Saturday, August 7, 2021

Forms, Books, and Red Leaves - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where the first signs of fall appeared this week. Yesterday, while walking past my neighbor's house I stopped dead in my tracks at the sight of two red maple leaves on his lawn. Despite it being 82F and humid while I was walking, those two maple leaves made me think of fall. And if that wasn't enough of a reminder of fall, some of friends outside of New England are starting school next week! I plan to soak up a bit more summer fun before fall gets here. I hope that you do the same. 

This week I hosted the last session of the Practical Ed Tech Virtual Summer Camp. I hope that next year it can return to an in-person format. A big thank you to everyone who registered and attended this year's sessions. Your support helps me keep this little blog going. I couldn't do it without you!

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. A New Google Forms Feature Teachers Have Requested for Years!
2. My Most Popular Tutorials in July
3. Superhero Science Lessons
4. Patent Search and Five Other Google Scholar Features Students Should Know How to Use
5. Five Things Students Should Know About Google Books
6. What is a Default Gateway? - A Concise Explanation
7. How to Create Your Own Online Board Game

On-demand Professional Development
Coming Soon!
  • Every year I release a new version of the Practical Ed Tech Handbook. The 2021-22 version will available later this month. It will be sent to those who are subscribed to my Practical Ed Tech Newsletter before it's available anywhere else. If you're not subscribed, you can subscribe here
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 37,000 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.
This post originally appeared on If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission. Sites that steal my (Richard Byrne's) work include CloudComputin and WayBetterSite. Featured image captured by Richard Byrne.

Friday, August 6, 2021

Add Google's Ngram Viewer to Your List of Research Tools

Google's Ngram Viewer is a search tool that students can use to explore the use of words and names in books published between 1800 and 2019. The Ngram Viewer shows users a graph illustrating the first appearance of a word or name in literature and the frequency with which that word or name appears in literature since 1800. The graph is based on the books and periodicals that are indexed in Google Books.

The Ngram Viewer will let you compare the use of multiple words or names in one graph. The example that I give in this video is to compare the use of the terms "National Parks," "National Forests," and "National Forest Service." By looking at the Ngram Viewer for those terms I can see that they start to appear more frequently around 1890, have a lull in the 1940s and 1950s, and then appear more frequently again in the 1960s. 

Ngram Viewer is based on books indexed in Google Books. That is why below every graph generated by Ngram Viewer you will find a list of books about each of your search terms. Those books are arranged by date. 

A third component of Ngram Viewer to note is that it works with multiple languages including English, French, Chinese, German, Italian, Russian, Hebrew, and Spanish. 

Applications for Education
As I mentioned in the video above, the Ngram Viewer can provide a good way to start a research activity for students. Have them enter a few words then examine the graph to identify peaks and valleys in the frequency of the words' usage. Then ask them to try to determine what would have caused those words to be used more or less frequently at different periods in history.

By the way, the book that I mentioned in the video is That Wild Country by Mark Kenyon. 

How to Find the New Autosave Feature in Google Forms

Earlier this week Google announced the launch of a new autosave feature in Google Forms. As I wrote on Tuesday, teachers and students have been asking for this feature for years. That's why I haven't been surprised by the number of emails that I've gotten this week from teachers asking if they need to do anything to enable autosave and or when the autosave feature will be available. 

The new Google Forms autosave feature is available now in some Google accounts. One of my four accounts has the feature right now. I keep checking my other three accounts in the hopes that they'll soon have autosave as well. The way that I'm checking is by simply creating a new Google Form quiz then looking at the presentation settings for that quiz. If the account has the new autosave feature, there will be a "restrictions" menu that appears in the presentation settings for the quiz. See my screenshot and my video below for more details. 

Thursday, August 5, 2021

15 New Primary Source Activities from DocsTeach

DocsTeach has been one of my go-to places for U.S. History lessons since the day that I first discovered it years ago. Not only does DocsTeach host a large, curated collection of primary source documents it also offers templates for developing online activities about those documents. Additionally, DocsTeach offers hundreds of premade primary source lesson activities. 

Just in time for the start of the new school year DocsTeach has published fifteen new activities for students. The list of new activities includes lessons that are appropriate for elementary school, middle school, and high school students. 

At the top of the list of new DocsTeach activities you'll find Get to Know Your Three Branches of Government. This activity is designed for elementary school and middle school students. In the activity students have to look at primary source images and documents then place them into the branch of government that it relates to. 

A new DocsTeach activity for high school students centers around primary source documents related to the Vietnam War. In The Vietnam War Timeline activity students read the documents then sort them into chronological order from 1956 to 1975. 

A complete list of all of the new DocsTeach activities can be found in their most recent newsletter

On a related note, here's my video overview of how to create and distribute your own primary source activities via DocsTeach. 

How to Use Google Scholar to Find Federal and State Court Rulings

Earlier this week I wrote about and published a video about how to use Google Scholar to research inventions and their inventors. Case law research is a third aspect of Google Scholar that can be helpful to student researchers. 

The case law search function in Google Scholar enables you to find Federal and state cases via keyword search. This is helpful if you’re looking for court rulings on a topic but don’t have a specific case in mind. For example, if I’m researching the development of laws pertaining to the New England lobster fisheries I can enter “lobster fishing” into Google Scholar then search for Federal court cases that include my search term and or search for Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, or Rhode Island state court cases that include “lobster fishing.” (The sixth New England state, Vermont, is unlikely to have any court cases involving lobster fishing because Vermont doesn’t have any ocean coastline).

Once you’ve found a court case related to your search term in Google Scholar you can read the case online within Google Scholar. Additionally, Google Scholar lists other cases that have cited the ruling that you’re currently reading. That provides an easy way to find related cases about your chosen research topic.

A video overview of how to use Google Scholar to locate federal and state court rulings is available here and as embedded below.

This blog post was written by Richard Byrne and originally appeared on Any appearance of this post on other websites is unauthorized. 

Popular Posts