Monday, August 22, 2022

History Discussion Prompts for All 50 States

This morning I discovered a new-to-me U.S. History resource created by C-SPAN Classroom. That resource is a collection of video clips and "bell ringers" for every state in the United States. Bell Ringers are short video clips that are accompanied by discussion questions to start a lesson. 

In looking at C-SPAN Classroom's collection of state history resources it appears that the clips and bell ringers cover a wide array of topics related to each state. For example, the collection of Maine resources includes a video of top policy issues according to former governor Paul LePage, the Missouri Compromise, and the removal of a dam on the Kennebec River. The collection of resources about Iowa includes a bell ringer about the history of the Iowa caucuses, a bell ringer about African American migration to Iowa, and a lesson plan about the Louisiana Purchase.  

Applications for Education
C-SPAN Classroom's State History Resources collection could be helpful to middle school and high school teachers who are looking for some resources and ideas to help students make and understand connections between their state's history and broader U.S. History topics. For example, I might use the bell ringer about the removal of the Edwards Dam in Augusta to help my students understand how federal policies and initiatives (Clean Water Act and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) can have an impact on local projects (the removal of the dam and the associated impacts on local town and state policies).

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Mailbag - Three Answers to Frequently Asked Reader Questions

I regularly invite readers of Free Technology for Teachers and subscribers to my newsletter to send me questions. Many of the questions that I receive are fairly similar and in my lane, but every once in a while I get some that are a little different. Here's a smattering of questions that I've received this summer and the answers that I've given. I hope you find the questions and my answers helpful.

#1 - My school has Chromebooks and we've always used Screencastify for making videos. Now that Chromebooks have a built-in screencast tool is there any reason to keep Screencastify?

As I write this, I don't think the screencasting tool that is built into Chromebooks is quite up to the level of Screencastify (or Loom for that matter). I wrote about this in more depth in June, but in short, the Chrome screencast tool just doesn't have enough editing options for my liking. 

#2 - My new school district is all-Google Workspace and they don't want us using Flipgrid because they have some privacy concerns. I used it a lot at my old school and loved it. Do you have any suggestions for alternatives that I could use? 

That's a bummer about your school not wanting you to use Flip (the new name for Flipgrid). I'm not sure I understand their stance on Flip privacy. Nonetheless, here's what I'd do. I would use Padlet to create a Flip-like environment. You and your students can use the camera function in the notes on a Padlet to record videos. As a teacher you can moderate video submissions and you can disable comments if you like. Here's a tutorial on recording videos in Padlet

#3 - I'd like to have my students create "about me" videos to start the year. Do you have any recommendations on the best tool for doing something like that?

I'm not entirely sure what you have in mind for the finished product, but I'm guessing you want the vides to be relatively short. I'd use Canva to have students create a few slides about themselves then turn those slides into a video. Here's a short demo of how that works. 

DIY Tech Fixes for Teachers

The content of this post originally appeared on my other site, and subscribers to my newsletter got a copy of this poster sent to them as a high resolution PDF

Many of the problems that people experience with their computers and with web-based tools, can be remedied through simple fixes like running updates and rebooting. But if you’re not aware that these simple things can fix your problem, you might not try them and skip right to calling the IT help desk. To help you fix your own classroom tech problems, I’ve put together a short list of simple fixes.

The following list isn’t meant to be all-inclusive. It’s simply meant to address common problems and their solutions. If you’re a person who is called upon to help with classroom tech problems, feel free to forward this article to your staff.

1. Run updates. If you see that updates are available for your computer, run them. This will probably mean restarting your computer which can be inconvenient, but it’s not as inconvenient as having a computer that isn’t running well. Additionally, using a computer and software that is not updated can make it more vulnerable to security breaches.

2. Turn it off, count to ten, turn it on. Even if your computer is up to date, restarting it can fix glitches. This is particularly true when dealing with issues related to connecting to things like printers and projectors.

3. Cookies! Do you have cookies enabled? Many websites (web-based apps) require cookies in order to offer you the best possible experience and or full functionality. Similarly, you may need to clear cookies in order to clear information stored in your browser for a particular site. Here’s a short video on how to do that.

4. Close a few tabs and background apps. If your computer is running slower than you’d like, the problem might be that you have too many unnecessary things running in the background. If you’re not sure what’s running in the background on a Windows computer, press CTRL+ALT+Delete to open the task manager. On a Mac open the Activity Monitor to see what’s running in the background.

5. Enable pop-ups. It is not uncommon for web apps to use a pop-up window for account log-ins and for additional functionality like audio recording (WeVideo is one web app that comes to mind as an example). If the pop-up is blocked, you won’t be able to log-in or see those additional functions.

6. Are you on the right network? Many schools have different networks for students and staff. There may be different permissions granted to staff than to students on those networks. Additionally, broadcasting your screen on a wireless projector and screencasting from your computer to your students’ computers usually requires that you’re all on the same network.

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Readlee Adds Support for More Languages

As I wrote last week, Readlee was one of my favorite new tools of the last school year. It's a tool that you can use to gain great insight into how your students read. Readlee does that through the use of AI that provides you and your students with feedback about things like how many words they've read, how many unique words they've read, how long they spent reading a passage, and much more. 

Last year Readlee only supported English. As of this week Readlee now supports Spanish, French, and German in addition to English. As they wrote in their announcement, the new language options in Readlee could be great for students who are learning a new language to get feedback on their pronunciation and fluency as well as motivate them to practice on a daily basis. 

Watch the video embedded below of a complete overview of how Readlee works from a teacher's perspective and from a student's perspective.

Watch the video embedded below for an overview of the new Readlee features

Posters, Rhythm, and Joy - The Week in Review

Good morning from Salt Lake City International Airport where I'm waiting for a flight home. Yesterday, had the pleasure of speaking at Mountain Heights Academy where I gave a keynote titled Using Technology to Bring Joy Into Teaching. After more than two years of giving virtual presentations, it was great to give an in-person presentation again. 

Speaking of presentations, next week I'm hosting a free webinar titled Get to Know Your Students Through Tract. Learn more about it and register here. And on August 30th I'm hosting a webinar for everyone who has recently purchased a copy of my eBook, 50 Tech Tuesday Tips

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Icebreakers and Exit Tickets - 30 Questions
2. Ten Popular Back-to-School Tutorials for Teachers
3. How to Design and Print Classroom Posters Using a Standard Printer
4. Free Email Etiquette Posters
5. Kikori Offers Free Morning Meeting Planners and SEL Lessons for All Ages!
6. An Old Story About Digital Badges and Why Kids Like Them
7. Rhythm Fit - New Lesson Plans from OPEN Phys Ed

I'll Come to Your School!
Due to the pandemic, for the last two years all of my work with schools has been remote. This year I'm back to offering in-person workshops and presentations. If you'd like me to come to your school or conference, please send me an email at richardbyrne (at) or fill out the form on this page

50 Tech Tuesday Tips!
50 Tech Tuesday Tips is an eBook that I created with busy tech coaches, tech integrators, and media specialists in mind. In it you'll find 50 ideas and tutorials that you can use as the basis of your own short PD sessions. Get a copy today!

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 42,000 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.