Saturday, August 31, 2019

The Week in Review - Icebreakers, Cool Cats, and Pictures

Good morning from Maine where it is a beautiful start to Labor Day weekend. We have family visiting for the weekend so I'm going to quickly write this week's week-in-review before they everyone wakes up.

This week I had the privilege to work with teachers in Saint John's High School in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. We worked through a progression of learning experiences that I chose based on their needs and wants. If you'd like to have me do the same at your school, please get in touch.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. A Couple of Good Places to Find Icebreaker Activities
2. 5 Google Drive Tips You Might Have Overlooked or Forgotten
3. These Cool Cats Will Teach You About Phrasal Verbs
4. How to Embed Google Docs Into Your Blog Posts
5. Ten Tools for Telling Stories With Pictures - Updated for 2019-20
6. Four Good Places to Find Audio Files for Multimedia Projects
7. Camera and Locomotive - A Mapped Story About the Transcontinental Railroad

A New On-demand Professional Development Course
This week I hosted the fourth Practical Ed Tech webinar of the month. I won't be hosting any more live webinars until the end of September. But I will have a new on-demand course available next week.

Thank You for Your Support!
  • More than 375 of you have participated in a Practical Ed Tech webinar this year. Thank you!
  • Pixton is a fantastic tool for students to use to create digital stories. Get started by using their free "Truth or Lie" lesson plan. 
  • PrepFactory offers free, personalized SAT and ACT prep. 
  • University of Maryland, Baltimore County has been supporting this blog for many years.
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. 

How to Create and Distribute Google Docs Templates

At the beginning of the school year you might find yourself reviewing or introducing to your students the best way to take notes. You might also find yourself teaching them things like to how complete a science lab report. I was reminded of this yesterday when a former colleague asked if there was a way to create a note-taking template for his students to follow in Google Documents. There is a simple way to do that but it's easier to show than it is to tell. Therefore, I made the following video about how to create and distribute Google Docs templates.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Ten Google Product Updates for Teachers to Note

Every month Google rolls-out updates to many of the products that teachers and students use through G Suite for Education. Some of those updates happen in background on the administrative side of G Suite for Education. Those updates usually don't have much impact on end-users. Then there are updates that directly affect teachers and students. Here's a rundown of the Google product updates made in August that teachers and students should note.

Automatic Out-of-Office Notifications
As I shared earlier today, Gmail will now alert the people sending you emails that you're out-of-office before they even send the messages they compose.

Old Version of Google Classroom Going Away on September 4th
If you're still using the old version of Google Classroom, you're going to be forced into the new version on September 4th. What's important to note about this is that existing content in the "class settings" page will not be automatically moved into a Classwork page. That content will be saved in your Google Drive and you can manually add it to a Classwork page.

Rubrics in Google Classroom
In August Google announced the launch of a beta version of a rubrics tool for Google Classroom. Your domain administrator needs to apply to have your school participate in the beta test of rubrics for Google Classroom.

I've had access to rubrics in Classroom for a couple of weeks now. My initial impression is that it is easy to use and could be useful tool once Google adds the ability to re-use rubrics from assignment to assignment. Currently, you have to create a rubric for every assignment.

Google Drive Priority Page
All G Suite accounts now have access to the Priority Page feature. This is a feature that will display what Google's algorithm determines to be your most important Google Drive files at any given moment. This is largely files that have recently been shared with you for commenting and editing or files you've recently shared for the same purpose. From the Priority Page you will be able to see new comments without having to open the file in a separate tab or window.

Originality Reports in Google Classroom
This is a new program that Google has added to Google Classroom and Assignments. This feature, still in a beta testing period, will let students and teachers check documents for elements of potential plagiarism against the millions of webpages and books that are indexed by Google. Students will be able to run Originality Reports on their own work before submitting it as an assignment in Google Classroom. Teachers can run Originality Reports on any work that has been submitted through Google Classroom.

Socratic by Google
Socratic by Google is the updated version of the Socratic iPad app. The app lets you scan a question or problem to quickly conduct a Google search. Watch my video below to see it in action. An Android version of this app will be available later this fall.

Lexend Fonts in Docs, Slides, and Sheets
Lexend Fonts are a family of fonts that are designed to improve reading speed by avoiding the visual crowding that is associated with some traditional font styles and types.

Play Slides on a Loop
Earlier this week Google announced the addition of an option to have slides play on a continuous loop. Unfortunately, today I learned that the roll-out of this feature has been delayed.

White-out, Black-out Google Slides
This is another feature that Google announced earlier in the week and then announced that the roll-out has been delayed. When it does appear, this new feature will let you black-out or white-out your slides when you pause your presentation.

Complete a PDF on the Google Drive Mobile App
If you use the Google Drive iPhone or Android app, you can now complete a fillable PDF on your phone. Read more about that feature here.

On a related note, next week I'm launching a new self-paced course featuring practical and engaging ways to use G Suite for Education in your classroom. Learn more here

Practical Ed Tech Podcast Episode #4

This morning I hosted a new episode of Practical Ed Tech Live on my YouTube channel. For those who missed it, it is now available as the fourth episode of the Practical Ed Tech Podcast. The podcast can be found on, on Google Podcasts, on Spotify, on RadioPublic, and on Pocket Casts. I'm working on getting it distributed through iTunes too.

And now that school is back in session for pretty much everyone, I'm moving the live broadcast to Thursday afternoons instead of Friday mornings. So join me on my YouTube channel next Thursday at 3pm to watch and ask questions live.

The show notes can be viewed here as a Google Document.

Questions answered in the podcast include:

Can you limit the number of responses on Microsoft forms? For instance, we are doing a sign-up at school and only want 15 students/choice. Can this be done?

Hi - I teach technology classes and I am looking for a few good videos to show my class for sub days. Any recommendations? Thank you!!

What apps for a Chromebook or in general do you recommend for ELL Students? By this, I am referring to helping students take content that is spoken or written in English and translate it into Spanish. Something besides Google Translate.

With my students I have created bilingual dictionary in Google sheets (two columns, one for English and one for translation). Do you happen to know of any way to turn it into an online dictionary with a search box?

I'm looking for a way to record comments/feedback and send to my students when reading their essays. Is there something you can think of I could utilize? The only thing that I can think of is voice memo recording and emailing.

These Cool Cats Will Teach You About Phrasal Verbs

Phrasal Verbs Friends is a fun YouTube channel that features cats explaining phrasal verbs. The videos use pictures of cats in green-screen settings to show and explain the various meanings of phrasal verbs like "warm up" and "take care."

Applications for Education
Phrasal verbs can be tricky for students to understand. These cute cat videos could help students understand the meanings of some phrasal verbs.

The videos could be the inspiration for a classroom video project. You could have students make their own fun phrasal verbs videos featuring their own pets. Use a tool like or PhotoScissors to remove the background from the original image and then drop the pet picture in front of a new setting. Then take those pictures and use them in a video editor like iMovie, WeVideo, or Adobe Spark Video to make videos of the pets explaining a phrasal verb.