Monday, July 6, 2020

Three Alternatives to Smore

Over the weekend I answered an email from a reader who was looking for an alternative to using Smore to create online posters and newsletters to share with teachers and parents. Smore is great for some people, but it can get a little too pricey for some people. Here are a few alternatives to using Smore to create online posters and newsletters.

ConvertKit is the service that I use for my Practical Ed Tech Newsletter. ConvertKit offers some nice templates for formatting your emails. I don't use those templates because I prefer to send plain text email, but it's nice to know that I could use those templates. The real reason that I use Convert Kit is because I can easily create different segments within my mailing list to send personalized emails to different groups within my mailing list. That function could be useful to schools who want to send different personalized emails to parents based on the grade that their children are in. ConvertKit has a free plan that allows you to have up to 1,000 people on your mailing list, use all of the templates, and send as many emails as you like.

Canva doesn't offer a mailing list component, but it does offer lots of templates for making online posters and simple webpages to announce events. Once you've published your poster or page, you can email the link to it or post it on your LMS. Here's a video about how to use Canva to create and publish a multimedia poster.


Adobe Spark, like Canva, offers an easy way to design and publish simple webpages to use for announcements and updates to share with your school community. One of the things that I like about Adobe Spark is that you can share your designs directly into Google Classroom. Here's my short video on how to use Adobe Spark to create simple webpages.

How to Create Your Own Online Board Game

Those of you who have followed my blog for a while probably know that Flippity is one of my go-to recommendations for anyone looking to make games, flashcards, and timelines with Google Sheets. Recently, Flippity introduced a new template for making your own online board game through Google Sheets.

With Flippity's new board game template you can create a game that includes up to eight players, has up to three dice to roll, and interactive game squares. You game can also include videos, pictures, Google Drawings, and graphs. And your students can play your game without an email address or having to create any kind of online account. Take a look at my short video below to see how you can create and play your own online board game.


Key points from the video:

  • You can customize the player markers and use pictures instead of the default markers. 
  • You can include pictures in each game square. 
  • You can use up to three dice in your game. 
  • You can have each square on the board give a different direction or prompt. 
  • Your deck of cards can include videos, pictures, links, and graphs. 
Applications for Education
Flippity's new board game template could be great for developing a fun review activity for your students to play in your online or in-person classroom. If you were to have students use it remotely, I might have one student screenshare it via Google Meet or Zoom and then move the pieces for each player. Since you can link to just about anything in the game cards, I'd put links to digital flashcards where students have to answer a question correctly in order to advance on the game board. 

Saturday, July 4, 2020

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good morning from Maine where it is a cool and overcast start to the Fourth of July. It has rained almost all week and that's okay because we needed the rain. I also didn't mind the rain because I was inside all week working on a big project. Now that the weekend is here, I plan to relax a bit and I hope that you do too.

Next week I'm hosting the second session of the Practical Ed Tech Virtual Summer Camp. If you'd like to join us, there is still time to register.

These were the most popular posts of the week:
1. 7 New Google Meet Features for Teachers
2. 5 Google Classroom Features You Might Have Overlooked or Forgotten
3. How to Work With PDFs in Google Classroom
4. How to Turn PowerPoint and Google Slides Into Narrated Videos
5. How to Record a Screencast With Flipgrid
6. An Easy Way to Overlay Historical Maps on Google Earth
7. Use Whiteboards in Google Meet Without Screensharing

Two PD Opportunities in July
The Practical Ed Tech Virtual Summer Camp will be held two more times this summer. Register here for the July session of your choice.

In two weeks I'll be hosting Teaching History With Technology. This is a five part course designed to help you develop new ways to create engaging history lessons and projects. Register now and use the discount code THWT2020.

This summer I'm working with a handful of schools and organizations to develop online professional development for teachers. If you'd like to work with me, please send me a note at richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com to learn more about how we can work together.

Thank You for Your Support!
Other Places to Follow My Work
Besides FreeTech4Teachers.com 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 it includes my tip of the week and a summary of the week's most popular posts from FreeTech4Teachers.com.
  • My YouTube Channel - more than 25,000 people subscribe to my YouTube channel for my regular series of tutorial videos including more than 350 Google tools tutorials.  
  • Facebook - The FreeTech4Teachers.com Facebook page has more than 450,000 followers. 
  • Twitter - I've been Tweeting away for the last thirteen years at twitter.com/rmbyrne
  • Instagram - this is mostly pictures of my kids, my dogs, my bikes, my skis, and fly fishing.

Friday, July 3, 2020

How to Use Kahoot With Google Classroom

We're halfway through 2020. This week I'm taking some time off from the blog to work on some other projects. The rest of this week I'm going to re-run some of the most popular posts and videos of the year so far.

May is a time when many of us are looking for fun ways to conduct end-of-year review sessions with our students. That's why in May of this year I published a video about how to use Kahoot in Google Classroom. Playing Kahoot quiz games is one of the most popular means of doing that. Kahoot games are fun to play in a classroom and you can also use them for remote learning activities by using the "challenge" mode.

The challenge mode in Kahoot enables you to assign games to your students to play at home on their schedule. There are many ways that you can distribute the challenges to your students. If you're a Google Classroom user, you can distribute your challenges through your Classroom just like you would any other announcement or assignment. Your students then just click on the link to your Kahoot game to start playing it.

In the following video I demonstrate how to distribute Kahoot games through Google Classroom and how students can play those games right from the Announcements stream in Google Classroom.

How to Encourage the Use of Complete Sentences in Google Forms Responses

We're halfway through 2020. This week I'm taking some time off from the blog to work on some other projects. The rest of this week I'm going to re-run some of the most popular posts and videos of the year so far.

In early May I held an informal webinar for a small group of people who were interested in learning some G Suite tips and tricks. Response validation in Google Forms was one of the things that I demonstrated toward the end of that webinar. Response validation in Google Forms lets you specify a minimum number of characters that students have to enter in order for their responses to be accepted by your Google Form.

By using response validation in Google Forms you can encourage students to keep writing if they don't write a complete sentence in response to one or more of your questions. Response validation can't enforce a particular sentence structure but it can enforce a minimum sentence length.

In the following video I demonstrate how you can use response validation in Google Forms to encourage students to write complete sentences.