Saturday, November 21, 2020

The Week in Review - It's Feeling Like Winter

Good morning from Maine where it certainly felt like winter this week. We had snow flurries every morning and some afternoons this week. My bike riding has become an indoor activity. And all the leaves have fallen from the trees except for some stubborn oak leaves. 

This week my school was 100% remote, again. While I feel comfortable teaching online I know that a lot of my colleagues and readers here don't feel the same way. If you have a question for me about teaching online classes, please feel free to email me. 

As I do every week, I've compiled a list of the most popular posts of the week. Take a look and see if there's something interesting and helpful in it for you. 

These were the week's most popular posts:
Professional Development Opportunities 
Through Practical Ed Tech I'm currently offering two on-demand learning opportunities: 
Thank you for your support! 
  • More than 300 of you have participated in a Practical Ed Tech course or webinar this year. Those registrations help keep Free Technology for Teachers and Practical Ed Tech going. I couldn't do it without you!
  • Pixton EDU is a great tool for creating comics and storyboards. 
  • Wakelet is a great tool for making collections of resources, recording video, and more!
  • GAT Labs offers a great, free guide to using Google Workspaces in online classrooms.  
Other Places to Follow Me:
  • The Practical Ed Tech Newsletter comes out every Sunday evening/ Monday morning. It features my favorite tip of the week and the week's most popular posts from Free Technology for Teachers.
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  • I've been Tweeting as @rmbyrne for thirteen years. 
  • The Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page features new and old posts from this blog throughout the week. 
  • And if you're curious about my life outside of education, you can follow me on Instagram or Strava.

Friday, November 20, 2020

How to Make Digital Thanksgiving Thankfulness Turkeys

The switch to online and hybrid classes presents lots of challenges and requires changing the way that we have done some of our "old standby" activities. For example, this morning I received an email from a reader who was looking for some ideas on how do a digital version of the classic Thanksgiving Thankfulness Turkey project in which students add feathers to a drawing of turkey and each feather has something they're thankful for written on it. 

My suggestion for creating a digital version of the Thankful Turkey was to use a combination of Pixabay and Google Drawings. I made this short video to illustrate how that process would work. 

Alternatives to Google Expeditions

Last week's announcement from Google that Google Expeditions will be discontinued in 2021 was disappointing news for many of us. Since then I've answered a handful of questions from people who are looking for alternatives to using the Google Expeditions app. Here's a summary of what I've been saying and suggesting to those looking for an alternative to the Google Expeditions app. 

Don't Rush
The Expeditions app will still function until the end of June, 2021. So if you are currently using it, you don't have to replace it this school year. You have about seven months to search for and test alternatives to the Google Expeditions app. 

Google Arts & Culture
The Google Arts & Culture app includes many of the experiences that are present in Google Expeditions. The one thing that you can't do is guide students on tours. They're on their own to find and navigate through the tours that you want them to see. 

Sites in VR
Sites in VR is a free app that features immersive imagery of notable landmarks around the world. The imagery can be viewed in VR headsets or without them. Unfortunately, there is not any audio accompanying the views in Sites in VR. 

National Geographic
National Geographic's YouTube channel has more than 50 videos that are designed to be watched in virtual reality. In fact, you can find lots of YouTube videos that are intended for viewing in VR by simply refining your search to 360 or 180 VR in YouTube's search filters. See my screenshot below for more information about that. 

A 15 Second Video Contest for Students

The New York Times is hosting a video contest called the 15 Second Vocabulary Video Challenge. The contest is open to middle school and high school students. The contest asks students to produce a fifteen second video about one of the words from The New York Times Learning Network's word-of-the-day list (link opens a PDF). The video should define or teach the meaning of one of the words in fifteen seconds or less. 

Entries into the 15 Second Vocabulary Video Challenge have to be uploaded to YouTube and listed as public or unlisted videos. Teachers and or parents can upload submissions on behalf of their students. Directions for making submissions are available here. Students can work individually or in groups, but can only make one submission in total. The deadline for submissions is December 15th. Complete rules can be found here.

One of the rules of the contest is that any background music or sound effects music must be licensed for re-use and credited. Mixkit, which I reviewed earlier this year, is a good place to find music and sound effects that are labeled for re-use. More good sources of free music and sound effects are listed in the free Practical Ed Tech Handbook

Have your students take a look at the winners of last year's 15 Second Vocabulary Video Challenge to get some inspiration to participate in this year's contest. 



H/T to Larry Ferlazzo.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

How to Use and Adjust Grid View in Google Meet

In my unofficial tech support role at my school I get asked a lot of questions. Now that we're back to 100% online teaching and learning those questions are coming as emails instead of as "hey Richard" questions in the hallway. One of the questions I got this morning was about viewing all students in an online meeting. This is much easier to do in Google Meet now than it was last spring. I made this short video to show how to enable and adjust the grid view in Google Meet so that you can see all participants on one screen.