Sunday, December 26, 2021

Best of 2021 - Three Good Options for Annotating PDFs

As I do every year, I'm taking this week as a break from publishing new blog posts and will be republishing some of the most popular posts of the year. New blog posts will resume on January 1st. 

In last week's Practical Ed Tech newsletter I shared three good options for adding audio comments to Google Docs, Word docs, and PDFs. That prompted a couple of readers to ask me about options for annotating PDFs. I have a few recommendations for annotating PDFs. The one you pick may depend upon whether you prefer to use tools that work with your Google account or ones that work with a Microsoft account. 

Annotate PDFs in OneNote
OneNote has lots of neat features built into it. One of those neat features is a tool for annotating PDFs. In this short video I demonstrate how you can do that.

Annotate PDFs with Lumin PDF
Lumin PDF is a Chrome extension that enables students to draw on top of PDFs that you open in Chrome. After drawing on the PDF students can save the PDF as a new copy or replace the existing copy of the PDF that was sent to them in Google Classroom. Here's my video overview of how students can use Lumin PDF to write on PDFs that are assigned to them in Google Classroom.

Annotate PDFs with Kami
Kami is a service that enables users to annotate and comment on PDFs. You can do this directly on the Kami website or in Google Drive with Kami's Chrome extension. Kami also works with Word and Pages files.

Here's a couple of videos about how Kami works.

Best of 2021 - Interactive Checklists in Google Docs

As I do every year, I'm taking this week as a break from publishing new blog posts and will be republishing some of the most popular posts of the year. New blog posts will resume on January 1st. 

This week Google announced more than a dozen updates to Google Workspace products. Included in those updates is a new text box feature in Google Documents. The new text box option can be used to create interactive checklists. Those checklists, just like any other Google Document, can be shared with colleagues and students who can then cross off items as they're completed. 

In this short video I demonstrate how you can create interactive checklists in Google Documents. One of the neat things that you'll see in the video is that you can adjust the size and style of the checkboxes by using the font menus in Google Docs.  

Applications for Education
My first thought when seeing the new checklist option in Google Docs was that it could be great for students to use when planning group projects. The group can have their to-do list and all of the details of their plans on the same document instead of having to use a separate task management tool or having to write/re-write comments when a task is completed.

This post originally appeared on Feature image created by Richard Byrne using Canva. 

Friday, December 24, 2021

Winter, Animals, and Fun - The Week in Review

Good evening from Maine where my daughters are eagerly anticipating Santa's arrival. Tomorrow morning I won't be in the mood to write blog posts or even think about my blog. That's why I'm breaking from my pattern and writing the week-in-review on a Friday evening. 

As I look toward the end of the year I'd like to say a big thank you to all of you who have supported my work throughout this year and year's past (some of you have been with me for more than decade). Whether you've purchased one of my courses or ebooks or you've simply shared my blog posts with your friends and colleagues, your support is appreciated. 

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. A New Way to Add Students to Flipgrid
2. How to Modify & Share Canva Templates
3. Six Reasons to Try Tract for Remote & Hybrid Learning
4. A Platypus in My House! Fun and Learning Through Augmented Reality
5. How to Use Google Keep as a Comment Bank
6. Nine Interactive Maps Depicting the History of the United States
7. 21 Activities and Lessons That Have a Winter Theme

Thank you for your support!
Your registrations in Practical Ed Tech courses (listed below) and purchases of my ebook help me keep Free Technology for Teachers going.

On-demand Professional Development
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 39,000 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. 
  • 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.

Building the Hoover Dam - A New TED-Ed Lesson

Blood, Concrete, and Dynamite is a new TED-Ed lesson that tells the story of the building of the Hoover Dam. The lesson explains why the dam was built, the short-term economic impact of its construction (21,000 people employed by the project), the engineering of the dam, the environmental impact, and the human toll of its construction. While it touches on all of those topics, the emphasis of the lesson is on how many people benefitted from its construction and the people who died during its construction. You can watch the lesson here and find the accompanying lesson questions here

Despite already knowing the history of the construction of the dam, I still found the video entertaining and informative. Overall, it's a good summary of the dam's construction. You would need to look elsewhere to really dive into the engineering of the dam or the environmental impact of the dam. 

Of course, I can't think of the Hoover Dam without also thinking of the famous dam tour scene in National Lampoon's Vegas Vacation and The Highwaymen performing The Highwayman

4,000+ Maps of Military Battles and Campaigns

The Library of Congress housed hundreds of thousands of maps covering a huge array of topics from maps used by fire insurance companies to population density to maps of military battles and campaigns

The LOC's collection of maps of military battles and campaigns contains more than 4,000 maps that are free to view, download, and reuse. The vast majority of the maps are from the 18th and 19th centuries although there are about 600 maps covering World War I and II. 

You can browse through the collection according to date, location, subject, and language (most of the maps are in English or French). Once you've found a map that seems interesting, click on it to view more information about the cartographer and a little backstory on the map. Most of the maps can be downloaded as images and some can be downloaded as PDFs. 

Applications for Education
My first thought when looking through the collection was to download the maps to use as overlays in Google Earth. Doing so can provide students with some geographic context and comparisons for military battles and campaigns that they're learning about in U.S. History classes. Directions for overlaying historic maps onto Google Earth can be found in this video.

If you're interested in learning more about using Google Earth and Google Maps in your classroom, enroll in my self-paced Crash Course in Google Eath & Maps for Social Studies.