Thursday, August 11, 2022

New Microsoft Teams Features for the New School Year

Mike Tholfsen is a product manager at Microsoft he has early access to features that are rolling-out to users. That means his videos sometimes include overviews of new features before anyone else has used them. If you want to know about what's new in Teams and other Microsoft products Mike's YouTube channel is for you. In one recent video he highlighted ten new Teams features that you might want to try this fall. 

Of the ten new features highlighted in the video above, the ones that stood out to me are collaborative annotation, the new rating question type in polls, and speaker coach.

How to Play Google Slides on an Automatic Loop

The new school year is quickly approaching and you might be thinking about your first morning with staff or students. That first morning is often filled with information that needs to be repeated quite a bit. Things like the wi-fi network and code, lunch times, and other logistical information. You could make yourself hoarse by repeating it over and over or you could put it in a set of slides that plays on a loop in your room. 

In the short video that is embedded below I demonstrate how to play a set of Google Slides on an automatically advancing and repeating loop

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Try This Tool for Picking Accessible Color Schemes

Earlier today I published a list of ways to improve the accessibility of your Google Docs, Slides, and Forms. On a related note, you can improve the accessibility of any slideshow presentation or website by choosing an appropriate color scheme. The Accessible Color Matrix hosted on Github makes it easy to identify accessible color schemes to use in your presentations, documents, and websites. 

Watch my demo video to see how the Accessible Color Matrix provides a quick and easy way to see which color combinations do and don't work from an accessibility standpoint.

Google Docs, Slides, and Forms Accessibility

As the new school year approaches and you start to update some of your old Google Docs, Slides, and Forms take a moment to assess the accessibility of those materials. And if necessary, it's fairly easy to improve the accessibility of your Docs, Slides, and Forms. 

Google Documents
Google Documents has some built-in accessibility options that you should know how to enable. There are also some third-party Google Docs add-ons that can help you improve the accessibility of your documents.

In Google Documents there is a built-in voice typing capability. To find the voice typing tool simply open the “Tools” drop-down menu then select “Voice typing.” A microphone icon will appear in the left margin of your document. Click it to activate your microphone then start speaking and your words will appear on the page. You will have to speak directions like “question mark” to add punctuation and “new line” to start writing on a new line.

In the same “Tools” drop-down menu that contains the voice typing tool you will find the general accessibility settings menu. It is there that you can enable support for screen readers and screen magnifiers.

On the topic of screen readers, when you insert an image into a Google Document you can right-click on it to bring up the option to add alt text. Alt text is text that you add to an image to describe what is in the image. Screen readers will read the alt text.

Grackle is a Google Docs and Slides add-on that will check your documents and slides for accessibility compliance. When you run Grackle's accessibility checker it will identify places where your slide doesn't meet accessibility standards. It makes suggestions for improvement on the areas in which your document, slide, or sheet doesn't meet accessibility standards. Some of the suggestions can be implemented with just a click from the Grackle Add-on menu while others are changes that you will have to make yourself.

You can watch a demonstration of all of the Google Docs accessibility options mentioned above right here.

Google Slides
In Google Slides subtitles appear at the bottom of your screen when you are in full-screen presentation mode. You can enable subtitles by entering presentation mode then hovering your cursor over the lower-left corner of your slides to make the subtitles option appear. This short video provides a demonstration of how to enable subtitles in Google Slides.

Alt text, short for alternative text, is text that you can add to images and videos to describe what they are and or what they contain. Adding alt text can make your slideshows accessible to people who use screen readers. The alt text describes what is in a picture, chart, or video that is included in a slide. PowerPoint, Keynote, and Google Slides all provide options for adding alt text to your presentations.

To add alt text to images or videos in Google Slides simply right-click on the image or slide to which you need to add alt text. The menu that appears when you right-click on the image or video will include an alt text option where you can then write a title and description for the image or video. This video provides a demonstration of how to add alt text to Google Slides.

Google Forms
Google Forms got some new features this summer including the ability to add custom fonts. One of the fonts that you can add to your Forms is Lexend Deca. Lexend fonts are designed to improve the accessibility of writing by reducing visual stress. You can learn more about these fonts on This video and this video demonstrate how to add custom fonts to Google Forms

Google Forms does offer the option to add alt text to pictures that you include in your forms. However, in the case of Google Forms Google refers to alt text as hover text. Watch this brief video to learn how to add alt text or hover text to Google Forms. 

Mote is a Chrome extension that makes it easy for teachers and students to add voice recordings to Google Slides, Google Classroom, and Google Forms. It lets you add voice recordings not only to the questions in your Google Forms but also to the answer choices and feedback section in Google Forms. Mote lets you add voice recordings into the question line, into the answer choices (for multiple choice questions), and into the feedback section of the answer key that you create for quizzes in Google Forms. All of those things are demonstrated in this short video.

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

PrepFactory’s New Online Algebra Program Features 100 Interactive Lessons

Disclosure: PrepFactory is an advertiser on

PrepFactory is a popular platform for online ACT and SAT prep. I covered it for the first time back in 2015 and again when it transitioned from video-based lessons to truly interactive SAT and ACT prep activities. This fall PrepFactory is using that interactive technology to help students learn Algebra I.

PrepFactory’s new Algebra 1 program is free and available right now for teachers who want to use it. In this post I’ll share the highlights of PrepFactory’s Algebra 1 program and then dive into how it works and how you can get access to it today.

Highlights of PrepFactory Algebra 1
PrepFactory’s Algebra 1 program consists of 2,000 interactive teaching questions and 1,000 comprehension check questions. The interactive teaching questions are divided into one hundred lessons. Students get instruction and feedback on each of the interactive teaching questions. At the end of every lesson students can test their new skills and knowledge with a series of ten multiple questions.

As you might expect from any new online math program, PrepFactory’s materials are aligned to Common Core standards. What you might not expect is that PrepFactory’s Algebra 1 materials are aligned to three popular Algebra 1 textbooks. You also might not expect a company to make their complete curriculum and alignments public in a Google Sheet, but PrepFactory has done that. You can find it all by following the curriculum map link on their Algebra 1 homepage.

How PrepFactory’s Free Algebra 1 Program Works
When students sign into PrepFactory they can choose a lesson like Variables and Expressions. After selecting a lesson students will see a brief written overview of the lesson that they can read before jumping into the interactive modules. The written overview highlights the key vocabulary terms students should learn in the lesson. Students can view that overview while working through the twenty modules in the lesson.
To complete a lesson students need to correctly complete 75% of the questions in a lesson. Each question includes little help bubbles that students can view before answering. After submitting an answer students immediately see a written explanation of the correct answer. Those explanations include little help bubbles that further explain or reinforce the key vocabulary of the lesson. The teaching questions that students will find in the lessons are a mix of arithmetic, equations, identification questions, and word problems.
After successfully completing a lesson students need to take a ten question quiz in order to move onto the next lesson in the curriculum. When taking the quiz students don’t see the help bubbles like they do in the lesson. They do, however, get instant feedback on their answers.
Watch the short video that is embedded below to see how a student would work through a lesson and quiz in PrepFactory’s Algebra 1 program.

Get Access to PrepFactory Today!
PrepFactory’s Algebra 1 program is free for any teacher who would like to use it. You can request access on the homepage. Just make sure to enter a school-issued email address.

Popular Posts