Saturday, September 7, 2019

2019 Fall Foliage Map - And Why Leaves Change Color

The 2019 Fall Foliage Prediction Map is a feature of the website. The map displays a week-by-week prediction of when leaves in the continental United States will be changing colors from now through the end of November. You can see the predictions change by moving the timeline at the bottom of the map.

On the same page as the 2019 Fall Foliage Prediction Map there is a graph of average temperatures in the United States since 1900. The graph is accompanied by a short explanation of why leaves change colors in the fall and the relationship to air temperatures.

Applications for Education
The 2019 Fall Foliage Prediction Map doesn't tell the whole story of why leaves change colors at different times in different parts of the country. I'd use the incomplete nature of the map's explanation as a jumping-off point for students to hypothesize and investigate why leaves change colors at different times in different parts of the country. I might also have them investigate why some trees have brighter leaves than others in the fall. 

Additional Resources for Teaching and Learning About Fall Foliage
A couple of weeks ago I shared a couple of good videos that explain why leaves change colors in the fall. Those videos are included below.

For an explanation of why leaves change colors that elementary school students can understand, watch the following SciShow Kids video.

Practical Ed Tech Podcast - Episode #6 Featuring Dr. Scott McLeod

In the last episode of the Practical Ed Tech Podcast I mentioned that I had recently spoken with Dr. Scott McLeod about his new book, co-authored with Julie Graber, Harnessing Technology for Deeper Learning. I was going to wait a few more days before publishing the conversation as a podcast, but I couldn't wait. So here it is.

I've known Scott for ten years or more. He's one of the people in the educational technology space that I've always looked up to and trusted for good advice. Our conversation for the podcast ranged beyond just talking about his new book.

You might not be familiar with Scott's written work, but there's a good chance you've seen the video that he did with Karl Fisch, Did You Know; Shift Happens. I kicked off the conversation by asking him, "what's changed since Did You Know; Shift Happens was published twelve years ago?" Give the podcast a listen to hear his response.

The Practical Ed Tech Podcast can be heard on, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Apple PodcastsRadio Public, Breaker, and Pocket Casts. And you can find the RSS feed for it here.

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good morning from Maine where it is a little overcast so I thought I'd cheer things up by sharing this picture of a bright flower I saw this week.

As I do at this time every weekend, I have put together a short list of the most popular posts of the last week. This list is based on total views during the previous seven days. Take a look and see if there are any interesting things that you might have missed.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Ten Google Product Updates for Teachers to Note
2. How to Avoid the Google Calendar Scheduling Mistake I Keep Making
3. How to Create and Distribute Google Docs Templates
4. Knoword Offers Fun Vocabulary and Spelling Games
5. Fossils 101 - And How Scientists Know What Color Dinosaurs Were
6. ClassHook Adds Live Discussions for Video Lessons
7. These Cool Cats Will Teach You About Phrasal Verbs

A New On-demand Professional Development Course
This week I launched a new on-demand version of my popular Getting Going With G Suite course. You can sign-up now and complete it at your pace.

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. 

Friday, September 6, 2019

Email 101 - And Some Time-saving Tips

We're all busy. And the new school year can feel exceptionally busy. That's not an excuse to ignore basic email etiquette like addressing a person by name when sending him or her a message for the first time or for the first time in a while. Here are a few videos that offer good advice and guidelines for using email in a polite manner.

Emailing Your Teacher, With Captain Communicator is one of my favorite videos about email etiquette. The short video features two students demonstrating how to write an email to a teacher. It's cute and well worth 90 seconds of your time.

The following video was made by a teacher for the purpose of sharing email etiquette tips with students. It's a bit more serious that the Captain Communicator video.

Watch Clear Email Communication by Common Craft to learn how to get a recipient's attention and how to get a response from that recipient.

I was reminded of these lessons this morning when I opened my inbox to three emails from people that I don't know asking me for help with their tech problems. As a teacher it's in my nature to help people. But I'm going to put a lot more effort into helping when I know the other person can at least take the time to type my name.

Time-saving Email Tips
In the following video I highlighted five features of Gmail that teachers should know how to use. A few of these can be big time-savers for you.

Disclosure: I have a long-standing, in-kind relationship with Common Craft.

Ten Sites & Apps to Help Students Learn New Vocabulary Words - Updated for 2019-20

There was a time when I regularly published longer lists of helpful sites and apps. Over the last few years I got away from doing that with any regularity because I wasn't sure that anyone really benefited from them. But in the last month I've been asked a handful of questions that could have been answered by having a current list. All that is to say that I'm going to start publishing some lists with regularity. First up is the following list of good sites and apps for helping students learn new vocabulary words.

This is a game that has been around for nearly a decade. It continues to evolve with the times. The latest version of Knoword has three levels for students to play. The game is played the same way across all three levels. To play the game simply pick a level and then hit "Begin." Once you begin you have 90 seconds to correctly spell as many words as possible. The catch is that you have guess what words to spell based on the definitions that are provided. It's a bit like Jeopardy in that way. You can earn more time to keep the game going by getting streaks of five correct words in row.

Math Vocabulary Cards
Understanding the vocabulary of mathematics is often the first step that students need to take in order to be able to solve math problems. Math Vocabulary Cards can help students overcome that challenge. Math Vocabulary Cards is a free tool designed for elementary school students. The app (available for iOS and for Chrome) offers exactly what its name implies, a series of flashcards of mathematics vocabulary terms. Each card contains a term, a diagram, and a definition. By default the term is hidden and students have to guess the term based on the definition and diagram. Students can also use the cards with the definitions hidden and the terms revealed.

World's Worst Pet
This is an app that has been around for five or six years. While it hasn't had a significant update recently, it still works well on iPads running the latest version of iOS. In the app players have to help bring home Snargg, the world’s worst pet, who has run away. To get Snargg back players have to fill his food dish by learning new vocabulary words. Each of the six levels in the game contain ten dishes (each dish represents a new set of words) that can be filled. Four games are available for each dish. The games are fill-in-the-blank, synonym identification, antonym identification, and definition identification. The app contains a total of 1,000 vocabulary words. is an excellent vocabulary study service offering thousands of vocabulary practice lists and activities for students in elementary school through graduate school. In addition to lists of SAT, GRE, and other test prep words, you can find vocabulary lists that are attached to novels, historical documents, famous speeches, and current news articles. When you sign up for you will be given an assessment quiz in order to give you suggested lists with which to start your practice. After completing the assessment you can use the practice lists suggested by or choose your own lists from the huge gallery of vocabulary lists.

Flippity Flashcards
Flippity is a great service that offers templates for creating all kinds of things in Google Sheets including multimedia flashcards. You or your students can use Flippity's flashcard template to create flashcards for any words or phrases that you choose. The flashcards created through the template are displayed on their own stand-alone webpages. Watch my video below to see how it works.

Winning Words
Winning Words is a series of seven iPad apps that feature matching / “memory” style vocabulary games. There are six apps in the series. Each app is played in the same manner of flipping a card and trying to find a match for it. The six apps are synonym match, antonym match, homophone match, compound match, double letter match, verb match, and singular/plural match. Each app supports up to four players and has three levels of difficulty.

PrepFactory is a free service that offers students a great selection of free SAT and ACT preparation activities. PrepFactory focuses on helping students develop good test-taking strategies while also not boring them with dozens of continuous rote exercises. But before students even dive into the practice activities they can work through in-depth strategy review activities. To help students know what strategy to review or which practice assessment to take, PrepFactory has students complete diagnostics activities.

This is a site that was developed by a high school student (who is now a Harvard student). Vocabulist enables students to upload a document and have it extract words and definitions from it. Each word in the document is matched to a definition. If the definition rendered isn't exactly right, students can modify it within Vocabulist. Once the list of words and definitions is set students can download the list as a PDF or export the list to Quizlet where it will then be turned into a set of digital flashcards. (Students must have a Quizlet account).

New Tab Quizlet
New Tab Quizlet is a Chrome extension that will display a flashcard from your Quizlet sets whenever you open a new tab. If you have questions on your cards, you'll see the question and answer. If you have vocabulary words on your cards, you'll see the word and definition.

VocabAhead offers videos and flashcards that are designed to help students learn new vocabulary words. The website hosts animated videos that explain what words mean in context. Next to each video there is a set of corresponding flashcards.

Disclosure: PrepFactory is currently an advertiser on