Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Join Me Next Week for a Webinar About Creating Digital Products and More

Creating and selling digital products like webinars, on-demand courses, and eBooks is one of the ways that I've been able to keep this site going and keep a roof over my head for the last decade. And I've done it without using any of the big marketplaces like Teachers Pay Teachers that take a substantial cut of your sales. Next week I'm hosting a webinar in which I'll show you how you do the same. 

In How to Create and Sell Your Own Digital Products you'll learn how to create eBooks, lesson materials, and online courses. In some ways creating the materials is the easy part. Selling is the harder part for many teachers. That's why during the webinar I'll show you how to sell your products without paying huge commission fees to online marketplaces. 

Learn more and register here to join me for this live webinar on March 22nd at 4pm ET.

My Five Favorite Canva Features

Canva is a tool that I use nearly every day of my working life. Like some of the other tools in my daily work life, there are some features of Canva that I use far more than others. Canva seems to be constantly adding new features so my favorite ones might be a little different a year from now. For now, the following are my five favorite and most frequently used features in Canva. 

  • Copying designs
  • Image background remover and face touch-up. 
  • Color match suggestions.
  • Slide presentation recorder (with and without webcam video).
  • Publishing and sharing slides as websites. 
See all of these features in action in this short video.

Applications for Education
Of all these features the one that has the broadest appeal for educators is probably the option to record yourself talking over your slides with or without your webcam turned on. This makes it incredibly easy to create a short video lesson by using your existing slides right inside of Canva. The slide recording tool can also be used by students to make short video presentations or to simply practice giving a presentation then listening to or watching themselves to get better for their next attempt.

Speaking of presentation, Microsoft's Presenter Coach offers a great way for students to get some immediate feedback on the pacing of their presentations. Here's a little demo of how it works.

Monday, March 14, 2022

Readlee - Know How Your Students Read Online Assignments

Every once in a while a new edtech service comes along that as soon as I try it I know that it’s going to be a hit. That’s exactly how I felt when I tried Readlee for the first time last month.

Readlee is a new service that lets you create online reading assignments for your students to complete in your classroom or at home. That’s not what makes it great. What makes it great is found in how your students complete assignments and how you can view their assignment completion.

The Readlee Concept
The basic concept of Readlee is that you give students a reading assignment and they complete it by reading it aloud to their computers. Readlee then uses AI to analyze how well your students read the assignment. That analysis is provided for you in a short report displayed next to all of your students’ submitted assignments.

The student reading analysis that Readlee provides to you includes time spent reading, total words read, unique words read, reading speed, and how much of the assignment was read. Additionally, Readlee provides a written transcript of the words students spoke compared to the words written in the assignment. Last, but not least, you can hear a recording of your students reading aloud. The analysis, transcript, and recording is available for all assignments regardless of length, reading complexity, or content.

Watch this thirty second video to see a little bit of Readlee in action. My longer video overview is included at the end of this post.

How to Start Using Readlee
Getting started with Readlee takes just a few minutes. The first thing you need to do is sign-up for a free account. You can do that with your Google account, with your Clever account, or with an email address. After registering you’ll create a classroom within Readlee. It’s in your classroom that you’ll create assignments for your students (if you need multiple classrooms, you can create more than one).

To get your students into your Readlee classroom you have two options. The easiest option is to sync a Google Classroom or Clever roster to your Readlee account. The other option is to give your students a class invitation link that Readlee generates for you. They’ll then enter the class code to join your class. Either way that you create your Readlee classroom, students can use Readlee with or without an email address.

Once your Readlee classroom is created it’s time to create your first assignment. There are a handful of ways to create an assignment for your class. You can import a PDF, you can copy and paste a passage of text, you can import an article from the web, or you can use one of the articles, poems, or books available in Readlee’s library. There’s also an option to create an independent reading assignment in which your students can read aloud anything of their choice.

Readlee’s library of books, poems, and short stories offers a convenient way to create a reading assignment without having to source the material elsewhere. Simply select an item from the library and then choose which page(s) you want to include in your assignment.

After selecting or importing the item that you want your students to read aloud, you can then add some written instructions for your students. For example, when I created an independent reading assignment I added an instructional note that read “please read two pages from your March independent reading book.” The last step is to then give the reading assignment to the whole class or to individual students within the class.

The Student Side of Readlee
Students access their assigned reading by signing into Readlee and then selecting the assignment they would like to complete. As soon as they do that a new screen will appear with the text they need to read. Students then just click on the microphone icon at the bottom of the screen and start reading aloud. When they’re done they stop the recording and click “turn in assignment.” I should note that students can pause the recording in progress if needed and resume it to complete the assignment. In fact, I did that while testing out the student perspective because I had a little tickle in my throat and took a sip of black cherry seltzer to clear it out.

In addition to the assignment list, in their Readlee classrooms students will find a running tally of the number of words they’ve read aloud, their time spent reading, their average reading speed, and the total unique words they’ve read.

Readlee Benefits for Teachers, Students, and Parents
If you’ve made it this far in the post without clicking away to create your Readlee account, here are a few benefits of using Readlee worth noting.
  • Readlee gives you an easy way to consistently measure your students’ reading fluency and progress.
  • Readlee is a time-saver compared to manually checking reading journals or logs.
  • Readlee shows students their progress in a way that is easy for them and their parents to understand.
Try Readlee Today!
In this post I focused on the features of Readlee that are free and open to all teachers to use for as long as they like. There are additional premium features that can be purchased. I’d start out by trying the free version. Watch my tutorial video embedded below to see everything you and your students need to know to get started using Readlee today.

Disclosure: Readlee is currently an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

Why You're Seeing More of My Face

You may have noticed that my face is appearing in more of the cover images for my blog posts and in more of the cover images for my videos. There is a reason for that and it's not that I've discovered a new vanity in my mid-40's. The reason is that in my on-going battle against websites that republish my content without permission it is much easier for me to prove proof of ownership and originality when my face is in the cover image. If you're interested in the explanation of that, read on. 

Most of the sites that are stealing my work these days are doing so via automated means. It's relatively easy to write a script that scrapes all of the content from an RSS feed and imports it into a different site. Truncating or stopping my RSS feed stops some of the thieves, but most have moved onto using scripts that scrape directly from the site instead of from the RSS feed. That's a little harder to stop so my recourse is to file DMCA takedown notices with Google to get them to remove the offending content from their results pages. Additionally, I then file DMCA takedown notices with the sites' hosting services. 

Filing DMCA takedown notices is time-consuming and even when filed properly some hosting companies still require even more proof of original work and ownership. Being able to say, "hey, that's my picture of myself wearing my favorite flannel shirt" is a lot easier and faster than writing an explanation of the originality of my blog post. Still, some shady hosting companies (usually located outside of the United States) won't do a darn thing to honor my request. In those cases at least there's an easy way for visitors of the offending site to realize that what they're reading was taken from FreeTech4Teachers.com.

Resources if You're in a Similar Situation
If you have a website or blog that is also frequently scraped, here are some resources that might be helpful to you. 
Help Understanding Copyright, Creative Commons, and Fair Use
Whenever I publish something about copyright, I get a bunch of follow-up questions. These are some of the frequently asked questions. 
  • I embedded your YouTube video into my class/ school website, is that okay? 
    • Yes, that's totally fine as long as you're using the embed or link provided by YouTube and not downloading the video then republishing it (read YouTube's TOS for more details). 

  • I like to share the title or a little summary of your blog post with my staff, is that okay?
    • Yes, as long as you're not republishing the whole thing and or passing it off as your own. If you want someone to read the whole blog post, give them the link to it. 

  • Can I forward your newsletter to my colleagues?
    • Yes, of course. Hit the forward button in your inbox and share it as I wrote it (over-use of parentheses and hyphens is one of the hallmarks of my blog posts so don't be tempted to edit those out). 

How I Created Outdoor Bingo Boards

In this week's Practical Ed Tech Newsletter I highlighted some templates for creating in-person educational games. One of the templates that I featured was Flippity's updated bingo board template. The updated template doesn't require you to use a spreadsheet in order to create your bingo board. The removal of the spreadsheet requirement makes it easier and faster than ever to create a custom set of bingo boards to use in your classroom. 

In this short video I demonstrate how I used Flippity's bingo board template to create a set of bingo boards in which students have to find things like acorns, pinecones, and flower petals. 

Applications for Education
As the weather begins to warm (in northern climates) spring is in the air and students will want to go outside. Create a set of outdoor bingo boards to connect some outside time to a lesson about seasons of the year. For example, if students have a hard time finding brown leaves or acorns in the spring, it could be a good opportunity to explain why those things are easier to find in the fall.