Thursday, August 1, 2019

Great New Features Added to Flipgrid

Just in time for the start of the new school year Flipgrid has rolled-out new features for teachers and students. I tried them out this afternoon and plan to make a video overview of them soon. In the meantime, here's a run-down of what's new and why you might care about the new features.

Whiteboard in Flipgrid
Now when you launch the Flipgrid video recorder you will see a menu of drawing, sticker, and text tools on the right side of the screen. Within that menu there is a whiteboard icon. Click on it and you'll launch a whiteboard that you can draw on while talking. You can even switch between showing your face in the video and showing the whiteboard in the video.

The whiteboard in Flipgrid could be great for creating your own explantory videos or for having students create explantory videos.

Teachers now have a second option for recording short introductory videos to share with students and parents. In the teacher admin panel there is now a link labeled "Shorts." Click on Shorts to create a three minute video that you can post anywhere including any Flipgrid grid, blog post, or social media site.

Shorts includes the whiteboard tool that I mentioned above. So if you teach multiple sections of the same course, you could record one whiteboard video with Shorts and post it to multiple Flipgrid grids.

Transcription and Close-captioning
You now have the option to have all of the videos in your Flipgrid grids automatically transcribed and close-captioned. Immersive Reader, Microsoft's program that reads webpages aloud, is now available in Flipgrid too.

It's always a bit of a guess as to whether or automatic transcription of spoken words is going to be accurate. But it's better than no transcription at all.

Flipgrid AR
Flipgrid AR is essentially a fancy QR code function available through Flipgrid. You can now print QR codes for any and all of your videos or your students' videos. When scanned, those QR codes will play the videos overlaid on top of whatever is in the field of view of your phone or tablet's camera.

Flipgrid AR could be fun to use at an open house night. It might also be useful to have students record short videos about their favorite books and then put the corresponding Flipgrid QR codes in the dust jackets or first pages of the books for others to scan and get a preview of the book.

Five Google Product Updates for Teachers to Note

Every month Google pushes updates to all of their products. The ISTE conference is held in June so there were a lot of updates made then that directly impact teachers and students. July was a bit slower in terms of updates that directly impact teachers and students, but there were still some to note. Here are five Google product updates made in July that teachers should note.

Copy Questions from One Form to Another
This is the biggest update impacting teachers. For years teachers have wanted a way to quickly copy questions from one Google Form to another. In July Google finally made that a native feature of Google Forms thereby eliminating the need for a third-party add-on. Watch my video below to see how this new feature works.

Google Photos Stopped Syncing With Google Drive
This was announced months ago, but it was only a couple of weeks ago that Google Photos stopped automatically backing-up to your Google Drive account. You can still do this manually if you want to, but it will no longer happen automatically. I find it mildly annoying that this change was made though there is nothing I can do about it.

Transformation Reports
This is a new service that Google is offering to schools that use G Suite for Education. In short, schools can provide Google with more data about how their students and staff use G Suite products and Google will tell them how they can use G Suite products even more! My cynical take on this update can be read here.

More Header and Footer Options in Google Docs
You can now set different headers and footers for every section of your Google Documents. Previously, you had to have the same ones running throughout a document. Read more about this change here.

Dark Mode in Google Keep
Google Keep is one of the underappreciated tools available to G Suite for Education users. In July Google added a dark mode to Google Keep. Dark mode doesn't change anything about Google Keep other than the color scheme to make it a bit easier on the eyes.

Seven Microsoft Product Updates for Teachers to Note

Over the last six or seven weeks Microsoft has rolled-out some notable updates to their products that teachers and students use most. I've covered some of those updates in blog posts here and some I have only shared on social media. Here's a recap of noteworthy updates to Microsoft products made in the last seven weeks.

Immersive Reader Added to Microsoft Forms
Immersive Reader is a fantastic accessibility tool that is being added into many of Microsoft's products. As announced in late June, Immersive Reader will enable students who are viewing quizzes and surveys made with Microsoft Forms to hear the questions and answer choices read aloud.

Immersive Reader Integrated Into Third-party Services
Moving forward, Immersive Reader won't be limited to just the products made by Microsoft. Through Azure Cognitive Services third-party developers can add Immersive Reader to their services. Thinglink is one of the early adopters of this opportunity as is Wakelet.

Branching Logic in Microsoft Forms
Back in May Microsoft added the option to add sections to the forms that you create with Microsoft Forms. As announced a couple of days ago, by the end of August Microsoft Forms will have an option to employ branching logic so that you can send form respondents to a section based on how they answered a question.

Automatic Captioning of PowerPoint Presentations
This is a feature that started to appear in some versions of PowerPoint about a year ago. Earlier this summer Microsoft announced that it is now available in all versions of PowerPoint. Watch my video below to see how it works.

Presentation Coaching
Presenter Coach is another feature recently added to the web version of PowerPoint. Presenter Coach will give you feedback on your pacing and use of filler words like "um" and "ah." It will also make suggestions on how to improve your pacing and eliminate filler words.

Read-aloud Function Expanded to Mac Version of Edge
Edge is Microsoft's web browser. It is packed with lots of neat little features. The latest update to Edge for Mac users includes a read-aloud function that was previously only available in the Windows version of Edge.

Redesign of Assignments in Microsoft Teams
Earlier today Microsoft announced the deployment of a new interface for Assignments in Microsoft Teams. The announcement included information about a new "share to Teams" button for adding content from third-party sources, the ability to use materials from any team in any assignment, and a new option for teachers to see assignments in the same way that their students see them. Take a look at all of the new features right here.

Bonus item: All-new Flipgrid!
I'll be covering this in a detailed post later today.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Last Day to Get Practical Ed Tech On-demand Webinars

As I announced a couple of weeks ago, at the end of July all of the Practical Ed Tech on-demand webinars from the 2018-19 school year are going into the vault. They'll be replaced in the new school year with new and updated professional development webinars. But the 2018-19 webinars still have great information in them.

For one more day you can get the most popular 2018-19 Practical Ed Tech webinars in one bundle at 67% off the regular price. You can purchase the webinars individually for $15 each or all six in one package for $50. Purchase all of the webinars right here

After today the webinars will not be available to purchase as they will be replaced by new live webinars in the 2019-2020 school year starting in August. The first three of those webinars have been announced. They are Intro to Animation and Green Screen Video, Get Organized With Google Classroom, Calendar, and Keep, and Search Strategies Students Need to Know Now.

To be clear, if you purchase the 2018-19 on-demand webinars today, you will still be able to access them for as long as you like after today.

Gmail, Posters, and Quizzes - The Month in Review

Good morning from Maine where it's nice and cool after a big thunderstorm rolled through breaking the heat and humidity we'd been experiencing. We have about four more weeks of summer until people start to complain about seeing the first leaves change and getting their fall clothes out. I plan to enjoy what's left of summer. I hope that you're enjoying the summer too (my friends in the southern hemisphere, I hope your winter is going well).

It's the last day of the month. As I do at this time every month, I have put together a list of the most popular posts of the last thirty days. Take a look and see if there is anything new or interesting that you missed earlier this month.

These were the most popular posts in July:
1. 5 Helpful Gmail Features for Teachers
2. A Free Service That Lets You Print Almost Any Poster
3. Ten Handy Google Keep Features for Teachers and Students
4. Mapping Books
5. Seven Google Product Updates Made in June for Teachers to Note
6. 300+ Google Tools Tutorial Videos
7. My 5 Favorite Google Docs Add-ons
8. Five More Handy Features of Google Keep
9. Quillionz - Get Quiz Questions Automatically Generated From Documents
10. Create Your Own Mobile-friendly Random Name Picker

Live PD in August!
In August I'm hosting some new and updated professional development webinars through Those webinars are:

Other Places to Follow My Work
Besides and the daily email digest, there are other ways to keep up with what I'm publishing. 
  • Practical Ed Tech Newsletter - This comes out once per week (Sunday night/ Monday morning) and includes my tip of the week and a summary of the week's most popular posts from
  • My YouTube Channel - More than 15,000 are subscribed to my YouTube channel for my regular series of tutorial videos including more than 300 Google tools tutorials. 
  • Facebook - The Facebook page has nearly 450,000 followers. 
  • Twitter - I've been Tweeting away for the last twelve years at
  • Instagram - this is mostly pictures of my kids, my dogs, my bikes, my skis, and fly fishing. 

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