Tuesday, May 24, 2022

A Teacher's Guide to Creating Common Craft Style Videos

Yesterday, I published a post about a live course that I'm teaching in June. If you're looking for something that is self-paced, Common Craft offers an interesting course about making videos. 

For years Common Craft videos have been used by teachers to help students understand topics including digital citizenship, personal finance, and many big technology concepts. One of the things that makes Common Craft videos popular is the clear and concise manner in which information is presented using a whiteboard, simple cutouts, and voice over. That style has become known as the Common Craft style and many teachers including myself have had students make videos using that style. Common Craft offers their own free course for teachers who want to make Common Craft style videos in their classrooms.

A Teacher's Guide to Creating Common Craft Style Videos is a free self-paced course that contains five modules. The modules start with the key concepts of the Common Craft style before moving onto walk you through the tools you need (and don't need), the planning process (a downloadable template included), and the final production steps. Throughout the course there are examples of work done by teachers and students.

And if you have never seen a Common Craft video before, here's a good one to get started.

You might also be interested in my video in which I demonstrate how I use Google Slides to create videos. 



Disclosure: I have a long-standing in-kind relationship with Common Craft. 

Videos for Teaching and Learning About Memorial Day

Next Monday is Memorial Day. Students often confuse the origin and purpose of Memorial Day with those of Veterans Day. The following videos can help students understand the origins and meanings of Memorial Day and Veterans Day.


The Meaning of Memorial Day is a two minute video covering the origins of the holiday in the United States. The video is embedded below.



The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers the following video overview of the history of Memorial Day.


Jocko Willink isn't everyone's cup of tea, but I enjoy his podcast and found this video that he released a few years ago to be quite moving.



To find more resources for teaching about Memorial Day, visit Larry Ferlazzo's list of resources.

Try using EDpuzzle to add questions into these videos and distribute them to your students.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Alternatives to Book Reports - A Post Inspired By My Daughter

My five-year-old daughter has a healthy obsession with the According to Humphrey the Hamster series of books. She got one of the books for Christmas and we've been reading through the entire series since then. Last week I came home from a bike ride and she couldn't wait to show me her latest art project! It was a paper replica of how she pictured Humphrey's cage. She had even used some paper and tape to create a little hamster wheel to put in his cage. On a scale of 1-10 I was at about 15 for how impressed I was that she came up with that idea on her own. 

Inspired by my daughter's creation of a replica of Humphrey the Hamster's cage, here are some other ideas for alternatives to traditional book report assignments.

  • Create a book trailer video. This is a short video intended to get people excited to read a book. Students can summarize key points in the book and try to entice viewers to read the book. Canva's video editor and Adobe Creative Cloud Express are great tools for making book trailer videos.

  • Have students design and publish their own online games based on the plot and characters of a book. Flippity offers great templates that students can modify to create their own online games.

  • Students can use Google Earth to create virtual tour based on locations featured in a book. Students using the web browser version of Google Earth can include videos in the placemarks in their tours. Students who use Google Earth Pro can record audio narration for their entire tours.

  • Consider using the choose-your-own-adventure model and have students write some alternate endings to a story. They can do this in Google Slides. Here's a video about the process.

By the way, the picture I took of my daughter and her art project is a lot cuter than the cropped one in this blog post. Unfortunately, due to the plethora of shady sites that steal my work every day, I don't include pictures of my kids' faces in my posts anymore

Teaching History With Technology - Online Course Starting in June

This summer I'm not hosting the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp. I am, however, hosting a some online courses for those who are interested. The first one that I'm hosting starts in June. That course is Teaching History With Technology.

Teaching History With Technology is a five-part course that will meet via Zoom at 4pm ET every Thursday in June. It has been a year since I last taught this course so I've updated it with some new resources and new strategies for 2022. 

In Teaching History With Technology you will learn how to help students conduct better online research, how to make history videos, how to create online primary source-based activities, how to develop virtual tours, and more. You'll even learn how to make your own history app even if you don't have any computer science experience!


The course consists of five live meetings. Every meeting will be recorded for those who register but cannot attend all of the sessions. Handouts will be provided for every session. 

Save 10% if you register online by midnight (ET) Friday. Register here!

A note about cost:
I am able to keep Free Technology for Teachers running through the support of people who register to attend my webinars, courses, and workshops. While the tools that I feature in my courses are free, my time for teaching and hosting is not. 

Sunday, May 22, 2022

The Homestead Act and a Research Prompt

Last Friday the document of the day on the Today's Document from the National Archives blog was a copy of the Homestead Act passed on May 20, 1862. Seeing the document reminded me of a prompt that I used in a workshop about teaching search strategies that I hosted last summer. If you teach U.S. History, you might want to try the prompt with your own students. Here it is: 

The Homestead Act was signed into law 1862 and the first claims were made under it shortly after. Your challenge is to find out when the last claim was granted under the Homestead Act. Who was granted the last claim? 

Depending on where you live, you might want to modify the challenge to finding out when the last claim was made in your state or county. 

DocsTeach also has some activities built around Homestead Act. You might use those activities as is or modify them to meet your needs. Here's my overview of how to use DocsTeach