Friday, November 30, 2018

QR Codes, Music, and CoRubrics - The Month in Review

Good evening from Maine where I'm home after a great few days at the LACUE conference in New Orleans. November was a busy month as I hosted three professional development courses through Practical Ed Tech and was a featured presenter at two conferences. Thank you to everyone who participated in one of my courses or came to my conference presentations this month. I'm looking forward to meeting and working with more of you in 2019. If you'd like to have me come to your school in 2019, please send me a note at richardbyrne (at)

As I do every month, I have compiled a list of the most popular posts of the last thirty days.

These were the the most popular posts in November:
1. CoRubrics - An Add-on to Facilitate Assessment Among Students
2. Change Coming to Your Google Account's Sign-in Screen
3. 5 Good Places to Find Public Domain Video Clips
4. How to Create a QR Code for a Voice Recording
5. Five Places to Find Free Music and Sounds for Multimedia Projects
6. Edji - A Great Tool for Literacy and Critical Thinking
7. Is Your Feedback Really Effective? - This Google Docs Add-on Will Tell You
8. Supercharge Student Self-Editing Skills with this Writing Checker for Google Docs
9. Build a Body - An Interactive Biology Lesson
10. Nearly 900 Free Art History Books - And an Art Lesson

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.
University of Maryland Baltimore County offers a great program on instructional design.

Seterra offers a huge selection of geography games for students. 

Turn Text to Speech With the Voicepods Chrome Extension

A couple of months ago I discovered a new text to speech tool called Voicepods. When I first tried it and wrote about it Voicepods would only create voice recordings based on text that you wrote. This week Voicepods launched a free Chrome extension that will let you have the text of any webpage read aloud. There are other Chrome extensions that do the same. What makes Voicepods different is that while Voicepods reads the text of webpage it also makes a recording that you can save and playback whenever you want. Watch my demonstration video to see how the Voicepods Chrome extension works.

As you can see the video, Voicepods has another new feature. That feature is called "read along." Read Along highlights the words in a block of text while they are being read aloud.

Applications for Education
The new Voicepods Chrome extension could be a good one for students who need some help with pronunciation of words while reading a webpage. The extension has support for ten languages which could make it useful in ELL/ ESL classrooms.

Teaching the Constitution With Political Cartoons - Webinar Recording

DocsTeach is one of my favorite tools for building history lessons centered around primary source documents, pictures, maps, and drawings. DocsTeach contains an integrated search tool for finding artifacts from the U.S. National Archives. You can use that search tool to find political cartoons. That was focus of a recent professional development webinar that was hosted by the US National Archives.

Teaching the Constitution With Political Cartoons is now available to view for free. The webinar focuses on using Clifford K. Berryman cartoons from the U.S. Senate Collection in lessons designed to help students understand the nuanced aspects of the US Constitution. The webinar includes a good overview of how students should analyze political cartoons and guiding questions that you can give to your students. The last third of the webinar, around the 27 minute mark, is where the webinar transitions into demonstrating how to use the tools within DocsTeach.

The webinar recording is available here and as embedded below.

Image credit:
Untitled [Political Cartoon]; 3/24/1937; (Y-086); Berryman Political Cartoon Collection, 1896 - 1949; Records of the U.S. Senate, Record Group 46; National Archives Building, Washington, DC. [Online Version,, November 30, 2018]

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Dear Colleagues, Can We Please Stop Sharing These Things?

Can we teach critical thinking and good digital citizenship practices if we don't use them ourselves? I'm asking because every week I see another educator in my social networks share a Facebook scam. Here are the last two that I saw shared by people who have administrative roles in schools.

  • A posting by a page titled "Official Patriots Nation" that promised to give season tickets to a random person who shared a post. A quick look at the page itself would tell you it is not the official New England Patriots page. You can tell because there isn't an official Facebook verification check on the page. The other giveaway is that the only posts on the page were posts promising to give away tickets. No legitimate Facebook page exists just to give away expensive products to random people.
  • A posting from a page that claimed to be Ellen Degeneres giving away money to people who shared the post and wrote "money" in the comments. This scam is particular laughable because the person who created the page didn't even spell Ellen's name correctly. If that wasn't enough to make you suspicious, the first line of the posting is "Warning All!!! this is not fraud." That has the sound of a used car salesman saying, "this is a great car only driven by an old lady to church on Sunday!" 
Please, if you work in education, stop sharing scams on social media. It just makes us all look bad. 

A New Gradebook for Google Classroom!

One of the long-running complaints about Google Classroom that I and many others have had is about the nearly featureless gradebook. It appears that Google has heard those complaints and is taking some steps to improve the Google Classroom gradebook. The first step was taken this summer when Google added a comment bank to the Google Classroom gradebook. The second step came today in the form of an announcement of a new Google Classroom gradebook design.

The new Google Classroom gradebook will let you see all of your assignments and grades on the same screen. As you can see in the screenshot below, you'll be able to see assignments listed across the top of a grid with fields for entering grades directly below those assignments. And you'll be able to see all of your students' overall course grades on the same page.
Image courtesy of G Suite for Edu marketing team. 

The new Google Classroom gradebook is available through a beta program. You can sign-up for the beta right here.