Tuesday, February 12, 2019

New Features are Coming Soon to Your Gmail Inbox

Last year Google added Smart Replies to all Gmail accounts including those of G Suite for Education users. The Smart Replies feature has become quite the time-saver in my busy day. This week Google announced a new Gmail feature that could also prove to be a time-saver for many of us.

Over the next couple of weeks you will start to see new options when you right-click on the subject line of an email in your inbox. The new options will include adding labels, replying to and forwarding messages with one click, searching for emails with the same subject line, and opening emails in multiple tabs. I anticipate using the labeling and searching tools quite a bit once they appear in my Gmail accounts.

These new features are being rolled out over the next two weeks. If you don't see it now, keep trying and you'll see it before too long.


Try These 6 Things When a Website Doesn't Work as Expected

In the last week I've fielded a half-dozen emails from readers who were experiencing problems with web tools not working as they expected. This seems like a good time to revisit six things that you should check when a website doesn't work as you expected it to work.

1. Is your browser updated? This isn't as common as it used to be, but in some instances of a site not working properly the cause can be traced to using an outdated version of a web browser. If you're using an older version of a browser, not only will some sites not work correctly, you are also opening yourself up to more potential security threats.

2. Do you have cookies enabled? Many websites require cookies in order to offer you the best possible experience. Explania and Common Craft offer good explanations of how cookies work.


3. Are you using a pop-up blocker? It is not uncommon for a website to use a pop-up window for account log-ins. If the pop-up is blocked, you won't be able to log-in.

4. Are you using the site on a tablet/ iPad/ phone? While it would be great if every site was optimized for tablets, that is not the case.

5. Have you checked your spam folder? If you sent a help request to the help desk/ site administrators, they may have replied and had their messages flagged by your spam filter. I've experienced this more than once when using a school district email address.

6. Last, but not least, in the words of The IT Crowd, "have you tried turning it off and on again?" Or logging out and logging back in? It's amazing how often that can fix a problem.


Disclosure: For years I have had an in-kind business relationship with Common Craft.

Monday, February 11, 2019

How to Use Keynote to Create Choose Your Own Adventure Stories

Last week I published a video about using Google Slides to create choose your own adventure stories. That prompted a couple of people to ask if Keynote and or PowerPoint can be used in the same manner. The answer to that question is yes. In the following video I demonstrate how you can use Keynote to create choose your own adventure stories.


The concept used to create a choose your own adventure story in Google Slides or Keynote can be utilized to create any kind of interactive presentation including Jeopardy games or simple reference documents.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Six Online Whiteboard Drawing Tools

Thanks to an email from a reader I was alerted that a few of the online whiteboard tools that I have reviewed in the past are no longer working. Here's an updated list of online whiteboard tools that you and your students can use for free.

Scratchwork is an online whiteboard and video conferencing tool designed with math students in mind. The platform works like many similar services as it provides you with a whiteboard on which you can draw, type, and import images to annotate. Scratchwork is a little different than other services because it includes a Latex editor for writing equations. Scratchwork also offers an option to draw on a tablet and import those drawings. The collaboration aspect of Scratchwork comes into the picture when you activate the video conferencing component built into Scratchwork.

Draw Chat is a free service that allows anyone to create a video chat over a whiteboard, PDF, image, or map. To use Draw Chat you just have to visit the site and click "Start New Whiteboard." Once your whiteboard launches you will have the option to enable access to your webcam and microphone. You can have people join your whiteboard video conference by sending them the link assigned to your whiteboard.Draw Chat allows you to draw or type on a shared whiteboard. Additionally, you can upload a PDF or an image to annotate on the whiteboard. A fourth option for drawing on Draw Chat is to import the URL for a Google Map and draw on that map.

WebRoom is a free service for hosting online meetings. WebRoom doesn't require you to download any software and you don't need to register in order to use it. WebRoom lets you use your webcam if you want people to see your face during the meeting. A whiteboard space is provided. You can draw on the whiteboard or upload a file to share and discuss on the whiteboard. A text chat space is provided in each WebRoom meeting. It is possible to share your screen with other meeting participants. However, to share your screen you will need to install the WebRoom Chrome extension.



Realtime Board is an online whiteboard tool that I have been using and recommending for the better part of the last decade. At its basic level Realtime Board provides a blank canvas on which you can type, draw, and post pictures. You can connect elements on your boards through a simple linking tool. Realtime Board includes an activity tracking feature. This feature lets you see the changes that have been made to a shared Realtime Board whiteboard.

While it doesn't have a voice or video chat component, Google Drawings can be used as a collaborative whiteboard space. Simply start your drawing at drawings.google.com then hit the share button to invite others to view and work on the drawing.

If you're a OneNote Class Notebooks user you could create a blank page to draw on with other members of the Class Notebook.

Search, AR, VR, and Stories - The Week in Review

Good morning from cold and windy Maine. How windy? In the words of my two-year-old, "soooo windy!"

Before sharing the list of the week's most popular posts, I have an update about Free Technology for Teachers that will answer some of the questions that I've received lately. The reason for the lighter posting over the last week is three fold. First, and the biggest reason, is that I'm determined to finally finish writing a book that I started almost 18 months ago. Pounding out 1,000+ words a day on that is much more difficult than writing three or four blog posts per day. Second, I'm spending time writing on Ed Tech Fitness and building that community. Third, I'm building and revising new keynote presentations for the conferences that I am speaking at over the next couple of months. So no, I'm not shutting down this blog. I haven't lost interest in it. I just have a couple of things that for first time in years I'm putting slightly ahead of the blog for the next few weeks. By March, I'll be back to publishing three or four posts per day.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. What is Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality?
2. Ten Overlooked Google Docs Features
3. How to Use Google Slides to Create Choose Your Own Adventure Stories
4. Two Image-based Search Challenges to Use With Your Students
5. Ten Search Strategies Students Should Try
6. A Couple of Free Online Alternatives to Audacity
7. Tracing the Evolution of Phones - A Google Scholar Practice Activity

Now Booking Summer Workshops!
I know that June can feel a long way away right now, but I'm already booking my summer workshop calendar. If you'd like to have me come to your school this spring (I have two May openings) or summer, please take a look at my speaking page and fill out the short form at the bottom of it.

The Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp is happening on July 15th and 16th. I've secured a beautiful location for it that offers lots of activities for the whole family within walking distance. Register in February and you'll save $70! Registration is now open here.

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.