Friday, August 31, 2018

Classroom, Games, and Books - The Month in Review

Good afternoon from Maine where it is a beautiful late summer day. I don't know about you, but I always feel like August passes too quickly. At the beginning of the month it feels like, "hey, it's summer!" and by the end of the month it feels like, "back to school, already?" I hope that those of you who started school in August had a great start to the new school year. And I hope that those starting next week have a great start too!

 In August I spent a lot of time on the road conducting professional development workshops for schools and I spent some unplanned "bonus" time in airports too. Getting to work with teachers all over the country is the thing that I love best about running this blog. If you would like to have me visit your school, please send me a note at richardbyrne (at)

These were the most popular posts on in August:
1. Two New Google Classroom Features Available to Everyone
2. How to Create a Jeopardy-style Game in Google Slides
3. 5 Ways to Display YouTube in Class Without "Related" Content
4. 10 Overlooked Google Docs Features
5. A Free Presidential Timeline Poster for Your Classroom
6. Factitious - A Game That Tests Your Ability to Spot Fake News
7. 56 Examples of Using Scratch Across the Curriculum
8. Your Next Read - Webs of Book Recommendations
9. Free iPad Apps for Creating Animated Movies
10. Check It Out - CheckItOut for Google Forms is Back!

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. Send an email to richardbyrne (at) 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.
TypingClub offers more than 600 typing lessons for kids. 
Storyboard That is my go-to tool for creating storyboards.
Book Creator is a great tool for creating multimedia books.
Kami is a great tool for annotating and collaborating on PDFs. 
University of Maryland Baltimore County offers a great program on instructional design.

Yo Teach! - A Great Alternative to TodaysMeet

Since TodaysMeet was shuttered in June I have fielded lots of emails and Tweets from teachers looking for alternatives to it. I have been suggesting Backchannel Chat and GoSoapBox, but as of this morning I have a new alternative to TodaysMeet that I really like. That tool is called Yo Teach!

Yo Teach! was developed by The Hong Kong Polytechnic University's Pedagogic and Active Mobile Learning Solutions project as an alternative to TodaysMeet.

Yo Teach! lets you create online backchannel spaces to facilitate discussions. To get started on Yo Teach! simply go to the site and name your room. You can get started by just doing those two steps, but I would recommend taking a another minute to scroll down the Yo Teach! site to activate the admin function, the password function, and to select "avoid search."  The "avoid search" option will hide your room from search results so that people cannot find it without being given its direct URL. The password function lets you set a password that must be entered before students can participate in the chat. The admin features of Yo Teach! let you mute or remove students from a discussion, delete your room, and view statistic about the usage of your room. The admin function that reveals statistics will show the names of participants and how active they have been in your Yo Teach! room.

A student can participate in your Yo Teach! room by going the URL that is assigned to your room, entering the nickname that he/she wants to have displayed, and then entering the password that you have set for your room. (You can also use Yo Teach! without setting a room password). Students can type notes and questions to appear in the chat. But the coolest features of Yo Teach! is the option for students to draw on a whiteboard and have their drawings appear in the chat.

Applications for Education
If you have been looking for an alternative to TodaysMeet and haven't found one you like, give Yo Teach! a try. The option to have students draw on a whiteboard and insert those drawings into a chat is simply fantastic. In a math class you could have students show their work or highlight a portion of a problem on which they need help. You can also insert a drawing to aid an explanation.

Backchannels, in general, can help you provide a voice for every student in your classroom. You can use a backchannel to have students submit questions, to respond to your questions or their classmates' questions, or to simply share some observations during a classroom activity.

Three Short Lessons About the Origins of Labor Day

This weekend, Labor Day weekend, is the unofficial end of summer. After this weekend nearly all students and teachers will be back in school. If you're already back in school, you and your students are probably looking forward to the three day weekend. Before you start the three day weekend, take a few minutes to ask students if they know why Labor Day exists. The following three videos explain the origins of Labor Day.

Labor Day's Violent Beginnings

Why Do Americans and Canadians Celebrate Labor Day? - A TED-Ed Lesson

History of the Holidays: Labor Day History

Find more Labor Day resources in Larry Ferlazzo's extensive list of links.

250 Google Tools Tutorials for Teachers

A few years ago I decided to start making video tutorials for the many Google tools that I write about on this blog and feature in some of my professional development workshops. This week I created my 250th Google tools tutorial. All of my Google tools tutorial videos can be found in this YouTube playlist. The tutorials in the playlist cover a wide range of features of Google tools for teachers and students. I've embedded a few of the highlights of the playlist below.

How to Record Audio in Google Slides

How to Measure Distances in Google Earth

How to Create Comic Strips in Google Slides

How to Use Data Validation in Google Forms

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Another Small, Convenient Update to Google Sites and Google Forms

Earlier today I shared the news of the new option to add buttons to Google Sites. This afternoon Google announced another small update to Google Sites that is based on a small update to Google Forms.

Now when you embed a Google Form into a page on a Google Site the Form's background will be blended to match the appearance of the rest of the page. The Form will also be automatically sized to match the available space. And the Form will be optimized to for display on mobile and desktop browsers.

Applications for Education
These are not major updates and there is nothing for you to do to implement these changes in Google Sites (unless you're still using the old version of Google Sites in which case these updates don't apply). These changes could be helpful to you in the sense that improved display of your Forms will make it easier for students and parents to complete Forms on a variety of devices including laptops, tablets, and phones.