Sunday, August 8, 2021

Short Lessons on Geothermal Energy and Volcanoes

Iceland is one my favorite places to visit. (I hope to take my daughters there to hike and camp when they're a bit older). That's why I was excited to see a new TED-Ed lesson about Iceland released last week. To say the lesson is about Iceland doesn't tell the whole story. It's really about why there is so geothermal energy harnessed and used in Iceland. 

Iceland's Superpowered Underground Volcanoes is a TED-Ed lesson that explains what geothermal energy, how geothermal energy plants work, and why Iceland is a leader in the use of geothermal energy. The full video and accompanying lesson questions can be seen here.  

National Geographic's Volcanoes 101 explains the types of volcanoes, their shapes, common locations, and what causes volcanoes to erupt.

Applications for Education
Both of these videos are the right length and have the right style and pacing to make them an excellent candidates for a flipped lesson intended to introduce the big concepts connected to volcanoes and geothermal energy. My go-to tool for making flipped lessons continues to be EDpuzzle. You can learn how to use EDpuzzle by watching the video that is embedded below.

Nimbus Screenshot - Scrolling Annotated Screen Captures

Nimbus Screenshot is a free Chrome extension that I've been using and recommending for the last half-decade. It offers tools for creating screencast videos and annotated screen capture images. Nimbus Screenshot includes a feature called Select & Scroll that proved to be very handy to me last week. Select & Scroll lets you capture not only what is currently visible on your screen but also what's visible when you scroll downward.

I've been working on a project over the last few weeks that has required me to create a lot of annotated screen images. I'm making those as visual aids for explanations. On Friday I had an instance in which I needed to annotate something at the top and bottom of a screen. Unfortunately, what was at the bottom was only visible when scrolling downward. I could have taken two screen captures then merged them together. The easier option was to use Nimbus Screenshot's Select & Scroll feature. After using Select & Scroll to capture my screen I was then able to use all of Nimbus Screenshot's editing tools to adding circles, arrows, and text to my captured image. That was a lot easier than trying to merge two screen captures together.

I use Nimbus Screenshot in Chrome, but it is also available for Firefox, and Edge. A desktop version is also available. In the following video I demonstrate how to use Nimbus Screenshot to create annotated screen capture images.

Applications for Education
When explaining to students how to use a new tool it is often easier to show with them with a screen capture than it is to write out an explanation. An annotated screen capture can also be useful in highlight errors or highlighting good things in a students' work.

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.