Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Using a Bicycle as a Generator

This morning I welcomed my new students into my classroom. In talking with one of them I learned that he likes to tinker with old bicycles. As we were talking he mentioned trying to create a power generator with a bicycle. That conversation took us to YouTube where we started looking at videos about using a bicycle to generate electricity. Here are a couple that I thought were worth sharing.

Can You Power a House With a Bicycle?
This is a video produced a few years ago by NPR's Skunk Bear. The answer is no, you can't power a house with a bicycle. The video does a great job of explaining how many bicyclists you would need in order to power an average house for a month.


Homemade Bicycle Generator
This video was produced a few months ago by Backyard Trail Builds (a channel about building bike trails and jumps). What's good about this video is that the producer explained his initial mistakes and how he corrected them. The video is also not so detailed that it doesn't inspire more curiosity about how to improve on the design. When we have time later this year to attempt making a bicycle-powered generator, this will be a video that my students and I reference.

TeacherMade - Quickly Create & Share a Variety of Online Activities

Disclosure: TeacherMade is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com. 

As the new school year begins we’re all trying new things while also trying to maintain some semblance of normalcy. TeacherMade is a new tool that lets you tick both of those boxes. With TeacherMade you can quickly and easily convert some of your favorite “old standby” activities into online activities to share with your students.

TeacherMade is a free service designed by Laura Bresko, a former K-12 school teacher and entrepreneur. According to Laura, “My goal with TeacherMade was to create a way for us to make online worksheets that are easier than Google Slides. We are still in the process of perfecting it, but I think we’re off to a pretty good start!”

You can use TeacherMade to turn your PDFs, Word docs, Google Docs, and pictures into online activities. And if you choose to make your activity a graded one, TeacherMade will automatically score responses for you. I know that, for me, that’s a huge timesaver.

How to Use Online Worksheets with TeacherMade
To get started using TeacherMade you can sign-up with your G Suite account or register with any other email address and password of your choice. Signing up with G-suite is a good idea if you use Google Classroom, because TeacherMade is focusing on creating a deep integration with Google Classroom. Once you’ve done that you’re ready to start creating your first activity.

The best way to discover all that TeacherMade can do is to upload a PDF that has a variety of question types on it. For example, the screenshot below is of a PDF that has a multiple choice question, a fill-in-the-blank question, and an identification question. (Quick tip if you don’t have a PDF: you can quickly create one by using the “download as PDF” option in Google Docs or the “save as PDF” option in Word).

After uploading your PDF worksheet to TeacherMade you’re ready to begin adding question elements to it. Your uploaded PDF will appear in TeacherMade’s activity editor. It is in the editor that you can add ten different question and activity types. To the PDF that is pictured above I added a field for students to fill in the blank, a place for them to select one of the choices in my multiple choice question, and check boxes to the states in the map of the continental United States.

To add elements like text boxes and check boxes to your PDFs simply open the “Insert” menu in the TeacherMade activity editor then choose the type element you want to add. You can then position your chosen activity element on your PDF by clicking and dragging it into place. If you want to change the size of the element you can do that in the same manner that you would resize a picture in a Word doc or Google Doc.

TeacherMade will automatically score your students’ responses if you choose that option. To do that you’ll just need to enter correct answers when you’re adding your question elements to your uploaded PDF.

Question & Activity Types You Can Add in TeacherMade:
  • Multiple Choice
  • Matching
  • Fill-in-the-blank (short answer)
  • Hotspot (students click all that apply)
  • Drop-down menu selection
  • Checkboxes
  • True/false
  • Open answer
  • Fractions and mixed numbers
  • Algebraic expressions

It’s important to note that within the multiple choice and checkboxes menus there is the option to include up to eight answer choices.

Distributing TeacherMade Online Activities to Students
You can preview the student view of the online activities that you make in your TeacherMade account before you give them to your students. I think that’s a key feature because too often the only way to see how a student actually sees an assignment is to create your own “demo student” account.

After previewing your activity you’re ready to assign it to your students. You can do that by distributing it through Google Classroom or by giving students a direct link to your assignment (that’s the option I’d use if I wasn’t using Google Classroom). Students can log into TeacherMade with a Google (G Suite for Edu) account. You can also assign usernames to students for them to use with your activity. Students don’t need to have email addresses to complete a TeacherMade activity if you choose to assign usernames to them.

When you assign an activity to students through TeacherMade you can choose to let them instantly see their scores, instantly see their scores and the correct answers, or you can keep scores hidden until you’ve reviewed them. Speaking of reviewing scores, at any time you can see how much progress your students have made on an assignment. And in terms of progress, you can require students to complete an assignment in one session or you can let them save their progress then return to their assignments at a later time.

Bottom Line
TeacherMade is a promising new service that will make it easy to quickly transition your favorite in-class activities and assessments into online activities and assessments. The fact that your students don’t need email accounts makes TeacherMade suitable for all grade levels.

Monday, September 7, 2020

Create an Online Philosophical Chairs Activity With Jamboard

Last week I got an interesting question from a reader named Chuck. I'm not sure that my answer or the question has broad appeal, but I found it interesting so I made a video about it. Chuck's question was as follows:

I have been struggling to find a tool that I can use to do Philosophical Chairs in a virtual classroom. The discussion/debate part is no problem, what I need is a tool where students can move an avatar or a picture of themselves to a certain area of the screen to indicate their position on a topic. All students need to see the same screen but the only item they can move is their avatar/picture and nobody else's. If you know Philosophical Chairs then you will immediately see what I am talking about. Do you have any ideas for a tool or a platform that could do this?

I didn't know of a tool that was made specifically for hosting online philosophical chairs activities, but I did think that using Google's Jamboard is one possible solution.


It's important to note that Jamboard won't prevent a student from moving a classmate's avatar so this is a solution that will only work if you can get your kids to respect the rules of the activity. If that's a problem for your students then you might want to try using Padlet as suggested by Rushton Hurley in our latest episode of Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions & Share Cool Stuff.

An Easy Way to Make a Stop Motion Video


Disclosure: Cloud Stop Motion is currently an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com.

Cloud Stop Motion is a free tool for creating stop motion videos in your web browser. I wrote about Cloud Stop Motion back in February when it was relatively new. Since then some helpful updates have been made it. The most significant of those updates is the option to upload pictures to use in your video instead of just relying on capturing images with your computer's webcam. In the following video I demonstrate how you can create a stop motion video with Cloud Stop Motion.



Applications for Education
Cloud Stop Motion offers free accounts for schools. The free school accounts provide 2GB of storage for every student. The school accounts also provide tools for administrators to manage student accounts.

Cloud Stop Motion could be a great tool for students to use to create short videos to animate stories they've written by using toys or clay models. Making a stop motion video is also a good way for students to demonstrate the steps of a long process in a short window of time.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good morning from Maine where it is a lovely morning filled with cool air just before sunrise. Sunrise is getting noticeably later these days as summer winds down. Red and orange leaves are starting to appear on the ground around my house.

Earlier this week my youngest daughter brought me the red/ orange leaf in the picture in this blog post. She's quite the little explorer. We're going to do a little exploring in the woods around our house today. I hope that you have something equally fun planned for this weekend.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. How to Increase the Chances of Your Students Actually Watching Your Instructional Videos
2. Getting Started With Flipgrid - Teacher & Student Views
3. How to Use Remind to Send Messages to Multiple Classes at the Same Time
4. Google Updates and Simplifies Finding Creative Commons Licensed Images
5. Three Ways for Students to Join Google Classroom
6. How to Use Google Drive to Comment on Videos
7. An Overview of the New Google Images Search Options

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.