Saturday, August 29, 2020

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good evening from Maine where we had a cold and rainy late August day. It was a good day for making cookies (oatmeal chocolate chip) and watching Winnie the Pooh with my kids. After a long first week back at school, it was the kind of day that I needed.

I didn't have students in my classroom this week. This week was all about getting my classroom organized for social distancing, re-imaging computers, and rebuilding the network for my classroom. And we had a few meetings too. As I Tweeted earlier this week, our staff meetings are happening outside and some folks are bringing camp chairs to them. If there's an upside to our "new normal" it's that we're getting outside more often during the school day.

These were the most popular posts of the week:
1. Three Ways for Students to Join Google Classroom
2. Getting Started With Flipgrid - Teacher & Student Views
3. Tools for Displaying YouTube Videos Without Distractions
4. The Five Things I've Been Asked About the Most at the Start of the New School Year
5. ICYMI - Get Your Free Copy of the 2020-21 Practical Ed Tech Handbook
6. How to Use Remind to Send Messages to Multiple Classes at the Same Time
7. How to Use Nicknames in Google Meet - And Why You Should Try It

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 28,000 people subscribe to my YouTube channel for my regular series of tutorial videos including more than 400 Google tools tutorials.  
  • Facebook - The FreeTech4Teachers.com Facebook page has more than 460,000 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.

How to Increase the Chances of Your Students Actually Watching Your Instructional Videos

On Friday I gave a couple of presentations at my school about ways to improve the chances that students actually watch the entirety of the videos that we share with them. Some of the ideas that I shared apply to videos that you make and some of the ideas apply to videos that you find online. In total there were five key points in my presentation. Those points are outlined below.

1. Turn on your camera, elevate it, look at it. 
Even if it's subconsciously, students want to see your face and know that you're there. Turning on your camera, even when making a screencast video, can improve the chances that your students will watch your video and pay attention to it.

Put your camera at eye level or slightly higher. Doing this makes it easier to make eye contact with your camera which makes for a far better viewing experience than looking up at your face. A better viewing experience is going to increase the odds of students watching your video all the way through.

2. Include a call to action. 
At the end of your video, ask your students to do something. That something could be to write a response, record a response (Flipgrid is perfect for that), or to complete some kind of hands-on task. Whatever it is, give students something to do with the information that they've just received from your instructional video.

3. Make playlists in Google Slides/ PowerPoint/ Keynote. 
Whether you're sharing your own videos or videos that you've found online, consider putting them into slides and then sharing the slides with your students. This removes the distracting "related" content on YouTube.

Google Slides users can share their slides full of videos via Google Classroom. After students have the link to view the slides you can still add more videos to the slides and students will see those additions.

4. Use the "go to section based on answer" function in Google Forms. 
You can add videos into your Google Forms and then have students answer questions posted below those videos. If you use, "go to section based on answer" you can require students to answer questions about the videos correctly before moving on to the next section of the form. The process is outlined in this video.

5. Use EDpuzzle.
EDpuzzle is a tool that I used a lot last spring and will probably use a lot this fall to build questions into videos that I share with students. The best feature of EDpuzzle is the option to prevent students from fast-forwarding videos just to get to the questions. Here's an overview of how to use EDpuzzle.

Friday, August 28, 2020

The Science of Cycling and the Tour de France

The Tour de France begins tomorrow, about two months after it was scheduled to begin. As an avid cyclist I enjoy watching it and I find that it provides some neat opportunities for science, health, and physical education lessons. Here are some of my go-to resources for teaching and learning about the Tour de France.

The Science of Bicycles and Bicycling
There is a lot of physics involved in casual bike riding and in racing. Here's a selection of videos that explain the physics of bicycling.

The first time that you ride in a pack of experienced cyclists you'll feel the power of drafting. Besides their incredible fitness and bike handling skills, drafting helps cyclists in the Tour de France move quickly. The following video explains how drafting works.


Minute Physics offers two videos about the physics of bicycles. In How Do Bikes Stay Up? we learn how bikes stay upright, how design and weight influences balance, and why bicycles are difficult to balance in reverse. The Counterintuitive Physics of Turning a Bike explains how we turn bicycles.




The Diet of a Tour de France Racer
I've done some long days on my bike over the years including a double-century ride and at the end I've always felt like I could eat anything in sight. That's because I burned thousands of calories. But even then I didn't burn the 6,000-8,000+ calories that a typical Tour de France racer burns every day of the race.

What does it look like and feel like to eat like a professional cyclist? That's what the Wall Street Journal's Joshua Robinson set out to discover in his 6,000 calorie challenge. Take a look at the video below to see how he did it. Pay attention to the professional cyclist at the 2:40 mark in the video for commentary about energy gels because it surprise you and make you rethink the whether or not the average weekend warrior needs the expensive "sports energy" products for a simple hour workout.


If you want to get into a bit more of the science of nutrition of cyclists, take a look at this video featuring the team nutritionist for EF Education First's professional cycling team.


Back-to-School Email Tips & Reminders

Every year at this time I share some cute videos intended to help students understand proper email etiquette. This year those lessons are going to be more important than ever as we're all likely to get more email from students than ever before. Here are some tips and reminders to make everyone's use of email a little bit better.

IT Support is Done by Humans
I know that this fall many teachers are being forced to use technology in new ways that are pushing the boundaries of their comfort zones. That said, when you email your IT support person this fall remember that he or she is a real person who is probably grossly underpaid for his/her skill set. Say thank you when they fix your problem or otherwise help you, it goes a long way.

Emailing Your Teacher, With Captain Communicator is my favorite video about email etiquette. The short video features two students demonstrating how to write an email to a teacher. The students remind viewers of the importance of using a proper greeting and closing. It's cute and well worth 90 seconds of your time.

Email Etiquette for Students was made by a teacher. I've used and shared this video for years.



Common Craft offers a video titled Clear Communication in Email. It is a good video about how to get a recipient's attention and get a recipient to reply. A couple of small things go a long way toward getting better responses or even a response at all.



This week's Practical Ed Tech Newsletter featured a bunch of time-saving tips for the new school year. One of those tips included using smart replies and email templates. Watch this video to learn how to do those things and more.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Getting Started With Flipgrid - Teacher & Student Views

In the last month I've shared videos about how to make split screen videos in Flipgrid and how to make whiteboard videos in Flipgrid. It was pointed out to me, in the form of a reader request, that those are great features once you know how to use the basics of Flipgrid. To help people get started with Flipgrid, I made the following video.

I think it's important to understand what students see when they use a tool that you've assigned to them. For that reason I've included the teacher and student views of Flipgrid in my getting started video that is embedded below.


What is Flipgrid?
In a nutshell, it's a free tool for posting discussion prompts for your students to respond to with short videos that they record directly in the Flipgrid website or Flipgrid app.