Thursday, December 5, 2019

Tools to Improve the Accessibility of Websites, Videos, and Slides

We all have different needs and preferences when it comes to consuming the media in our lives. Our students are the same. Some need webpages read aloud, some need different color schemes or fonts, and others need captions enabled on videos. Those are just a few of the things that can be done to improve the accessibility of slides, videos, and websites used in our classrooms.

Improving the accessibility of slides, videos, and websites used to be a lot more difficult than it is today. Here are some tools that you and your students can use to improve the accessibility of media used in your classroom.

Tools to Improve the Accessibility of Websites

Microsoft Edge
If you have access to Microsoft Edge (the default for Windows computers) then should familiarize yourself with Microsoft’s Immersive Reader tool. Immersive Reader in Microsoft Edge can be used to have pages read aloud, to alter the font size and spacing, and to alter the color scheme of articles read on websites.

Microsoft Edge is also available to use on Android and iOS phones and tablets. A read-aloud function is available in the iOS and Android versions of Microsoft Edge.

Mac users aren’t left out of using Microsoft Edge and Immersive Reader. Microsoft Edge is currently (November, 2019) available as a beta product to install on Mac OS. It contains the Immersive Reader functions that are available in the Windows version of Edge. You can find the Mac OS version of Edge right here.

Safari has a “reader view” option that you can find to the left of the URL in the address bar. The reader view menu appears as four horizontal lines. Click the menu to enter reader view. The reader view will lets users change the font style and size as well as the overall page color scheme.

Safari’s reader view is in addition to all of the other accessibility options that are built into the Mac operating system. A comprehensive list of Mac accessibility options is available at

The Chrome web browser can be customized to each user’s preferences regarding font size, font style, and spacing. Those setting choices can be made by typing chrome://settings/fonts into the address bar in Chrome. The choices will apply as the default wherever you go in with Chrome.

You can zoom-in or zoom-out on individual pages in Chrome by simply holding the control key then tapping the “+” key on a Windows or Chromebook keyboard or by holding the command key then tapping the “+” key on a Mac keyboard.

There are Chrome extensions that offer read-aloud capabilities. Read & Write for Chrome is one of the most popular ones for use in school settings. Other accessibility extensions can be found at

Improve the Accessibility of Your Slideshows

Automatic Subtitles for Your Live Presentations
Both PowerPoint and Google Slides offer automatic subtitling tools that you can use when presenting to an audience.

In Google Slides the subtitles appear at the bottom of your screen when you are in full-screen presentation mode. You can enable subtitles by entering presentation mode then hovering your cursor over the lower-left corner of your slides to make the subtitles option appear. This short video provides a demonstration of how to enable subtitles in Google Slides.

PowerPoint gives you the choice of having subtitles appear at the top or bottom of the screen when you are using the full-screen presentation mode. The process of enabling subtitles is slightly different depending upon whether you’re using the web browser version or desktop version of PowerPoint. In both versions the subtitles options are found by choosing the “slideshow” menu. This video demonstrates subtitles in the browser version of PowerPoint and this video demonstrates subtitles in the desktop version of PowerPoint.

Add Alt Text to Your Slides
Alt text, short for alternative text, is text that you can add to images and videos to describe what they are and or what they contain. Adding alt text can make your slideshows accessible to people who use screen readers. The alt text describes what is in a picture, chart, or video that is included in a slide. PowerPoint, Keynote, and Google Slides all provide options for adding alt text to your presentations.

To add alt text to images or videos in Google Slides simply right-click on the image or slide to which you need to add alt text. The menu that appears when you right-click on the image or video will include an alt text option where you can then write a title and description for the image or video. This video provides a demonstration of how to add alt text to Google Slides.

You can add alt text to PowerPoint slides by right-clicking on an image in your slides. One of the options that appears when you right-click on an image in PowerPoint is “edit alt text.” Select that option then write your description of the image.

Keynote users can add alt text to images by selecting an image on a slide which then opens a panel on the right-hand side of the slide. In that panel select the image tab then add your alt text in the description box that appears at the bottom of the screen.

Improve YouTube Video Accessibility

YouTube can be a great source of educational videos to either display in your classroom or have students watch on their own. Fortunately, YouTube offers some easy ways to improve the accessibility of the videos that you use in your instruction.

Enable and Customize Captions Display
You can enable captions on any YouTube video by clicking on the little “CC” icon in the lower-right corner of any video that you’re viewing. This will turn on the automatically generated captions for any spoken words in the video you’re viewing. The default size, style, and color of the automatic captions on a YouTube video may not work for every viewer. If that’s the case for you or your students, you can adjust how the captions are displayed. To adjust the captions display click on the small “gear” icon in the lower-right corner of the video that you’re viewing. Once you click that icon you’ll be able to select “subtitles/CC.” Within that menu there is an “options” menu that you can click on to select the size, style, and color of the captions display. This video will walk you through the process of customizing the display of the captions on YouTube videos.

Edit the Captions on Your Videos
If you’re making original videos for your students to watch, when you upload those videos to YouTube they will be automatically captioned. However, the automatic captions are not always accurate. For example, my last name is always captioned as “Bern” instead of it’s proper spelling of Byrne. You can edit the automatic captions. I’ve outlined the caption editing process in this video.

This post was an excerpt from an update that I'm writing for The Practical Ed Tech Handbook.

How to Find Historical Comics and Create Lessons With Them

A couple of weeks ago I got an email from Docs Teach that featured the idea of creating history lessons that incorporate historical comics. That email sent me to Docs Teach where there is a small collection of historical comics. Since Docs Teach is a project of the U.S. National Archives all of the comics have a record locator that can be clicked to take you into the National Archives' online catalog. It was there that I started to dig into browsing through hundreds of records containing comics and comic books. In the following video I demonstrate how to use the National Archives' online catalog to locate historical comics.

Any document that you find in the National Archives, including comics, can be uploaded to Docs Teach where you can then build online activities for your students to complete online. In this video that I published a few months ago I demonstrate how to create activities on Docs Teach.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Two Neat Polling Tools That I Recently Recommended

I get a lot of questions from readers. I try to answer all of them. Those that I think have a broad appeal I turn into blog posts and or include in my podcast. Earlier this week I received a question from a reader who was looking for suggestions for polling tools that her students can use on mobile devices. I could have recommended Google Forms which does work on mobile devices, but my hunch was that she was looking for something a little different than that. So I suggested trying Acquainted and

Acquainted is different from your typical multiple choice polling tools. Acquainted is a conversational polling tool. What that means is people who take your poll can get an instant response from you based on their poll choices. Your responses are written into Acquainted and programmed to appear to poll respondents as they make answer choices. Watch my demo below then read on for how I think it could be a great tool for self-paced review activities. is a polling tool that I featured as the Practical Ed Tech Tip of the Week in early November. Slido offers a Google Slides add-on that works in conjunction with a Chrome extension of the same name. When combined these tools let you add survey and multiple choice questions to your existing Google Slides presentations. Students respond to the survey questions by entering a Slido code on their phones or laptops. Watch my video below to see how Slido works.

A New Version of Easy Accents for Google Docs

Easy Accents is a Google Docs and Google Slides add-on that I've been using and recommending for years. This morning I went to use the add-on in Google Docs and noticed that there was a little message informing users to install a new version of Easy Accents. The new version works the same way as the old one. According the message from the developer, the reason for the change was a project hosting migration.

Easy Accents for Google Docs and Google Slides provides users with a virtual keyboard that makes it easy to write letters with accent marks in their documents and slides. Rather than having to remember a set of keyboard combinations to create accent marks, you can just pick from a list on a virtual keyboard within Docs or Slides. Easy Accents supports twenty-six languages and offers math symbols. Watch the following video to see how easy it is to use Easy Accents. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Three Google Sites Updates to Note

Right after I finished writing a blog post about how my students are using Google Sites as digital portfolios I jumped into Feedly and found three announcements from Google regarding Google Sites. One of the updates my students will like, one I'll like, and the third is one that someone will like although I'm not sure who. (Note, theses all apply to the current version of Google Sites and not the classic version). 

More Customization Options
Over the next week or so Google Sites users will start to see options to add captions to images in their embedded image carousels, will see more options for buttons on their sites, and will have new table of contents design options. My students will like these updates because it will give them more creative control over their sites. Read more about these updates here

Version History 
The old version of Google Sites included a version history function that could be used to see changes to sites over time much like version history in Google Docs. That function is finally going to be added to the current version of Google Sites in 2020. This will be great for seeing changes over time to site. This feature won't be available until March at the earliest. Read more about it here.

Cloud Search
Cloud Search is a feature that will let users add a new search tool to their sites. Rather than just having in-site search Google Sites will soon be able to have a search tool that can be placed anywhere on the site. Cloud Search will include search capabilities similar to what you'd find with a standard Google search. Read more about it here.