Monday, August 26, 2019

A Chrome Extension to Help With a Facebook Fast

I'm going on a bit of a Facebook fast. Like many people I say that I'm going "just check Facebook for a minute" and then find that I've wasted twenty minutes going down a rabbit hole following interesting links or commenting on friends' posts. I'm also prone to getting melancholy when I see some of "my memories" pop-up in my Facebook feed. Those melancholy moments have a bigger impact on my productivity than anything else. All this is to say that I'm going on a Facebook fast for the next two weeks.

I've enlisted the help of the StayFocusd Chrome extension to stick to my Facebook fasting plan. Because of the nature of running a small business like mine I can't completely give up posting on the Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page. What I can do is limit my time on Facebook to only things that are directly related to business. The StayFocusd Chrome extension lets me set a maximum amount of time that I can cumulatively spend on Facebook during a twenty-four hour period. I've set a limit of twenty minutes which should be more than enough time to update the Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page.

The StayFocusd Chrome extension works with more than just Facebook. You can customize it to block yourself from any website that you want to avoid wasting time on during your day. You can use StayFocusd to block or limit access to sites like Reddit, Twitter, Pinterest, or even Amazon. Whatever the site is that sucks time out of your day, you can block it or limit it with the StayFocusd Chrome extension.

It's important to note that StayFocusd will only work on Chrome on your computer. It won't prevent you from accessing your blocked sites via a web browser on your phone and it won't stop you from accessing your blocked sites via their corresponding mobile apps. Therefore, I've uninstalled the Facebook app on my phone (I never had it installed on my iPad).

A Time-saving Tip for Testing iPad and Android Apps

As you might expect, I test tons of apps every year. Some of those apps are brand new ones and others are older ones that people suggest that I try. And throughout the year I go back and look at some apps that I've previously reviewed to see if they've been update or are even still working as well as they once did. When I look at older apps the first thing that I do is look at the version history and "last updated" dates.

When looking at the listing for an iPad app or iPhone app I check the version history before I install it. If it hasn't been updated in a couple of years, there's probably a good chance that the app is no longer being actively supported by the developer. Likewise, when I look at the listing for an Android app I check the "last updated" date. Again, if it hasn't been updated in a couple of years the developer probably isn't actively supporting. In both cases I won't install an app that hasn't been updated in a couple of years.

Where to find the update history for an Android app. 

Where to find the update history for an iOS app. 


Time and Security
Not installing apps that haven't been updated in a couple of years not only saves you time, it can potentially save the security of your phone or table. Older apps that haven't been updated in a couple of years are more susceptible to security flaws than those that have been updated on a recent and regular basis.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

A Couple of Good Places to Find Icebreaker Activities

Every year at about this time I get a handful of requests for ideas for icebreaker activities. In fact, I found of one of those requests this morning in my inbox. Here are the two sites that come to the top of my mind when I'm asked for places to find icebreaker activities for classrooms.

Icebreakers.ws is an online catalog of dozens of fun icebreaker and team builder activities. The activities are categorized by group size and activity type. To find an activity appropriate for your group just select your group's size then use the activity type key to find "get-to-know-you games," "team building games," or "active (break a sweat) games."

How Do You Play? is a free site that offers directions on how to play icebreaker games, team building games, board games, card games, and many other in-person multiple player games. You can browse the games featured on the homepage or search through eight game categories for the game that you need the directions to.

Applications for Education
We often think of icebreaker and team-building activities as things we do at the beginning of the school year. But as we know, getting to know our students is an on-going process. The next time you're looking for a team building activity, take a look at Icebreakers.ws or How Do You Play?

ICYMI - Practical Ed Tech Podcast #3

Last weekend I announced that I've started a podcast that I'm simply calling the Practical Ed Tech Podcast. The podcast consists of the audio from my Practical Ed Tech Live broadcasts on YouTube.

In the latest episode I highlighted some news from the world of educational technology including a neat augmented reality app and new book from Scott McLeod and Julie Graber. In the second half of the episode I answer a handful of questions from readers like you.

You can get the podcast through the Anchor app, on Spotify, on Google Podcasts, on Radio Public, and in Pocket Casts. Find the option that works for you right here.

Four Good Places to Find Audio Files for Multimedia Projects

Whenever I talk to students or teachers about using music in multimedia projects I emphasize that just because a song is available to stream or download through the Internet, doesn't mean that you have the rights to re-use it. Therefore, you should strive to use public domain or Creative Commons licensed music. To that end, here are four good places to find free audio files to use in your multimedia projects.

Dig CC Mixter offers thousands of songs that are Creative Commons licensed. The site is divided into three main categories. Those categories are Instrumental Music for Film & Video, Free Music for Commerical Projects, and Music for Video Games. Within each category you can search according to genre, instrument, and style.


Bensound offers about 250 music tracks that you can download for free. Those tracks are arranged in eight categories. Those categories are acoustic/folk, cinematic, corporate/pop, electronica, urban/groove, jazz, rock, and world. You can listen to the tracks before you download them. When you click the download button you will see the clear rules about using the music.


SoundBible is a good place for students to find all kinds of free sound effects recordings. Students can download files as MP3 or WAV files. And best of all, students don't need to register on the site in order to download the files. But they do need to remember to cite the source of the sound effects as most are labeled with a Creative Commons license. Learn more about SoundBible in my short video embedded below.


Anyone can download music from the Free Music Archive for use in podcasts, videos, and other digital presentation formats. Downloading music from FMA does not require any kind of registration. In the following video I demonstrate how to find and download free music from the Free Music Archive.