Wednesday, August 11, 2021

How to Set Google Scholar Alerts - Two Options

I've published a few posts about Google Scholar lately because I think it's a valuable research tool that students often overlook or haven't been introduced to. It can be used to conduct research on court cases, inventions and inventors, and all kinds of academic topics. There's one more feature of Google Scholar that students should know how to use. That feature is setting alerts for new material that appears in Google Scholar and matches a predefined search term.

In this new video (embedded below) I demonstrate how to create a library of resources in Google Scholar as well as how to create Google Scholar Alerts that will notify you when new content related to your research appears in Google Scholar.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Great Book Creator Resources to Start the New School Year

Disclosure: Book Creator is an advertiser on This blog post was written by me, Richard Byrne.

Book Creator is a versatile digital publishing tool that I’ve been using and recommending for years. And every school year it seems to get better. This year is not an exception to that pattern as they’ve just launched a great collection of new resources for teachers and students. Let’s take a look at those resources and how you might use them as the new school year begins.

If you're reading this on August 10th, join Book Creator's free webinar at 3pm ET, Creative Digital Citizenship Activities With Book Creator.

Digital Citizenship
As I featured earlier this summer, Book Creator now offers a collection of digital citizenship resources designed to help teach good digital citizenship habits to elementary school students. The books, written by Common Sense Education, teach students to stop and think before clicking or typing, to think about their responsibilities as digital citizens, and how to handle online interactions with friends. All three of the digital citizenship ebooks include audio components as well as activities for students to complete in Book Creator. You can make copies of the books and distribute them to your students in your Book Creator account by following the steps that I outlined in this video.

Copyright Free Images
As part of the announcement about the digital citizenship ebooks, Book Creator reiterated the point that students should learn to respect copyright when it comes to using images in their books. To that end, Book Creator does include an integrated image search tool that returns only copyright-free images for students to use in their work.
Drawings for those who can’t draw
Continuing on the topic of images in Book Creator, autodraw is a cool feature that’s perfect for folks like me. Although I regularly create sketchnotes in my notebook, I will never be confused for an artist. That doesn’t mean I can’t include some good drawings in my Book Creator books. Book Creator’s autodraw will insert premade drawings/ clipart based on what I’m trying to draw. For example, if I’m trying to draw a bicycle and only do so much as a couple of circles connected by a straight line Book Creator’s autodraw will start to suggest some bicycle drawings for me to insert in place of my terrible drawing. Try it for yourself or watch my demo to see how autodraw works.

Digital Portfolios

Book Creator was started as a tool to make it easy for anyone to craft their own multimedia stories. It is still my go-to tool for that. But Book Creator is increasingly becoming a popular tool for creating digital portfolios. So much so that Book Creator now offers a digital portfolio template for students to use.

In their back-to-school announcement Book Creator mentions three ways to approach managing student portfolios. My preferred approach is to have each student maintain their own portfolio rather than have a section within a class portfolio. I prefer that arrangement for two reasons. First, it eliminates a chance of one student’s work being affected by another. Second, it’s easier to share with parents at the end of the semester or school year. Of course, there is never a one-size-fits-all recommendation so I’d encourage you to take a look at Book Creator’s blog post and decide which option is best for your situation.

Get to Know Each Other Through Book Creator
The final aspect of Book Creator’s recent back-to-school announcement that deserves attention are the back-to-school and Empower the Learner Profile templates. The back-to-school templates are designed to help you get to know each other through the creation of things like a personal coat of arms, a “hopes and dreams” page, and an “all about me” page. I’d use those templates just like my students so that they can learn about me and I can learn about them.

The Empower the Learner Profile template is a little different than the back-to-school template. This is a one-page profile that students complete. Before giving that template to your students, I recommend reading this short ebook that explains the components of the profile and how they impact students.

Free Webinars!

Book Creator is hosting three free webinars this month.

How to Create Task Reminders in Gmail and Google Keep

 As the new school year approaches we'll all, teachers and students, have goals to do something better this year. If one of those goals is to do a better job of keeping track of homework assignments and other tasks, Google Keep and Gmail have some built-in tools that can help you reach that goal.

Add to Tasks in Gmail makes it easy to quickly add an item to your Tasks list and keep the context of the email connected to the task. The Task will appear in the sidebar of Gmail as well as on your personal Google Calendar. I find the combination of those two things to be tremendously useful in keeping track of tasks that are related emails that I send and receive.

How to Manage Tasks in Gmail

Adding an item to a Tasks list in Gmail can be a good way for students to set reminders for themselves about upcoming assignment due dates. While Google Classroom does provide an option to see assignments on their Google Calendars, some students might prefer to set reminders or advance the due date for themselves. Tasks makes it easy for students to create those reminders.

Google Keep task reminders
In Google Keep you can create task reminders that are time-based and location-based. I use the location based reminders to remember to ask my daughters' preschool teachers questions when I drop them off at school because sometimes I'm a bit rushed and will forget to ask if the alert doesn't pop-up on my phone. The time-based reminders are great for things that aren't location dependent like remembering to write a blog post about using Google Keep reminders. Both Google Keep reminder features are demonstrated in the videos below.

Create Bookmarks & Reminders in Google Keep

Create Location-Based Reminders in Google Keep

Monday, August 9, 2021

How to Use Google Drive to Create a B-Roll Gallery for Your Classroom

The best way to have students avoid accidentally using copyrighted images or videos in their own projects is to use media that they've created themselves. One of the strategies that I frequently recommend to teachers as a way to help students avoid any copyright issues in their work is to use media from a classroom b-roll gallery. You can build this gallery by having students contribute pictures, video clips, and sounds to a shared Google Drive folder. In the video below I demonstrate how to create a shared Google Drive folder.

Even if you do create a b-roll gallery for your classroom, there will still be times that you and or your students need to search the web for images and videos to re-use. In this short video I provide an overview of a few good ways to do that.

Three Time-saving Email Tips for Teachers

Like most people I have a love-hate relationship with my email inbox. Over the years I've tried all kinds of tricks and tools to try to handle my inbox more efficiently. What I've found is that those tricks and tools only work if I also use a time-blocking strategy to decide to clear my inbox (something I only started doing after reading Cal Newport's Deep Work for the second time). Once I have my time block in place then the following tools help me work through my inbox in a relatively efficient manner. 

Message Templates/ Canned Responses
Gmail and Outlook will let you create message templates that you can quickly use as responses to emails or as the basis of an entirely new email. This video will show you how to use Canned Responses in Gmail. Outlook users can create canned responses to use to answer frequently asked questions in your inbox. Here’s a good video overview of how to create and use canned responses in Outlook.

Email Filtering
Not every email needs an immediate response. Not every email needs to be stored in your primary inbox where it clutters and distracts from the task at hand. Create email filters to organize and prioritize the messages landing in your inbox. This video and this video will show you show how to create filters in Gmail and other Google Workspace email accounts. Outlook users, this video is a good place for you to start to learn about using filters and folders.

Schedule Outgoing Email
Let's say it's Thursday evening and you're working on a list of reminders to send to students and or parents for the following week. If you send it that evening, you'll be getting replies all weekend which you can either reply to or ignore until Monday morning. There's a better option. That option is to schedule those reminder emails to not be sent until Sunday night or Monday morning. Here's my video about how to do that.

Outlook users can also schedule emails to be sent at a later date. Here's a great tutorial on how to do that.