Wednesday, January 20, 2021

ReadWorks Adds an Offline Mode for Students

ReadWorks is a non-profit service that I've been recommending for years. It is a free service that provides high-quality fiction and non-fiction articles and lesson plans for K-12 ELA teachers. Every article on ReadWorks is accompanied by a Lexile score and a suggested grade level. Any article that you select will also be accompanied by a list of key vocabulary terms and suggested questions to give to your students.

This week ReadWorks announced a new offline mode for students. This allows students to download articles and assignments while connected to Wi-Fi at school and then use those materials on their laptops, phones, or tablets at places where they don't have Internet access. Here's the official announcement and tutorial that ReadWorks published earlier this week. 

It's important to note that the offline mode in ReadWorks doesn't support the audio or paired videos features that are available in the online mode in ReadWorks.

20,000 Teachers Get Their Ed Tech Tips This Way

About seven years ago I noticed that "too many updates" was the most common reason for people unsubscribing from the emails from this blog. To remedy that I created the Practical Ed Tech Tip of the Week Newsletter. What started out small now has more than 20,000 weekly subscribers. 

The Practical Ed Tech Tip of the Week newsletter features my favorite tip of the week along with a summary of the most popular blog posts from my blogs,, and The newsletter is emailed on Sunday evening/ Monday morning (depending on your time zone). Some of the newsletters include Google Docs and PDFs that aren't published elsewhere. 

Those of you who read via email will be pleased to know that the Practical Ed Tech Tip of the Week email is published manually which means that unlike the daily emails, you can read the entire article in your inbox.

Sign up for the Practical Ed Tech Tip of the Week newsletter right here.

Six Good Tools for Making Multimedia Timelines

Creating timelines has been a staple in history teachers' playbooks since the beginning of history. Writing a timeline is a good way for students to chronologically summarize sequences of events and see how the events are connected. When I was a student and when I started teaching timelines were made on large pieces of paper. For someone with handwriting like mine and a keen interest in history, there was never enough room on even the largest paper to make the timeline look nice. Today's students can make timelines online and not have to worry about running out of space nor are they limited to just having text on their timelines. 

These are my go-to recommendations for creating multimedia timelines. This list has been updated for 2021 because some of my old "go-to" tools relied on Flash and are no longer available. 

Timeline JS
Timeline JS is a great tool if your school is using G Suite for Education. Timeline JS creates a timeline based on entries made in a Google Spreadsheets template provide by Timeline JS. Your entries can include videos, images, text, and audio recordings. Take a look at this tutorial to learn how to use Timeline JS.  

Flippity Timeline Template
If Timeline JS seems a bit too complicated for your students, offers another way to create a multimedia timeline through a Google Spreadsheet. Simply fill in the blanks in Flippity's timeline template to create a multimedia timeline. In the following video I demonstrate how it works.

Google Slides & PowerPoint
Google Slides and PowerPoint both offer templates for making timelines. Using those templates you can create a timeline that includes text, links, images, and video. One of my most-watched videos is this one about making timelines in Google Slides. You can also make animated timelines with Google Slides by following the directions in this tutorial.

Sutori is a complete multimedia timeline creation service. Students can build timelines that include pictures, videos, and text. As a benefit for teachers, not only can you include media like pictures and videos, you can also include quiz questions in your timeline. So if you wanted to have students view a few events on a timeline and then answer a few comprehension questions, you can build those questions right into the timeline.

Padlet is a tool that I've used for more than a decade to create all kinds of multimedia collages and galleries with students. In the last couple of years Padlet has added a lot of new templates for teachers and students. One of those templates is a timeline template. You can use this template to add events in any date format of your choosing. Padlet supports inclusion of video, audio, image, hyperlinks, and text.

Canva is one of those web tools that the more time you spend with it the more features you discover "hidden" in it. One of those hidden features is the ability to create timelines to save as images and PDFs. Canva has about a dozen timeline templates that you can modify by altering the text size and style, inserting images, and dragging-and-dropping other design elements. Watch the following short video to learn how to create a timeline in Canva.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

My Favorite Chrome Extensions Right Now - And What They Do

It's a fairly regular occurrence that people watch one of my screencast videos and then ask me what all of the extensions are that appear in my Chrome browser. My students often comment on all the extensions that I have installed. To be honest, sometimes I install an extension just to try it out and then forget to uninstall it. But there I do have a handful of Chrome extensions that are my favorites and are in regular use right now. Here they are in no particular order. 

OneNote Web Clipper
I use OneNote for most my bookmarking activities these days. I particularly like using the OneNote web clipper to save entire articles without saving the related sidebar content or headers and footers from a webpage. Here's a little overview of how I use it.

StayFocusd (intentionally misspelled) lets me set time limits for accessing the websites that I'm prone to wasting time on (Facebook, Twitter, and CyclingTips). With StayFocusd installed in Chrome I can set a daily time limit for the sites I tend to waste time visiting. When I reach that time limit I'm blocked from visiting that site for 24 hours. A little countdown timer is shown when I do visit the sites on my list. I wrote a bit more about StayFocusd a couple of years ago when I went on a Facebook faste.

This is one that I just started using last week and I already love it. Mote lets me add voice comments to Google Classroom and Google Docs. It also makes it very easy to add audio recordings to Google Slides. I published a few videos about it on my YouTube channel. You can watch the one about using Mote in Google Slides right here.

Loom and Screencastify
I make the majority of my screencast videos on a Windows 10 computer with Screencast-o-matic's desktop recorder. But when I need to make a screencast on a Chromebook I use either Loom or Screencastify. I publish a comparison of the two here.

Nimbus Screenshot
When I need to create annotated screenshot on a Chromebook, Nimbus Screenshot is the tool that I use. I've been using it for years and it's always worked well. Here's a little overview of how it works.

How to Manage Chrome Extensions
I don't always remember to remove the extensions that I'm not using. I'm going to do it now that I'm thinking about it. From a security standpoint, it's a good idea to remove the extensions that you're not using on regular basis. Here's how to manage Chrome extensions.

How to Quickly Record Audio in Google Slides, Docs, and Classroom

Last week I wrote a short overview of a new Chrome extension called Mote. In that blog post I focused just on the aspect of Mote that lets you record audio in Google Slides. As a slew of people mentioned to me in emails over the weekend, Mote can be used for more than just adding audio to Google Slides. 

Mote is a Chrome extension that can be used to record audio to insert into Google Slides, into Google Documents, and into Google Classroom. In the following videos I provide demonstrations of how to use Mote in all three of those G Suite tools. 

Installing Mote & Using it Google Slides

In this video I demonstrate how to install Mote and how to activate it in your Google account. 

How to record audio in Google Docs.

How to record audio in Google Classroom.