Thursday, June 2, 2022

Use Google Drive to Comment on PDFs, Images, and Videos

Google Drive can be used to store just about any kind of file that you have. What a lot of people overlook is that you can use Google Drive to comment on those files without converting them into Google Docs or other Google Workspace formats. For example, you can upload a PDF to your Google Drive account, share it with others, and write comments on it without having to convert into any other file format. 

In this new video I demonstrate how to use Google Drive to comment on PDFs, images, and videos

Applications for Education
One of the ways that I've used this Google Drive feature in the past is to help my history students read through primary source materials. I would take a scanned copy of source that was available as a PDF, upload it to Google Drive, and then share it with my students. My students could then use the commenting feature to ask me clarifying questions about the document and I could use the commenting feature to highlight parts of the document to which I wanted to draw their attention.

Newsletters vs. Blogs and Social Media - Thoughts for Tech Coaches

A few weeks ago a reader reached out to me for advice on creating a tech tips newsletter for her staff. Specifically, she wanted to know if she should create a blog and then email the posts to staff or if just a newsletter would be enough. It was a question that I was happy to answer. These are the thoughts that I shared with her and some additional ideas about newsletters compared to blogs and social media.

Does Your Whole School Want More Email From You?
The first question to consider is does everyone in your school want your tech tips sent to them every week or day? The answer, unfortunately, is probably not. So while you think you’re being helpful, the reality is that those who don’t want to read your newsletter every week will just be trashing your email before they even read it. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write it, it just means that you should consider other ways to distribute it.

One of the ways to distribute your newsletter is to simply ask people if they want to get it. You can do this with a simple Google Form or Microsoft Form and then add those people who say yes to a contact group in your email account. Another option is to use a tool like ConvertKit that lets you create a sign-up form and automatically add those who sign-up to your mailing list. I shared details on how to use ConvertKit in this April blog post.

Create a Blog or Simple Website
Again, just because not everyone in your school wants you to email them every week doesn't mean you shouldn’t write a weekly tech tips newsletter. You’re going to produce some great information that everyone in your school is going to want or need at some point. If you’re only using email, you’re going to have to dig through your email to find the tip that you wrote in September to share with someone who needs the information in April.

Write the content of your newsletter on a simple blogging platform like WordPress or Blogger then take that content and email it to those who do want to be a part of your weekly mailing. Then when someone who is not on your mailing list asks you for help, you can simply send them to your blog where they can search or you can send them a link to a specific blog post.

What About Social Media?
Yes, there is an archive of your social media postings, but good luck searching through that archive in an efficient manner when someone asks you a question in March that was addressed by the tip you posted in late August.

So if you enjoy the process of making social media posts, go ahead and post your tips on your favorite social media platform. But if you’re trying to specifically reach the people in your school, that’s not how I’d spend my time. (Full disclosure: I’m rather burnt out on social media and slowly breaking up with it).

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Games for Students to Play to Improve Their Typing Skills

A few days ago I published a short video about an interesting way to improve your typing skills while reading classic literature. That video prompted one reader to send me an email this morning to ask if I had suggestions for typing practice sites for elementary school students. The following are the things that I recommended to her. 

TypeTastic is a site that offers more than 700 free typing games for students of all ages. TypeTastic is designed for students to work through units of games. Before each game there is an introduction to a new skill and or a review of a previous skill. Each game within each section contains multiple levels for students to work through. Each game could take students an hour or more to completely master. 

Flippity offers a free Google Sheets template for designing your own online typing activities for your students to play. To do this you simply make a copy of the template provided by Flippity then fill in the words and or phrases you want to have appear in your activities. Flippity hosts the activity and provides unique URLs for your activities to share with your students. In this video I provide a demonstration of how the template works. (Please note that the beginning of the video references a Google Sheets add-on that is no longer available. Instead, simply get the template here on 

ABCya offers games designed to help elementary school students sharpen their skills in a many areas. Included in ABCya's catalog of games is a fun typing game called Cup Stacking. In this game students have to type the letters that they see on the cups that appear on their screens. When they type the correct letters the cups stack up into a pyramid. Once the pyramid is built students have to type the letters again to deconstruct the pyramid. The object of the game is to build up and take down the pyramids as quickly as possible.

Typing Rocket is another typing game developed by ABCya. Typing Rocket is a sixty second game in which students make fireworks explode by typing the letters that appear on the rockets in the games. In the sixty second span of the game students try to correctly type as many letters as they possibly can. The rockets speed up as the game progresses.

Fun Science Lessons for Students and Parents to do This Summer

Today is the first day of June and even though it was only 44F when I woke up this morning, summer is on my mind. I'm sure it's on the minds of many of you, your students, and their parents as well. If you have students whose parents are asking for some things they can do to keep their kids engaged in learning this summer, Discovery Education and 3M have you covered. 

Discovery Education and 3M host the Young Scientist Lab in which you will find science experiments that students can complete at home with the help of their parents (older students may be able to do them on their own). The Young Scientist Lab includes a section for students. In that section are fourteen videos providing directions for science experiments as well as a set of ten online simulation activities

The parent section of the Young Scientist Lab contains nineteen PDFs that provide directions for at-home science activities for K-8 students. That collection is divided into five activities for grade K-2, six activities for grades 3-5, and eight activities for grades 6-8. There are also five online simulations available in the parent section of the Young Scientist Lab. 

Applications for Education
The at-home activities featured in the Young Scientist Lab are exactly the kind of thing that I would include in a letter, email, or classroom blog post for parents who want ideas for ways to keep their kids interested in learning throughout the summer break. In fact, I plan to try this kitchen chemistry activity (link opens a PDF) with my daughters when their school is on break at the end this month.

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Menus, Backgrounds, and Videos - The Month in Review

The month of May has come to a close. I can tell by the traffic patterns on my blog that many of you have started summer vacation. And the rest are ready for vacation. I hope that everyone has something fun to do this summer (or winter for my southern hemisphere friends). One of the fun things we're excited about at our house is our garden boxes and all of the veggies that hopefully spring from them in the coming months. 

At the end of every month I take a look in my Google Analytics account to see what the most popular posts of the last month were. The list in posted below. Take a look and see if there is something interesting that you missed during the month of May.

These were the most popular posts of the month:
1. Add Dropdown Menus Into Sentences In Google Docs
2. Quick and Easy Ways to Remove Image Backgrounds
3. New Google Docs Features You Might Have Missed
4. Videos for Teaching and Learning About Memorial Day
5. An Interactive Map of the Roman Empire
6. New Google Docs Templates for Project Management
7. Three Tools for Quickly & Easily Creating End-of-Year Slideshow Videos
8. A Cool Lesson for a Hot Spring Day - How the Popsicle Was Invented
9. Broadcast Google Slides Directly to Your Students' Computers
10. TARA - A Planning Tool for New and Veteran Teachers

Webinars for Your School
I conduct professional development webinars throughout the year. I'll host a free one-hour webinar for any school or group that purchases ten or more copies of 50 Tech Tuesday Tips.

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 41,000 subscribers watching my short tutorial videos on a wide array of educational technology tools. 
  • I've been Tweeting as @rmbyrne for fifteen 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 Icons Daily and Daily Dose. Featured image captured by Richard Byrne.

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