Saturday, December 12, 2020

The Week in Review - Time to Pick Up Sticks

Good afternoon from Maine where I'm spending some of the day cleaning up from last weekend's snow and ice storm. We had a bunch of branches and one tree snap last weekend. All week long I've been picking up sticks and branches but with another storm in the forecast I'm clearing brush in earnest today. It's not a fun task, but it has to be done. The upside is that it is good exercise. I hope that wherever you are this weekend, you're doing some a little more fun that picking up sticks. 

One thing that I am looking forward to this weekend is watching Mr. D The Gym Teacher on Amazon Prime. It's my new "binge" show. I got a chance to chat with the star of the show yesterday. If you missed that conversation, you can watch the video here

These were the most popular posts of the week:
1. How to Reduce Noise in Zoom Meetings
2. Twelve Free Apps for Math Instruction
3. How to Reduce Noise in Microsoft Teams Meetings
4. How to Share Books in Google Classroom and Google Sites
5. Write on PDFs in Google Classroom - Good Tool for Math
6. Five Key Features of Making Comics in Canva
7. How to Create Freehand Drawings in Google Slides

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 11, 2020

Breakout Rooms in Microsoft Teams

Breakout Rooms is one of the most popular features of Zoom. A similar feature is now available in Microsoft Teams. Just like in Zoom you can assign your students to a specific breakout room or have them randomly assigned to a room. You can breakout and regroup as many times as you like during your meetings. 

A couple of good features of Breakout Rooms in Teams that you should note include the ability for students to use a whiteboard and the ability for students to ask you clarifying questions without disturbing others. During a breakout your students can jump out of the breakout room to ask you a question and you can answer it without having to bring the whole class out of their breakout rooms. 

Mike Tholfsen has a great video demonstration of how to use Breakout Rooms in Microsoft Teams. You can watch that demonstration on his YouTube channel or as embedded below. 

Mix Landscape and Portrait Layouts in Google Docs

If you have ever wanted to use landscape and portrait layouts in the same Google Document, you're going to like the latest announcement from the Google Workspaces blog (Google's official place to announce updates to Google Docs). Starting today and by the end of January all Google Docs users will be able to mix and match portrait and landscape modes within the same document. 

This feature is already available to some users. I haven't seen it in any of my five Google accounts, but I hope to have it soon. You can check if you have the feature by simply opening any multiple page Google Document that you own and then right-clicking on a page to look for a menu that allows you to choose a page layout for a section of your document. Take a look at Google's announcement of this feature to see an animated GIF of the new layout menu. 

Applications for Education
Being able to mix portrait and landscape layouts within the same document could prove to be helpful to students and or teachers who want to include landscape-oriented tables and charts in a document without having to write the entire document in landscape mode. For example, I can think of a few documents that I use in my networking course that would benefit from having diagrams in landscape mode instead of the portrait mode they're in right now. 

On a related note, if you've ever wondered how to change the default font on your Google Docs, follow the directions in this video

A Chat With Canada's Funniest Teacher!

Yesterday I wrote about a new show called Mr. D The Gym Teacher coming to Amazon Prime. This morning I got the chance to talk to the star of the show, Gerry Dee. Gerry was a history and physical education teacher for ten years before his stand-up comedy career took off. We chatted about his teaching experiences and how they contributed to creating a sitcom about teaching that is really enjoyable to watch as a teacher. I was super-excited and nervous to talk with Gerry but I enjoyed it and I hope that you enjoy the recording of our conversation. You can watch it right here on my YouTube channel or as embedded below. 

You can find all eight episodes of Mr. D The Gym Teacher on Amazon Prime in the U.S. right now! If you don't have Amazon Prime, you can get a 30 free trial right here.

Clips of the show are available on Gerry Dee's YouTube channel as well as on the CBC Comedy YouTube channel

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Google Made Some Meet Settings Sticky

Google has steadily added features to Google Meet throughout the fall (spring for my friends in the southern hemisphere). The latest feature is one that should prove to be a time-saver for some teachers. 

The latest update to Google Meet makes some settings "sticky" after you implement them. Now when you disable screen sharing and or chat messages for students in a meeting, that change will apply to future meetings that you host in Google Meet. I like this change because it's just one less thing that I have to think about at the start of a meeting. Of course, if you want to undo the sticky setting you can do that by just re-enabling screen sharing or chat in your next meeting. 

This isn't a huge update, but it should prove to be convenient for many teachers. This update is rolling-out now and should be available to all teachers using G Suite for Education in January. 

If you have colleagues who need an overview of key Google Meet features, please share this video overview of Ten Google Meet Features for Teachers with them.