Monday, June 27, 2022

Transforming the Traditional Learning Environment with BookWidgets

Disclosure: BookWidgets is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

BookWidgets is an online tool that you can use to create interactive activities for your students to use in Google Classroom, in Canvas, in Moodle, in Microsoft Teams, and right on the BookWidgets website. I covered BookWidgets in depth back in October. Throughout the year BookWidgets added more features for teachers and students. Those features and more will be highlighted at an ISTE session titled Transforming the Traditional Learning Environment With BookWidgets.

Transforming the Traditional Learning Environment With BookWidgets will be presented at the ISTE conference on June 29th at 1:30pm in the La Nouvelle Ballroom at table 17. The presentation will highlight the many types of interactive activities that teachers can create for students, how teachers can view students’ progress in realtime, and how to give meaningful feedback to students when they complete BookWidgets activities on the website or in the LMS of your choice.

For Those #NotatISTE
Are you, like me, not going to the ISTE conference this year? That doesn’t mean you can’t learn about many of the same things that are announced and highlighted during the conference. Case in point, BookWidgets has a series of more than a dozen free webinars highlighting the ways that teachers and students can use BookWidgets in a variety of content areas including science and world languages. The webinars also cover everything you need to know to create interactive activities to share with your students in Google Classroom, Canvas, Moodle, and Microsoft Teams.

BookWidgets All-Access
BookWidgets is a freemium service. In other words, there are a lot of things you can do with it for free, but there are even more features available to paid users. The first 100 people who use this link can get access to all features for free for the next six months instead of the usual 30 day trial of all the features.

My Favorite BookWidgets Activities and Features
BookWidgets offers more than thirty templates for creating interactive activities for students to complete online. Some of the templates are for traditional activities like matching pairs and memory games. It’s the other templates for activities that benefit from being online that are my favorite ones.Those templates include multimedia timelines, adding interactive markers to images, and templates for showing a sequence of animation and video frames.

Last fall I also highlighted a few other unique BookWidgets activity templates. Those are worth noting again. They are split whiteboards and split worksheets.

The split whiteboards template lets you create an activity in which students read text and or view a video on one side of the screen and use freehand drawing and writing on the other side of the screen to answer questions. The split worksheets template, like the split whiteboard template, shows students text on one side of the screen and questions on the other side.

Realtime progress monitoring and scoring are helpful components of BookWidgets templates. Most of the templates in BookWidgets include an option for viewing students’ progress in realtime. To find those templates look for a little camera icon next to a template’s title. A little checkbox icon next to a template’s title identifies it as one that offers automatic scoring.

Speaking of scoring, late in this past school year BookWidgets introduced digital rubric templates. These can be used to create a rubric to attach to any activity in BookWidgets. You can use the rubrics to give feedback with or without scores attached. There is also an option to use emojis and symbols in your rubrics.

BookWidgets in Action!
Again, BookWidgets will be presenting at the ISTE conference on Wednesday. If you can’t see them there, take a look at one of their free webinars or watch my short demo video embedded below. My demo includes the teacher and student views of the platform.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Enroll in Tract’s Free Virtual Summer Creator Camp

Disclosure: Tract is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com.

Throughout the school year I published a handful of blog posts and videos about an exciting platform called Tract. Tract is a place where students can learn a wide array of things from other students through a sequence of videos and challenge activities. Some of the things that you’ll find on Tract include lessons on making video games, composing music, and taking better photographs. You’ll also find lots of lessons about things that are “on trend” in the middle school and high school world.

On Tract teachers can register their classes for free and create a place where their students can teach each other (use the code BYRNE at https://teach.tract.app/ to get free access). That can be a great place to start when looking for some Genius Hour activities or when seeking inspiration for fun activities your students can do to introduce themselves and get to know each other. But now that the summer is here (for my northern hemisphere friends) your students' use of Tract doesn’t have to stop.

Level Up in Tract This Summer
If you have been using Tract during the school year, you know that the emphasis of the platform is on helping students learn by having them not only watch other students’ lessons but to also create video lessons about the things they are passionate about. To that end, Tract has a three tiered approach to student participation with the goal being that students will “level up” as they use the platform.

The levels that students progress through in Tract are Creator, Affiliate, and Partner. As the graphic below shows, you can think of these levels as beginner, intermediate, and advanced.
What’s important to note about each of these levels is that they all require students to make videos. The first level asks students to respond to challenge activities by recording a short video to demonstrate learning. The second level asks students to go a little deeper in their responses and start to create lessons of their own. The final level is where students not only create their own lessons for others to watch, they also provide feedback to others who are trying to level up.

This summer Tract is hosting a free summer program for students in third through eighth grade. The goal of Tract’s free summer program, called the Virtual Summer Creator Camp, is to help students level up their video creation, editing, and presentation skills. Through the guided Virtual Summer Creator Camp students will progress through a series of activities beginning with the basics of making videos to making stop motion videos to creating the ultimate cover image for their videos. Along the way they’ll also develop editing skills so that they can add special effects to their videos, overlay text and graphics, and create remixes of multiple videos.

Tract’s Virtual Summer Creator Camp begins tomorrow (June 27th) and runs for six weeks. You can learn more about it and register for free at summer.tract.app.
Bookmark These Tract Ideas for the Fall
I get it, it’s summer and this announcement about Tract’s Virtual Summer Creator Camp might be a bit late for you to use it. In that case, keep the following ideas in mind for the fall.
  • Letting students choose their own learning paths in Tract is a great way to get to know what your students are interested in outside of the classroom. There are learning paths about everything from nature photography to Minecraft to making music.
  • Tract offers ready-to-use, grade-specific lesson plans for teachers to easily integrate in their classrooms.
  • Tract can be a great platform for introducing your students to project-based learning. Read more about that idea right here.
Meet the Tract Team and More
The annual ISTE conference begins today in New Orleans! If you’re going to be there, you can meet Tract’s co-founder Ari Memar and other members of the Tract team for happy hour at Lula Restaurant and Distillery on Monday night between 6pm and 9pm.

If you’re not going to be at ISTE, follow the hashtags #ISTELive and #NotatISTE and #ISTELive22 to see news about your favorite edtech tools like Tract. Or just jump into using Tract by going to teach.tract.app and signing up with the code ISTE or BYRNE.

Finally, to learn more about how Tract was developed and how they work to protect student information, watch this video that I recorded with Ari Memar last fall.



Disclosure: Tract is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

Automatically Forward Important Google Workspace Email to Secondary Email Address

It's summer (in the northern hemisphere) and for many people reading this blog that means it's time to cut back on reading work email. Some folks simply turn on a vacation responder for the summer and come back to a pile of email in late August. Others like to occasionally check their email during the summer. And some will selectively forward work email to a personal account so that they only have to look in one inbox for important messages during the summer. 

In this short video I demonstrate how to create a filter in your Google Workspace email to have only certain types of messages automatically forwarded to a personal Gmail account. 


I should not that if your Google Workspace domain administrator has prevented forwarding outside of your school's domain, the method featured in the video above won't work for you. 

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Ten Good Templates for Science, Social Studies, and Language Arts Activities

At the start of this year ReadWriteThink re-released all of their popular interactive templates for creating all kinds of things including poems, story plots, timelines, compare & contrast maps, and much more. If you haven't looked at ReadWriteThink in a while, take a look at these updated templates that can be used for lessons in language arts, science, and social studies.

ReadWriteThink offers a good interactive guide that can help students craft a good persuasive essay. The Persuasion Map asks students to start with a thesis statement before walking them through developing support for that thesis. Students can print their persuasion maps or email them to you. RWT offers a number of lesson plans that incorporate the Persuasion Map. You can find those lessons at the bottom of this page.

Essay Map provides students with step by step guidance in the construction of an informational essay. Some of my students seem to struggle most with constructing an introduction and conclusion to their essays. Essay Map is particularly good for helping students visualize the steps needed to construct good introductory and conclusion paragraphs. After students complete all of the steps in their Essay Map they can print their essay outlines.

Read Write Think's Crossword Puzzle Generator makes it easy to create your own crossword puzzles. To create your puzzle simply enter a list of words, a set of clues for your words, and then let the generator make a puzzle for you. You can test the puzzle before printing it. You can print blank puzzles and answer sheets from the puzzle generator.

Alphabet Organizer is a great little tool from Read Write Think that students can use to create alphabet charts and books. The idea behind Alphabet Organizer is to help students make visual connections between letters of the alphabet and the first letter of common words. Here's my demo of how it works.

RWT Timeline provides a good way for elementary school students to create timelines that include pictures and text. It doesn't offer nearly as many options as some other timeline creation tools, but it's easy to use and more than adequate for elementary school settings. 

RWT's Animal Inquiry guide is a good fit for elementary school science lessons. Animal Inquiry provides students with four templates; animal facts, animal babies, animal interactions, and animal habitats. Each template is an interactive template in which students respond to three prompts to help them create short reports about animals they are studying. Read Write Think suggests using the questions in the Animal Inquiry template as prompts for research. The questions in the templates could also be good for helping students brainstorm additional questions to research.

RWT's Theme Poems interactive provides students with 32 pictures to use as the basis for writing short poems. To write a poem students launch the interactive then choose a theme. Within each of the five themes students will find related images. Once they choose an image students are prompted to write the words that come to mind as they look at the image. Students then create poems from those words. The finished product can be saved as a PDF and or emailed to a teacher from the RWT site.

The Trading Card Generator is one of my all-time favorite templates from RWT. With this template students can create trading cards about people (real and fictitious), places, and things. Here's the video that I made about the Trading Card Generator earlier this year. 

The RWT Flip Book template lets students create books by typing or by drawing on the pages in their books. There is a variety of page templates that students can choose to use within their books. Some templates are text-only, some are drawing-only, and some are a mix of drawing and text templates. To use RWT Flip Book students simply open the template, enter their first names, then start creating their first pages.

Read Write Think's Word Mover helps students develop poems and short stories. When students open the Word Mover app they are shown a selection of words that they can drag onto a canvas to construct a poem or story. Word Mover provides students with various background colors and patterns on which they can construct their poems. If the word bank provided by Word Mover doesn’t offer enough words they can add their own words to the word bank.

Stories, Studios, and Smoke - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where the sun is rising on what is going to be a warm and sunny summer day. It was a busy week here that started with Father's Day for which my family gave me a smoker! Then in the middle of the week we had preschool graduation. And finally I wrapped-up the week hosting a webinar and then announcing a series of webinars for July and August

I'm ready to relax at the lake and that's exactly what we're going to do today. I hope that you also have something fun and relaxing to do this weekend. 

 These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Tools for Asynchronously Collecting Stories
2. Five Ways to Work With PDFs in Google Drive
3. New Google Forms Customization Options
4. Ten Google Sites Tutorials for New and Experienced Users
5. Type Studio 2.0 - Edit Videos by Typing and More!
6. My Three Favorite Google Tools for Social Studies Teachers and Students
7. How to Record a Video Lesson in PowerPoint
   
July and August Webinars!
Starting in July I'm hosting a series of seven Practical Ed Tech webinars. You can register for one or all seven of them. Read about them here or follow the links below to register.
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 FreeTech4Teachers.com. 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.