Monday, December 7, 2020

Five Key Features of Making Comics in Canva

Last week Canva introduced new comic strip creation templates. There has long been tools for making comics in Canva, but now Canva is offering templates specifically for making comics. Canva's comic gallery contains templates for making comics in a variety of layouts and formats. All of the templates can be customized to your heart's content. 

If you are a current Canva for Education user, you may already know that your students can now collaborate online on any graphics. That's just one of the many good features available when making comics in Canva. In this video I demonstrate how to create comics in Canva and outline five key features of creating comics in Canva. 

Five Key Features of Making Comics in Canva

  • Online, real-time collaboration on comic strips. 
  • Customize hundreds of pieces of artwork/ drawings/ clip art. 
  • Customize the size, spacing, and number of frames per comic. 
  • Publish comics as stand-alone websites. 
  • Publish comics as PDFs and images. 


Applications for Education
In my Practical Ed Tech Newsletter I outlined five ideas for incorporating comic strip creation into your classroom. Those ideas included illustrating vocabulary words, illustrating favorite stories, creating timelines, making digital greeting cards, and illustrating original writing. 

Saturday, December 5, 2020

The Week in Review - Here Comes the Snow!

Good morning from Maine where, if the weather forecast is correct, by this time tomorrow my cleanly raked lawn will be covered in a foot of fresh snow. It sure feels like it's going to snow. I'm looking forward to doing some sledding and making snowmen with daughters. I'm not looking forward to shoveling. I hope that you also have something fun that you're looking forward to this weekend. 

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. City Walks - Hear and See Cities Around the World
2. Twelve Free Apps for Math Instruction
3. Write on PDFs in Google Classroom - Good Tool for Math
4. Three G Suite/ Google Workspaces Updates to Note
5. Inexpensive Equipment to Improve Online Meetings
6. Dozens of Bell Ringers to Start Your Social Studies Lessons
7. Three Ways to Create Online Forms to Collect Samples of Your Students' Work

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.
  • My YouTube channel has more than 31,000 subscribers watching my short tutorial videos on a wide array of edtech tools. 
  • 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, December 4, 2020

Your Password Isn't as Strong as You Think It Is - And Other Lessons in Cyber Safety

Last night I got an email from a former colleague who I hadn't heard from in a while. The email didn't have a subject line and simply read "Here's the summary for Monday" and a PDF was attached. My Spidey Senses were triggered and I deleted the email without viewing the PDF. Obviously, his old email account was compromised. Unfortunately, this kind of attack works too often which is why nefarious characters keep using them. 

There are at least three lessons to take away from the email that I received last night and the ones like them that land in inboxes everywhere every day. First, if you have an email account that you no longer use, close it. Second, use secure, complex passwords passphrases. Third, if you get an email that you think is suspicious, delete it. 

How Easy It Is To Crack Your Password

This is a video in which Kevin Mitnick explains why your "clever" use of "@" in place of "a" in your password isn't fooling anyone. He demonstrates how quickly hackers can crack passwords and explains why you should use passphrases along with two-factor authentication. 



Beware of Social Engineering
I showed this video, another one featuring Kevin Mitnick, to my networking students a couple of weeks ago and they laughed at how gullible the people were who fell for the social engineering attack. Don't be the security manager from Motorola. 


Kevin Mitnick was one of the most wanted hackers in the world in the 1980's and 1990's. His autobiography, Ghost in the Wires, is a fascinating read for anyone who is interested in the world of hacking. He's now a security consultant for a firm called KnowBe4 and he published The Art of Invisibility which is about how to minimize and protect your digital footprints.

Another Good Word Cloud Generator

A couple of weeks ago I shared an overview of seven good tools for creating word clouds. This week a new word cloud tool was launched on Product Hunt so I gave it a try. The new tool is called Free Word Cloud Generator and it's exactly that, a free word cloud generator. 

Using Free Word Cloud Generator is easy. You simply go to the site, paste in a chunk of text, and then click "visualize." Your word cloud can be downloaded as a PNG or JPEG file. There are options to exclude numbers and special characters from your word cloud. You can also change the font type, color, and display density. 



Applications for Education
Free Word Cloud Generator doesn't require users to register. In fact, there doesn't appear to be an option to register. That should make the tool a little easier for some students to use compared to other word cloud tools. In general, word cloud tools like Free Word Cloud Generator are good for helping students identify the most frequently used words in passages of text they are reading and or writing. In the context of analyzing their own writing word clouds can help students identify words or phrases that they might be using a little too often.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Write on PDFs in Google Classroom - Good Tool for Math

Earlier this week one of my colleagues asked me if there was a way that her students can do free-hand writing on documents that she shares in Google Classroom. She teaches mathematics and was looking for a better option to having students take pictures of handwritten work and uploading it to Google Classroom assignments. My suggestion was to have her students try using a Chrome extension called Lumin PDF.

Lumin PDF is a Chrome extension that enables students to draw on top of PDFs that you open in Chrome. After drawing on the PDF students can save the PDF as a new copy or replace the existing copy of the PDF that was sent to them in Google Classroom.

Here's my video overview of how students can use Lumin PDF to write on PDFs that are assigned to them in Google Classroom.