Saturday, November 30, 2019

The Practical Ed Tech Podcast - Episode 21 - 12 Years of Reflections and Questions

This afternoon I recorded the twenty-first episode of The Practical Ed Tech Podcast. In this episode I share some reflections on 12 years of blogging about educational technology, share some news from the world of ed tech, and answer a few questions from readers and viewers like you. Get the full show notes in this Google Doc. Information on the PD webinars mentioned in the podcast can be found here.

You can listen to the episode here or on your favorite podcast network.

Listen to all episodes of the podcast here or find them on the following podcast networks:

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good morning from Maine where it feels like winter! It's 4F outside, a lot of snow is in the forecast, and we're going to get our Christmas tree later today. I hope that all of you had a great week. I spent a lot of the week in Connecticut visiting family and friends for Thanksgiving. It was a nice treat for me to take my daughters to what was one of my favorite restaurants when I was a kid, Shady Glen. That place was a throwback 30 years ago and still hasn't changed a bit (cash only, grab a seat when you see it, menu on the wall). If you celebrated Thanksgiving this week, I hope that it was a great holiday for you too.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Transno - Quickly Turn Outlines and Notes into Mind Maps
2. 5 Google Product Updates for Teachers to Note This Weekend
3. How to Create a Multimedia Map on Padlet
4. Twelve Good Tools for Creating Mind Maps & Flowcharts - Updated
5. Three Easy Ways to Create Forms That Accept File Uploads
6. Open eBooks - Thousands of Free eBooks for Students and Teachers
7. Three Ways to Collaboratively Create Multimedia Maps

Through Tuesday you can get eight of my Practical Ed Tech webinars in one bundle at more than 50% off. Or save 20% on any individual webinar.

I'll come to your school in 2020! 
2020 will be my tenth year of speaking at schools and conferences. Send me an email at richardbyrne (at) to learn more about how we can work together.

Thank You for Your Support!
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 16,000 are subscribed to my YouTube channel for my regular series of tutorial videos including more than 300 Google tools tutorials. 
  • The Practical Ed Tech Podcast is where I answer questions from readers, share news and notes, and occasionally talk to interesting people in education. 
  • 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, November 29, 2019

7 Google Product Updates to Note from November

The end of November is here. During the last month Google announced a bunch of updates to many of the products frequently used by teachers and students. I covered many of them during the month, but there were a few that I missed. And there are few updates to the original updates from earlier this month. Here are seven Google product updates to note from November.

Add Audio to Google Slides
This was probably the biggest update that Google announced in November. After years of waiting Google Slides finally has native support for adding audio to your presentations. You no longer need to use any third-party add-ons of suspect quality or other wacky work-arounds to add audio to your slides. Watch my video to see how you can add audio to Google Slides.

Smart Compose in Google Docs
Much like Smart Compose in Gmail, Smart Compose in Google Docs will try to predict what you want to write in a sentence. If the prediction is correct you can hit the tab key to complete the sentence. To use this feature you will have to register to be a part of the beta test. To register for the beta you must be a domain administrator. Read more information here.

Different Page Numbers for Different Sections of Google Docs
This is a small, but welcome update for Google Docs users. You can now specify the page numbers that apply to a section of a Google Doc instead of being stuck with the default sequence of page numbers. More details here.

Create Tours in the Web Version of Google Earth
This is a feature that we've been waiting two years to see add to the web version of Google Earth. Now you can add your own sequence of multimedia placemarks to Google Earth. Read more or watch my demo to see how it works.

A New Way to Gather Feedback in Google Sites
This was announced on November 19th but an update six days later said that this feature is on hold for most users. When it does fully roll-out Google Sites users have a new option for getting feedback through their sites. Instead of creating then embedding a Google Form, you can use a native feedback form in the footer of Google Sites. Learn more about how that works by reading this announcement from Google.

Add Collapsible Text Boxes to Google Sites
At first I didn't think too much of this update. Then I saw how much it improved the layout of some of my students' portfolios that are built in Google Sites. This has proven to be a great option for my students to use on the pages on which they're writing long blocks of text about their app development projects.

Reuse Rubrics in Google Classroom
Earlier this fall Google introduced a beta test of a rubrics feature in Google Classroom. My feedback, as well as that of many others, was that an option to reuse rubrics was needed. Google listened and added that option this week.

12 Quick Thoughts After 12 Years of Free Technology for Teachers

Yesterday marked twelve years since I started this blog. I didn't have much of clue about what I was doing. I chose the name Free Technology for Teachers because it was the height of the Web 2.0 boom and everything new seemed to be free. I wanted to try it all out. Writing blog posts about what I was finding and trying seemed like a natural thing to do. Little did I know that so many people would be interested in what I was writing. I also didn't foresee doing it for twelve years and nearly 15,000 posts. So if you'll indulge me for a moment, here are twelve quick thoughts after twelve years of blogging about educational technology.

1. I started this in my twenties and I'm still doing it in my forties.

2. Windows XP, Vista, 7, and 8 have come and gone.

3. iPads came along and were supposed to revolutionize educational technology, they didn't.

4. Chromebooks came along and were supposed to revolutionize educational technology, they didn't.

5. Podcasting became popular, then lost popularity, now it's back.

6. I taught social studies, was an independent consultant, was briefly a marketing guy, and now I teach computer science.

7. My feelings about social media have gone from love to love-hate.

8. If you don't know how a company is making money, it either isn't or it's making money from your data.

9. RSS was the way that everyone was going to read blogs and websites. It turns out that email, social media, and direct visits is how most people consume media now.

10. The title "Free Technology for Teachers" has been a blessing and a curse.

11. The longer I do this, the harder I have to work to try new things that really excite me.

12. The positive comments out number the negative ones, but the negative ones are usually the ones that stay with me the longest.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

The History of Corn - A TED-Ed Lesson

Pictures of corn like the one in this blog post have become symbols of fall harvest and Thanksgiving. Corn and many products made with it are a staple of the diets of many of us today. How did corn become a staple of our diets? What has enabled it to become one of the most cultivated crops in the world? And what are the consequences of cultivating so much corn? Those questions and many others are addressed in a new TED-Ed lesson titled How Corn Conquered the World.

Applications for Education
This TED-Ed lesson could be the jumping-off point for more or deeper lessons about how agriculture affects many parts of our lives whether we realize it or not. For example the graphs at toward the end of the lesson illustrate how increased corn production contributed to increased meat production and both of those things create environmental impacts. The increase in cheap corn production also increases the amount of cheap junk food which in turn can lead to obesity.