Monday, August 16, 2021

12 Good Places to Find Historical Images to Spark Inquiry

Historical photographs, paintings, sketches, and maps can inspire all kinds of history questions. That is why for more than a decade I’ve used and recommended images from Today’s Document from the National Archives to prompt classroom discussion as the introduction to U.S. and World History lessons. There are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of other similar galleries on the web today. A list of some of my favorites is included below.

Not only are historic photographs, paintings, sketches, and maps useful as discussion starters in a classroom, they’re also useful in prompting fun research questions. An example I shared a few weeks ago is found in asking, what kind of car was Harry Lyon sitting in in this photograph? A modern picture can also be useful to inspire research questions. Case in point, I often use the following picture with the following prompt, “which former Vice President of the United States owned this house?”
Here are twelve good places to find historical imagery to spark inquiry.
The vast majority of the images that you will find in the collections listed above are public domain or Creative Commons-licensed images. That said, you should always double-check the usage rights before downloading any images from the galleries. 

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Five Good Tools for Making Your Own Educational Games and Practice Activities

Making online educational games used to be the domain of those with specialized coding and programming skills. Today, there are free tools that anyone can use to create their own educational games for students. Likewise, there are now some excellent free tools for creating online skills practice and knowledge recall activities to share with your students.

Educandy is a neat service for creating simple vocabulary games and multiple choice trivia games. A convenient aspect of the service is that once you've created a list of vocabulary words it will automatically be applied to multiple game formats for you. In other words, write one word list and you'll get three games that your students can play. Your students can play the games without needing to create an account on the Educandy site. Watch this short video to learn how you can create your own educational games with Educandy.

Flippity is a free service that provides nearly two dozen Google Sheets templates that can be used to create a variety of online games including spelling games, vocabulary games, problem-solving games, and trivia games. The board game template is one of the most popular templates that Flippity provides. That template can be used to create an online board game that is similar in nature to Candy Land or Shoots & Ladders. Watch the video here to learn how to create an online board game with Flippity’s free board game template. has long been one of my favorite places to find free educational games and templates for creating educational games. On ClassTools you'll find templates for creating map-based games, word sorting games, matching games, and many more common game formats. Use the search function on ClassTools to find the game template that is best for you and your students. You can see a video demonstration of ClassTools right here.

TinyTap is a free iPad app and Android app that enables you to create educational games for your students to play on their iPads or Android tablets. Through TinyTap you can create games in which students identify objects and respond by typing, tapping, or speaking. You can create games in which students complete sentences or even complete a diagram by dragging and dropping puzzle pieces.

TeacherMade is a service on which you can upload a PDF then add to it fillable text boxes, lines for matching activities, multiple choice questions, and interactive hotspots to highlight specific points in the PDF. You can also use TeacherMade to add audio to an uploaded PDF. Depending upon the type of questions that you select, TeacherMade will automatically score assignments for you. Canva offers nearly two thousand worksheet templates for teachers to copy and modify. All of the templates can be downloaded as PDFs. You can combine the use of Canva and TeacherMade to create online activities for your students to complete. Depending upon the TeacherMade settings that you choose, your students can get immediate feedback. The process of combining TeacherMade and Canva is demonstrated in the video here.

Two Ed Tech Guys are Returning This Fall!

Throughout the 2020-21 school year Rushton Hurley from Next Vista for Learning and I hosted a series of webinars titled Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions & Share Cool Stuff. We're going to do it again this year! We've settled on hosting the webinars on Thursdays, but we need a little help picking the best time to host the webinars. If you have 60 seconds to spare, please help us by answering this two question survey to help us pick the best time to host Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions & Share Cool Stuff

If you're not sure what our little webinar series is about, take a look at some of the slides and recordings of the 37 episodes we did last year.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Blogs, Books, and Icebreakers - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where we're hoping that the forecasted rain showers will bring a respite from the high heat and humidity we've experienced all week. How humid was it? On Wednesday I leaned my bike against the house while I ran in to get a water bottle. When I came back there was condensation on my seat and handlebars. 

This week I hosted a webinar about search strategies for a library group in Kansas. They asked great questions and two hours flew by. This week I also worked on updates to The Practical Ed Tech Handbook. That will be released tomorrow to everyone who subscribes to my Practical Ed Tech Newsletter

I hope all of you who started school this week had a great first few days of the new school year. Those of you who still have a few more weeks of summer vacation, enjoy it!

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Where I'd Like to Go - An Icebreaker With Google Drawings
2. Great Book Creator Resources to Start the New School Year
3. Nimbus Screenshot - Scrolling Annotated Screen Captures
4. 15 New Primary Source Activities from DocsTeach
5. Ideas for Blogging With K-12 Students This Year
6. A New Google Forms Feature Teachers Have Requested for Years!
7. Add Google's Ngram Viewer to Your List of Research Tools

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 tomorrow! 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 13, 2021

How to Create a Random Question Generator

Earlier this week I shared directions for an icebreaker activity in which students complete the sentence, "where I'd like to go..." with a picture of themselves in front of a place they'd like to visit. That's a great activity, but it's not necessarily a quick activity. If you're looking for a quick icebreaker activity, having a random icebreaker question appear on the screen in the front of your classroom is one way to go. 

Flippity provides templates for creating all kinds of neat things with Google Sheets including a random name selector. I modified it a bit to create a random icebreaker question generator. The process for making that random question generator is demonstrated in this short video

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