Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Talking Instead of Reading

It has been nearly fifteen years since I first tried my hand at making instructional videos for my students. The first ones were not good. In fact, in response to one of my first attempts I had a student say "Mr. Byrne, please don't do that again." But I did try again and again and again. When I finally got better at it was when I dropped the script and just started talking into the camera instead of reading into the camera. 

Today when I make videos for my YouTube channel or for my students, I don't have a script at all. Instead, I just have some bullet points in a notebook (yes, a physical notebook) that I refer to while recording. 

I'm sharing this tip today because I'm seeing a lot of people try to make instructional videos for the first time this fall. Similarly, a lot of teachers are using webinar tools extensively for the first time this fall. If you're reading off of a script, your students will tune you out very quickly and or just try to "get the notes" from a classmate without having to watch your video or webinar. Keeping it short and sweet while talking to your students instead of reading to your students can go a long way toward getting them to actually watch your video. 

And don't be afraid to show some personality and or mess-ups. We're teachers, not video producers so don't feel like it has to be perfect every time you publish a video lesson for your students to watch. 

If you want some more tools, tips, and instruction on how to make and teach with video, consider enrolling in A Crash Course in Making & Teaching With Video

Monday, October 12, 2020

Ten Resources for Learning About U.S. National Parks

Last week TED-Ed published a new lesson about national parks. The lesson explains the origins of the U.S. National Parks system and concludes with explanations of the challenges facing national parks managers around the world. The lesson also explains how parks managers try to balance access and conservation while also respecting the rights of indigenous people whose land is often included with national parks. Overall, it's a very interesting lesson that could lead to a lot of good conversations with students. 

Other good resources for teaching and learning about national parks:

The National Parks Service's Digital Image Archive is an excellent place to find images of U.S. National Parks. You can search the archive by park and or subject. All of the images are free to download as they are in the public domain. The National Parks Service also offers a b-roll video gallery. The videos in the galleries are in the public domain. The b-roll video gallery can be searched by park, monument, building, or person. All of the videos can be downloaded. Some files are quite large so keep that in mind if your school has bandwidth limits and you have all of your students searching for videos at the same time.

Google Earth offers a great way for students to view national parks in the United States and beyond. Your students can explore imagery in Google Earth to learn about the topography of a national park. In a lot of cases there is Street View imagery available within national parks and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Your students might also benefit from viewing tours within Google Earth.To locate a tour you can refine a Google search by file type to .KMZ and then launch the tours that appear in your search results.

National Parks virtual tours are available in the Google Arts & Culture apps for Android and iOS. If you have VR headsets available to you, take a look at Google Expeditions virtual tours of the "hidden treasures" of National Parks.

Over the years PBS has produced many videos about the National Parks. You can view some of those videos in their entirety on the PBS video website. Search on the site for "national parks" and you'll have a big list of videos to view. Here's a list to get you started.

The Travel Film Archive is a collection of hundreds of travel films recorded between 1900 and 1970. The films were originally recorded to promote various places around the world as tourist destinations. In the archives you will find films about US National Parks, cities across the globe, and cultural events from around the world. The videos are available on The Travel Film Archive website and on YouTube.

Virtual National Park Bingo is a game that asks players to explore a variety of NPS webpages and external resources to complete the bingo board. One of the bingo squares requires taking a national parks virtual tour. You could do that on the NPS website or head to this Google Earth collection to tour the U.S. National Parks.

The NPS Games and Challenges collection includes games about animals and landmarks within parks, drawing and coloring pages, hands-on projects like making costumes, and virtual scavenger hunts.

The NPS games about animals are fun little guessing games in which students see a baby animal and then have to guess what it will look like when it is grown up. For example, can you tell if this is a baby mountain lion or a baby bobcat? 

The NPS Where the Park Am I? game shows you a 360 image taken within a park and you have to guess which park it was taken in. Go here and see if you can spot Acadia National Park (that's the only National Park in my state).

Practical Ed Tech Webinar - Fun Formative Assessments for Virtual and Hybrid Classrooms

Like many of you, I have to teach students who are online and students who are in my classroom. Sometimes I have to do both at the same time! Getting students to interact and getting a sense of whether or not they’re “getting it” is a challenge in a hybrid or virtual classroom. Tomorrow, at 4pm ET I'm hosting a webinar in which I'll share the tools and techniques that I'm using for formative assessment in my virtual and hybrid classroom.

In Fun Formative Assessments for Virtual and Hybrid Classrooms I’m going to share the tools and techniques that I’m using to get students to interact and to gauge their understanding of the day’s lesson as well as the current unit as a whole.

In this webinar you will learn how to use free tech tools to create and conduct fun, engaging, and informative formative assessments. Whether you teach elementary school, middle school, or high school, you will come away from this webinar with fun formative assessment activities that you can do tomorrow.

Fun Formative Assessments for Virtual and Hybrid Classrooms addresses the needs of teachers who are trying to find new ways to engage students in learning and sharing in virtual and hybrid environments.

Five Things You Can Learn In This Live Webinar:
1. What makes a formative assessment valuable to you while also fun for students.
2. How to create fun formative assessments for virtual and hybrid classrooms.
3. Why you should leverage students’ picture-taking habits for formative assessment.
4. Development of engaging formative assessment activities that use a variety of question formats.
5. How to include students in the creation of formative assessments.


When is it?
  • Live on Tuesday, October 13th at 4pm ET!
  • It will be recorded for those who register but cannot attend the live session.

What’s included?
  • Live webinar
  • Q&A
  • Access to the recording.
  • Certificate


About the cost:
I announce the Practical Ed Tech webinars on this blog because the registrations from the webinars go to keeping the lights on at Free Technology for Teachers. I use GoToWebinar to for hosting the webinars and recordings. GoToWebinar is not cheap, but it is the best webinar platform out there (I've tried them all over the years). And while all the tools featured in the webinars are available for free, my time for teaching isn't free.

Bibcitation - Easily Create Citations in a Wide Variety of Styles

Last week I shared a tutorial on how to use the new citation generator that is built into Google Docs. One of the complaints I've already heard about it is that it only supports a few citation styles. If that's your complaint about it, you might want to try Bibcitation instead. 

Bibcitation is a free tool that I learned about from Larry Ferlazzo. Bibcitation supports dozens of citation styles. To use Bibcitation select the type of resource that you're citing and then enter the requested information. In many cases, just entering the title of a book or a webpage URL will fill-in all of the other required information for you. 

After you have entered into Bibcitation all of the resources that you need to cite, a list of the citations will be generated for you. You can then download all of the citations in your preferred style as a document, as HTML, or as BibTex. 

Applications for Education
Bibcitation could be a great resource for students who need to create citations and bibliographies to include in their research papers or presentations. One thing that some students will need help doing is taking the text from the RTF document that Bibcitation provides and then reformating it to look correct in Word, Google Docs, or another word processing program.

Immersive Reader in Microsoft Forms - Quiz Questions Read Aloud

Over the weekend I read Microsoft's announcement that Immersive Reader will soon be available in PowerPoint ("soon" was left undefined in Microsoft's announcement, that usually means a couple of months). What I also learned from the announcement is that Immersive Reader is now available in Microsoft Forms. Apparently, it has been there for a little while and I've overlooked it. 

Immersive Reader in Microsoft Forms is easy to overlook as it's in a little menu that is easy to overlook. In the header of the Microsoft Form that you're viewing there is small "three dot" menu in the lower-right corner. Click on that menu to enable Immersive Reader. 


Applications for Education
Immersive Reader in Microsoft Forms will read aloud questions and answer choices for students. After reading the questions and answer choices aloud Immersive Reader will prompt students to close Immersive Reader to input an answer. Students have to open and close Immersive Reader for each question on the form. Other than that minor annoyance, Immersive Reader makes Forms accessible to more students.