Tuesday, February 12, 2019

A Handful of Resources and Ideas for Valentine's Day Lessons

Valentine's Day is only a couple of days away. If you're looking for some last minute activities to do in your classroom, take a look at these resources.

Why Do We Love? is a TED-Ed lesson that explores some philosophies on why people love. The lesson won't provide you with any clear answers, but it will make you think. And isn't that what philosophers want you to do?



Storyboard That offers templates for designing and printing Valentine's Day cards. To do this your students will first have to create a simple three-frame storyboard. Then they can print the story in a foldable card format. In my video embedded below I demonstrate how to create a Valentine's Day card on Storyboard That.



Canva offers design templates for almost every card-giving occasion. That includes offering Valentine's Day card designs. In the video below I demonstrate how to use Canva to design cards.



If you're wondering if you can use Canva with students under the age of 13, please read this statement from Canva's CEO Cliff Obrecht.

The Science and Math of Valentine's Day
The following video from It's Okay To Be Smart (produced by PBS Digital Studios) explains why humans kiss, the history of symbols associated with kissing, and some cultural views of kissing. When I saw this video I immediately thought of my friends who teach middle school and high school health classes.


The following fun video, also from It's Okay to Smart, attempts to use math to determine the odds of a 25 year old woman finding love in New York. (Remember, the video is just for fun).


Disclosure: Storyboard That is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

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.