Saturday, February 13, 2021

Music, QR Codes, and Cold - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where we're going to have another cold and snowy weekend. Every morning this week was below zero (Fahrenheit) when I let our dogs out. This morning is the same. Fortunately, it should warm up to about 20F by the middle of day. It'll be nice for a little bit of skiing and then some fun indoor activities like assembling jigsaw puzzles (if our cat can stay off of them). I hope that you also have something fun planned for your weekend. 

This week was another week of 100% online instruction for my high school computer science students. We've now had more online days than in-person days this year. If ever there was a year to illustrate the point that school is much more than just academics, this is the year. My students clearly miss having in-person interactions. I'm trying to make it fun when I can, but it's still not the same as in-person classes. Next week is a vacation week and then we'll be back in-person. I can't wait!

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Video - How to Annotate Your Screen in Google Meet
2. Fun Activities for Snowy Days
3. The Easiest Way to Create QR Codes for Google Forms
4. Musical Explorers World Map
5. How to Edit Master Slides in Google Slides
6. Ten Time-savers for G Suite for Education Users
7. Filters, Captions, and Other Zoom Features You Might Have Missed

Thank you for your support! 
  • More than 300 of you have participated in a Practical Ed Tech course last year. Those registrations help keep Free Technology for Teachers and Practical Ed Tech going. I couldn't do it without you!
  • BoomWriter is hosting a unique creative writing contest for kids. Check it out!
  • Spaces takes a new approach to digital portfolios. Give it a try!
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 33,000 subscribers watching my short tutorial videos on a wide array of educational technology tools. 
  • I've been Tweeting as @rmbyrne for fourteen 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.

Three Easy Ways for Students to Make Short Audio Recordings - No Email Required

Earlier this week I answered an email from a reader who was looking for suggestions for tools that her elementary school students can use to make short audio recordings. Since most elementary school students don't have active email addresses, I suggested some tools that don't require any registration or log-in. In the video included at the end of this blog post I demonstrate how to use the following free tools to create short audio recordings. Those tools are Vocaroo, Online Voice Recorder, and Twisted Wave. 

I've been using Vocaroo for more than a decade. It's incredibly simple to use. Just head to the site, click the record button, and start talking. When you're finished recording hit the stop button. You can listen to your recording before downloading it as an MP3. If you don't like your recording you can create a new one by just refreshing the homepage and starting again.

Online Voice Recorder offers the same simplicity of Vocaroo plus a couple of features that I've always wished Vocaroo had. One of those features is the ability to pause a recording in progress and resume it when I want to. The other feature is the option to trim the dead air at the beginning and end of a recording.

Twisted Wave
Twisted Wave offers many more features than either of the tools mentioned above. But at it's most basic level you can still just head to the site, launch the recorder, start talking, and then export your recording as an MP3 all without creating an account on the site. For those who are looking for a way to save audio directly into Google Drive, Twisted Wave offers that capability. 

Watch this video for a short overview of all three of the services mentioned above. 

Friday, February 12, 2021 - Create Online Whiteboards You Can Share and Monitor

Back in September I wrote a review of a new online whiteboard tool called I like it because it allows teachers to create whiteboards for their students. Teachers can then remotely monitor the whiteboards to see what their students are doing on those whiteboards. It's great for doing things like asking students to solve a math problem and then watch as students work out the solutions on their whiteboards.

Since my initial review of back in September, the folks behind the service have been steadily adding more features to the service. Some of those new features include:

  • More background choices including options for sheet music, lined paper, and graphing paper. 
  • New symbols and clipart including cute alphabet animals. 
  • Templates for flowcharts and mind maps. 
  • Virtual math manipulatives.
  • Recording audio and video notes to add to whiteboards.
  • Inclusion of Microsoft's Immersive Reader to provide read-aloud capabilities. 
Just as before, can be used by you and your students without having to register or sign into an account. You can learn more about how works, including the teacher and student views in my new video about the service. 

See my earlier review of in this video.

ClassTools Wikipedia Timeline Generator - Create and Edit Timelines

Russel Tarr, a history teacher and developer of, recently released a new template called the Wikipedia Timeline Generator. This free tool will take a Wikipedia article and generate a timeline based on that article. That's not all it does. You can edit the entries on the timeline to correct dates, to edit the information associated with the dates, delete entries on the timeline, and add new dates to the timeline. Timelines created with the Wikipedia Timeline Generator can be embedded into web pages and or shared with the unique URL assigned to your timeline.

In this short video I demonstrate how to use the Wikipedia Timeline Generator hosted by ClassTools. 

Applications for Education
The ClassTools Wikipedia Timeline Generator could be a good tool to use to create an easy-to-read summary of a biography or a historical event. I might consider having students use Wikipedia Timeline Generator as a starting point for an assignment in which I ask them to provide more details in each timeline entry or ask them to fact-check the entries in a timeline.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

How to Customize Video Playback in PowerPoint

Whether it's to illustrate a point, to tug at heart strings, or to provide comic relief a good video clip can help move a presentation along. But that's not the case if you have to spend time searching for a segment of a video in the middle of your presentation. That's why you should try to set a specific playback marker when inserting videos into your PowerPoint slides. 

You can customize video playback in PowerPoint when you use videos that are stored on your computer as well as when you use videos that are hosted on YouTube. When you use a video that is hosted on your computer you can specify a start and end time for the video clip. When you use a video that is hosted on YouTube you can specify a start time. If you have the choice between using a video clip that is stored on your computer or one that is hosted on YouTube, use the one that is stored on your computer. In this short video you can see why that matters. 

In this video I demonstrate how to insert videos into your PowerPoint slides and how to customize the playback of those videos.