Saturday, September 14, 2019

Rubrics, Mind Maps, and Foliage - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where it is a perfect early autumn morning. It's ideal for going fishing with my loyal dog, Mason. We did that on Thursday afternoon and it was perfect. I'm looking forward to doing that again this weekend. I hope that you also have something fun that you're looking forward to doing this weekend.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. How to Use Rubrics in Google Classroom
2. My Top 5 Google Tools for Social Studies Teachers and Students
3. Ten Free Tools for Creating Mind Maps and Flowcharts - Updated for 2019-20
4. 2019 Fall Foliage Map - And Why Leaves Change Color
5. Glide Now Lets You Publish App Templates
6. One of My Favorite Tools for Quickly Creating Audio Slideshows
7. Ten Sites & Apps to Help Students Learn New Vocabulary Words - Updated for 2019-20

A New On-demand Professional Development Course
Last 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 400 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 13, 2019

My Top 5 Tools for Social Studies Teachers and Students (Non-Google Edition)

Earlier this week I published my top five Google tools for social studies teachers and students. Recognizing that not everyone wants to use or has access to G Suite for Education accounts, here are my top five non-Google tools for social studies teachers and students. I didn't include my all-time favorite timeline tool, Timeline JS because I wanted to keep this completely free of a need for a Google account.

DocsTeach is a free service provided by the U.S. National Archives. Through DocsTeach you can create online activities based upon primary source artifacts from the National Archives. Your students can complete the activities online. Don't let the fact that the service is provided by the National Archives fool you into thinking that it can only be used for U.S. History lessons. You can upload any primary source artifact that you like to your DocsTeach account to develop an online history activity. DocsTeach offers more than a dozen activity templates that you can follow to develop your primary source-based lessons.

When I taught social studies I liked to use video clips as part of current events lessons. I also liked to use excerpts from documentary videos. If you use videos in the same way, EDpuzzle is a tool that you need to try. EDpuzzle lets you add questions directly into the timeline of the video.

Conversations about historical events and current events is an important aspect of teaching social studies. Sometimes the constraints of the classroom setting (time, attendance, student dynamics) limit the amount of constructive conversation that takes place. Synth is a free platform that you can use to have students record short podcasts and then reply to each other's podcasts with audio comments of their own. Watch this video to see how it works.

If you want your students to make short documentary-style videos, WeVideo is hard to beat. It works on Chromebooks, Windows, Android, iOS, and Mac (though if you have a Mac, iMovie is just as good). Those who have upgraded WeVideo accounts can even use it to make green screen videos.

RWT Timeline & Sutori
Elementary school teachers who are looking for an easy way for students to create timelines that include pictures should take a look at Read Write Think's Timeline Creator. Students can use it without creating any kind of online account and it's simple to use. Watch this video to see how it works.

Middle school and high school teachers who are looking for ways for their students to create multimedia timelines would do well to try Sutori. Sutori offers a collaborative multimedia timeline tool for students. Students can work together to add pictures, text, and video to timelines that they build in Sutori. Teachers who use Clever or Google Classroom can use those rosters to add students to Sutori.

Now You Can Share a Link to Jump to a Scene in Google Expeditions

In a Tweet yesterday afternoon Google announced a neat little addition to Google Expeditions. You can now share a link to a specific scene within an Expedition.

Previously if you wanted to get all of your students onto the same scene at the same time you had to guide them through the whole Expedition. Now you can just give them a link (posting it in Google Classroom would be a convenient option) and they can click it to jump to the scene. And just like any other URL, you could share it via QR code. My tool of choice for making QR codes is QR Droid, but any QR code generator should work for you.

If you're looking for some help getting started with Google Expeditions, I have a collection of tutorial videos here.

How to Apply Custom Sizing Including Portrait Mode to Google Slides

A couple of days ago someone sent me a Tweet asking if it was possible to arrange Google Slides presentations in portrait mode instead of the default landscape mode. It is possible to do that even though Google Slides doesn't contain a standard "portrait layout" option in any of the editing menus. To put Google Slides into portrait mode you have to apply custom sizing. That option is found when you open the File drop-down menu and select Page Setup. In Page Setup you can apply any size and aspect ratio of your choosing. Watch my short video below to learn how to apply custom sizing to Google Slides.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

One of My Favorite Tools for Quickly Creating Audio Slideshows

Whether it's for an open house night, an awards night, or another school event I'm often asked for a recommendation on a quick and easy way to create an audio slideshow. When the requirement doesn't call for spoken words, my usual recommendation is to try Sharalike.

Making an audio slideshow video on Sharalike is an easy three step process. First, import some pictures into your account. Second, put the pictures into the order in which you want them to appear. Third, select a sound track. Sharalike will do the rest of the video production process for you. When your video is ready you can view it on Sharalike, post it to the social media sites of your choosing, and embed it into a blog post or web page.

Sharalike can be used in your web browser or you can use their free Android app or free iOS app to make a video.

Watch my video that is embedded below to learn how easy it is to create a video with Sharalike.