshops

Sunday, April 29, 2018

TodaysMeet Is Shutting Down - Six Alternatives to Try

TodaysMeet is shutting down. James Socol, the creator and only developer of TodaysMeet, has announced that he's shutting it down on June 16th. I'm going to miss it and I know that a lot of you will too. I encourage you to read the announcement that James posted because it will give you a good understanding of how much sacrifice goes into producing and maintaining some of our favorite free tools.

I was introduced to TodaysMeet by Sylvia Rosenthal Tolisano nearly a decade ago and I have used it ever since in classrooms, professional development workshops, and during keynotes. TodaysMeet provided an easy way to give every student a digital voice in classroom discussions. TodaysMeet has been my go-to backchannel tool for so long that it's going to take some time to settle on the best alternative, but here are the alternatives I'm going to be using in various settings over the next few weeks.

Tozzl is a chat platform that allows you to quickly create private, password-protected message boards as well as public boards. To get started visit Tozzl and select "create a new Tozzl." Then you can name your message board and set a privacy password (optional). Tozzl assigns a new, unique URL to each message board. On your message board you can add sections for chat, file sharing, to-do lists, and YouTube videos. You can also import the feed of a Twitter hashtag into your Tozzl boards.
Update: As of July 17, 2018 Tozzl seems to be in a perpetual state of "under construction."
Update: On October 17, 2020 the new owners of the domain threatened to sue me if I didn't take down this post. Needless to say, I don't recommend that anyone go to that site ever. 

Tozzl, Tozzl, Tozzl!!!

Backchannel Chat
This is a service that provides exactly what its name implies. On Backchannel Chat you can create a free backchannel room (AKA chat room) in which you can post comments and questions for your students to respond to. Your students can respond in realtime. Students can ask you and their classmates questions within the confines of your Backchannel Chat room. The free version of Backchannel Chat limits you to 30 participants at a time.

Google Slides Q&A
The Q&A function built into the presentation mode of Google Slides is a good option for gathering questions from students when they are viewing slides that you or their classmates present. For now, this is probably the option I will use during keynote presentations.

Mentimeter is an audience response tool lets you create polls and quizzes for your audience to respond to during your presentations. Responses to open-ended poll questions can be displayed as a word cloud, but there isn't a true chat function in Mentimeter. You can create and display polls and quizzes from the Mentimeter website or you can use their PowerPoint Add-in to display your polls and quizzes from your slideshow. Your audience members can respond from their phones, tablets, or laptops.

GoSoapBox allows you to have your audience respond to questions through their laptops, tablets, and phones. Polls and Discussion in GoSoapBox are the meat and potatoes of the service. The Polls tool allows you to survey your audience by having them select an answer choice in response to a question. The Discussions tool allows you to have audience members reply to open-ended questions. One of the simplest yet effective survey options in GoSoapBox is a tools called a Confusion Meter. The Confusion Meter allows members of your audience to simply say, "yes, I get it" or "no, I don't get it." The Confusion Meter, like all of the GoSoapBox survey tools, can accept anonymous feedback. You can use the Social Q&A tool in GoSoapBox to have students submit their questions to you. Students can see each other's question submissions and vote them up if they want to.

AnswerGarden is a neat service that allows you to embed a open-ended feedback tool into your classroom blog or website. With an AnswerGarden embedded into your blog your students can simply type responses to your question and see their responses appear in a word cloud. Creating an AnswerGarden is a simple process that does not require you to create an account. To get started go to the AnswerGarden homepage and click "create AnswerGarden." On the next screen you will enter a question or statement for your students to respond to. To share your AnswerGarden with students you can give them the link or embed the AnswerGarden into your blog as I have done below. Optionally, before sharing your AnswerGarden you can turn on moderation of responses and set an admin password.

Thanks to Kathi Kersznowski for alerting me to the closure of TodaysMeet. 

Saturday, April 28, 2018

PhET, Grasshoppers, and AR Creatures - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where spring is in the air. Lately, we've had some rainy days mixed with wonderfully warm and sunny days. That's a winning combination to make the flowers grow start to sprout in our gardens. It's also great for getting outside to walk, run, bike or just enjoy not having to wear a parka. Wherever you are this weekend, I hope that the weather lets you get outside for fun too. And if the weather isn't great, take some time to catch up on this week's top stories on Free Technology for Teachers.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. PhET PowerPoint Add-in - Add Science & Math Simulations to Slides
2. A Fun App That Helps Kids Learn How Animals Adapt to Their Environments
3. 5 PowerPoint Features Often Overlooked by Students and Teachers
4. How to Use Flipgrid - A Guide for Getting Started
5. Grasshopper - Learn to Code on Your Phone
6. WikiWhere - A Challenging Map Game
7. How to Convert Old Google Sites to New Google Sites

Online PD Opportunities
On May 7th I'm launching a self-paced course about classroom video projects. This is in addition to all of the other on-demand webinars and self-paced courses currently available on

For the rest of the month, group packages for my G Suite for Teachers online course are on sale. If you have five or more teachers register from your school, you get 40% off. Have more than 15 and you can get an even better deal.

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.
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