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Five Uses for QR Codes in School Settings

17 de Janeiro de 2022, 13:55
Over the weekend I shared a neat QR code generator called QRToon that lets you create a QR code that includes a cartoon version of yourself in it. Writing that post got me thinking about how far QR codes have come since I first saw them while working for Roadway Package Systems (now called FedEx Ground) in the late 90's. As a package handler and later as a dock coordinator, I hated QR codes because the tiniest smudge and made the code nearly impossible to scan with the big, clunky scanners we had. And generating the QR code labels seemed to take forever. Fast-forward a quarter century and QR codes are easy to make and easy to scan on mobile phones. 

Five Uses for QR Codes in School Settings
Now that QR codes are easy to make and easy to scan with mobile phones and tablets, they can be helpful in accomplishing a lot things in school settings. Here's a short list of ways to consider using QR codes in your school. 
  • Share sign-in/sign-out sheets via QR code. If you're using Google Forms or Microsoft Forms to maintain sign-in/sign-out sheets, post a QR code on the wall of the room to be signed into or out of to make it easy for students or colleagues to access those forms. Here's a demonstration of using QR Code Monkey for that purpose. 

  • Share links to important and frequently updated webpages like the school lunch menu. Last year the daily lunch menu was plastered all over my school in the form of a QR code that students could scan to get the day's menu and place orders in advance. One of the easiest ways to make a QR code for that purpose is to use the QR code generator that is built into Google Chrome. Here's a demo how that works

  • Create QR codes to access voice messages. With the Mote Chrome extension installed you can simply click the Mote icon to record voice notes. When you're done speaking simply click the share button and you'll have an option to view and download a QR code. Anyone who scans your QR code will be able to listen to your voice recording. Watch this short video to learn how you can share voice notes via Mote QR codes.  

  • QR codes can be useful for distributing important contact information to parents and students. QR Code Monkey lets you not only create QR codes for URLs, but also create QR codes to distribute contact information like phone numbers and email addresses. 

  • I forget which school I that I first saw it in, but a handful of years ago I visited a school library in which there was a selection of books that had QR codes inside the dust jacket. The QR codes linked to book trailer videos that students had made about those books. 

How to Make QR Codes
I've linked to a few tutorials above. I'm also listing them below for easier access.

Create QR Codes With QR Code Monkey



Create QR Codes With QRToon



Create QR Codes With Google Chrome

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QRToon - Cartoons in Your QR Codes

16 de Janeiro de 2022, 19:14
QR codes are handy for making long URLs easy to access on mobile devices. Last year I used QR codes to make my classroom sign-in/sign-out forms easy for students to access on their phones. I typically use either QRCode Monkey or the QR code generator built into Chrome. Recently, I discovered another neat QR code generator called QRToon

Like all QR code generators, QRToon will create a QR code for any URL that you specify. The difference between QRToon and other QR code creators that you might have tried is that QRToon will let you upload a picture to use in your QR code. That picture is then turned into a cartoon version. The QR code in this post includes a cartoon version of a headshot of myself that I uploaded to QRToon. 

Using QRToon is easy and it does not require registration. Simply head to the site, enter the URL that you want to turn into a QR code, and then upload a picture. QRToon will generate the QR code with your cartoonized portrait in it. You can download your QR code as PNG file to print and use wherever you like. 

It's worth noting that QRToon will only work with pictures that have just one human face in them. It didn't work when I tried to use it with pictures that had me and my kids in it. It also didn't work when I tried to use pictures of my dogs and cats.

Applications for Education
Does the world need another QR code generator? Probably not. Is it nice to have a personalized QR code that includes your likeness? Sure. The utility of QRToon is probably in just being able to personalize your QR codes to include your likeness in them for your students to recognize.

By the way, the QR code in this post will direct you to my eBook, 50 Tech Tuesday Tips

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Questions From My Daughters - What Are Freckles?

16 de Janeiro de 2022, 10:42
Last night one of my daughters asked, "what are freckles?" I did my best to explain that freckles are spots of melanin in our skin. Of course, I then had to try to explain to my five-year-old what melanin is. She then asked why she has freckles and one of her classmates doesn't. That was an answer I couldn't give beyond, "everyone's bodies are a little different." This all led to her trying to count the freckles on my arm. 

After my freckle discussion with my daughter, I turned to my favorite source of kid-friendly science explanations, SciShow Kids. There I found Why Do I Have Freckles? which does a good job of explaining what freckles are, what makes them appear, and why some people don't have any and why some people have lots of them. Should you find yourself trying to explain freckles to children, Why Do I Have Freckles? is a good resource to consult as is the SciShow video Why Do We Get Freckles?


Applications for Education
Besides answering the question of "what are freckles?" both of these videos could be good for introducing some biology concepts to older students. At just three minutes long, both videos are a good length for making online lessons in tools like EDpuzzle or Vialogues.  
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Good Resources for Remote Math & Science Lessons

15 de Janeiro de 2022, 10:55
PhET is a great resource that I've shared a bunch of times over the years. Recently, I was looking through the site when I noticed that its activity search tool now includes a filter for remote activities. Through this search tool you can locate lesson plans designed for remote instruction and learning. You can combine the remote search filter with any of the other subject, level, and language search filters. Watch this short video to see how it works. 



More About PhET
In the following video I demonstrate how to include PhET's science and math simulations in your Google Site. Those of you who watch the video will also notice that the simulations can also be shared via a direct Google Classroom integration.


Dozens of the PhET simulations are available to insert into PowerPoint presentations through the use of PhET's free PowerPoint Add-in. With the Add-in installed you can browse the available simulations and insert them into your slides. The simulations work in your slide just as they do on the PhET website.

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Cold, Chrome, and Games - The Week in Review

15 de Janeiro de 2022, 10:39
Good morning from Maine where it is a crisp -7F as I write this. Fortunately, some warm weather is on the way. Today will probably be a day for a lot of games of Memory being played and some LEGO creations being made today. Tomorrow it will be up to 10F when we head out to ski. We'll drink some hot chocolate as during our ski day. I hope that you have some fun things planned for your weekend as well. 

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Read Aloud in Chrome
2. The Science of Winter Olympics Sports
3. About Primary Sources
4. Read Aloud in Edge and Other Immersive Reader Uses
5. ReadWriteThink Interactives Now Work Without Flash!
6. A New Smithsonian Learning Lab Tool for History and Art Teachers
7. How to Create Your Own Educational Games With TinyTap - Getting Started

Thank you for your support!
Your registrations in Practical Ed Tech courses (listed below) and purchases of my ebook help me keep Free Technology for Teachers going.

On-demand Professional Development 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 39,000 subscribers watching my short tutorial videos on a wide array of educational technology tools. 
  • I've been Tweeting as @rmbyrne for fourteen 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 CloudComputin and WayBetterSite. Featured image captured by Richard Byrne.
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Create an Alphabet Book on ReadWriteThink

14 de Janeiro de 2022, 10:43
This week Larry Ferlazzo shared the exciting news that ReadWriteThink relaunched all of their popular interactive student writing templates. The templates now work without Flash. One of my favorite templates that has been relaunched by RWT is the Alphabet Organizer template. 

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. In this short video I demonstrate how to use this tool.

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Anesthesia and Tonsils

14 de Janeiro de 2022, 10:05
One of my daughters had a tonsillectomy this week. Prior to the surgery we talked with her about what was going to happen that day and why she was going to get so much ice cream afterwards. She's too young to really understand the science of how anesthesia works, but she did understand the idea of tonsils and why they were being removed. The preparation for tonsillectomy day reminded me of a TED-Ed lesson and a SciShow Kids lesson that I shared years ago. 

How Does Anesthesia Work? is a TED-Ed lesson that provides a five minute overview of the history of anesthesia and painkillers used during surgeries. The second half of the video explains the basics of the physiology of how anesthesia works. The lesson is appropriate for high school students taking an anatomy and physiology course.



Meet Your Tonsils! is a SciShow Kids lesson that explains what tonsils are, what they do, and how a doctor checks them. It's a lesson that is appropriate for elementary school students.

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Make Math Flashcards on Canva

13 de Janeiro de 2022, 10:30
Canva is my go-to recommendation whenever someone asks me for help with anything requiring a bit of an eye for design. So on Wednesday when a reader asked me for a tool to create printable flashcards Canva was my recommendation. There are more than 300 flashcard templates in Canva's design gallery. In that gallery you'll find templates for making flashcards for math, spelling, geography, and more. And all of the templates can be modified to fit your needs. 

In this short video I demonstrate how to use Canva to create printable math flashcards. While watching the video pay attention to my trick for making all of the cutting lines exactly the same. 



Applications for Education
There is still a time and place for offline flashcards. The reader who emailed me this week wanted to make flashcards that her students could use at home with their parents in a screen-free environment. Canva provides a good way to make those flashcards to distribute to students and parents. Of course, students can also use Canva to create their own printable flashcards.
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Wind Chill and Our Perception of Cold

13 de Janeiro de 2022, 10:09
As I mentioned earlier this week, we've had a couple of exceptionally cold days here in Maine this week. One town near me recorded a wind chill of -36F on Tuesday. This weekend is supposed to be just as cold.  I've gone ice fishing in similar conditions without moaning about it (at least that's how I remember it). The cold got me wondering, "am I being a wimp about the cold or has my perception of cold changed?" At that line of thinking brought me back to an older Minute Earth video about perceptions of extreme weather. 

The psychology of extreme weather
Is the weather really "extreme" or is that just our impression of it? The following Minute Earth video takes on the topic of how extreme weather affects our thinking about weather patterns in general. I found the video to be interesting from a psychology perspective. The video is embedded below.



How wind chill is calculated
As I mentioned above, the wind chill was -36F earlier this week in a town near mine. Wind chill or not, that's cold! The following video explains how wind chill is calculated. The video comes from Presh Talwalkar.


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How to Enable Spell Check in Blogger

12 de Janeiro de 2022, 10:31
Yesterday afternoon I answered an email from an old colleague who needed a little help with a frustrating little setting in Blogger. She wanted her students to be able to spell check their weekly reflection blog posts before they published them. Her frustration was caused by the fact that Blogger doesn't have a built-in spell check setting. 

At one point Blogger had spell check built into it. Then at some point over the last five or so years it disappeared from all of the settings menus that are built into Blogger. Today, if you want to use a spell check in Blogger you have to enable spell check in your Chrome browser settings. When you've done that you'll then have a spell check function in the blog post editor in Blogger. 

Watch this short video to see how to enable a spell check option for Blogger

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A New Smithsonian Learning Lab Tool for History and Art Teachers

12 de Janeiro de 2022, 10:08
This week the Smithsonian Learning Lab released a new tool that could be very helpful to history and art teachers. The tool is simply called Canvas (no connection to the LMS of the same name). Smithsonian Learning Lab's Canvas tool lets you build colllections of Smithsonian digitized artifacts and arrange the display of those artifacts however you like. 

The Canvas tool will work with new collections that you create in your Smithsonian Learning Lab account and it will work with your existing collections. In both cases you can select the layout for the collection, the size of the images, and the color scheme of the notes in your collection. You can also share your Canvas so that your students can view it. Complete directions for using the new Smithsonian Learning Lab Canvas can be found here. Directions for creating collections can be seen here



Applications for Education
In the announcement of the Canvas tool the Smithsonian Learning Lab provided a couple of uses for the new tool. Those uses include arranging artifacts for making side-by-side comparisons (great for art teachers/ students) and creating thematic collections that span multiple areas. This Canvas of postcards is a good example of arranging a collection thematically. 
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ReadWriteThink Interactives Now Work Without Flash!

11 de Janeiro de 2022, 16:33
For many years ReadWriteThink offered a great collection of interactive templates for students to use to create all kinds of things including poems, story plots, timelines, compare & contrast maps, and much more. Unfortunately, the deprecation of Flash caused nearly all of the ReadWriteThink templates to stop working. That is until now!

Thanks to Larry Ferlazzo's weekly Ed Tech Digest post, this morning I learned that ReadWriteThink has released updated versions of their popular student interactives. The updated versions retain all of the great aspects of the originals, but now they work without Flash. You can find all of them right here

In this video I provide a brief overview of the updated ReadWriteThink student interactives collection. The video includes a demonstration of one of my favorite templates, the Trading Card Creator.


Applications for Education
Some of the ways that the ReadWriteThink Trading Card Creator could be used by students is to create a set of trading cards about characters in a novel, to create a set of cards about people of historical significance, or to create cards about places that they're studying in their geography lessons.
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Understanding Negative Temperatures

11 de Janeiro de 2022, 15:07
It is a very cold day here in Maine. It's not the coldest that I've experienced in Maine, but it's still not a pleasant day outside. When I let my dogs out at 5am it was -9F and when I took my daughters to school it was -1F. It was on the way to school that I my five-year-old asked, "what's negative mean?" I did my best to explain it while driving, but I'm not sure I explained it well. We'll revisit that topic at dinner tonight. 

I turned to YouTube for help in my quest to develop a better explanation of negative temperatures to my daughters. I found two videos good explanations that were helpful and whose visuals I'll probably use when I try to explain it negative temperatures to my daughters.

If you find yourself also trying to explain negative temperatures to kids, take a look at the following videos. 

Negative Numbers: An Overview is an animated video from GCF Learn Free. The video explains negative numbers in the context of temperature and in the context of money (debt). One thing for American audiences to note is that the temperatures used in the examples are expressed in Celsius. 



Understanding Positive and Negative Numbers With Temperatures is a LearnZillion video lesson for kids. This video covers the concept of negative and positive numbers in the context of temperatures on both the Celsius and Fahrenheit scales. It also explains how to write negative temperatures.



Both of these videos are just the right length and format to work well as self-paced lessons created and distributed in platforms like EDpuzzle. Here's a tutorial on how to use videos like those above in EDpuzzle.


More tools and ideas for teaching with existing videos are included in my ebook, 50 Tech Tuesday Tips
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How to Create Your Own Educational Games With TinyTap - Getting Started

10 de Janeiro de 2022, 15:10
Disclosure: This is sponsored content. 

TinyTap is a great platform that I’ve been sharing with teachers since 2012, a full decade this fall. In that time I’ve seen it evolve from an iPad app for creating simple games to a full suite of tools for creating educational games to play on iPads, on Android devices, and in the web browser on your favorite computer including Chromebooks.

The latest update to TinyTap enables you to create educational games on your computer. Over the next few weeks I’ll be highlighting the many kinds of games you can create in the web browser version of TinyTap, how to make them, and some use cases for them. This week we’ll start with the basics of building and publishing your first game on TinyTap.

Getting Started - Creating Your First TinyTap Game
If you want to get a sense of how games are played before you create your first one, you can do so by simply going to TinyTap.com and trying one of the “editor’s choice” games. You can play any and all of those games in your web browser without creating an account, but you’ll get a better experience by creating a free TinyTap account.

When you browse through and play some of the editor’s choice games you’ll see that the simplest kind of game is an object identification game. Creating that kind of game is a great way to learn the basics of game creation on TinyTap.

To get started on the process of making a game you will need to sign-up for a free TinyTap account by clicking on the blue teacher icon, sign in, and then click the create button at the top of the screen. Once you do that you’ll see the game editor appear. Give your game a name (you can always change it later if needed) then you’re ready to add content to your game.

The process of creating a TinyTap game is much like creating a slide in PowerPoint or Google Slides. You can start by choosing one of the many slide designs or use just a blank slide design. After choosing a design, add a picture to the game. You can upload pictures or use the integrated search tool to find pictures to use in your game. In the example below, I’ve included a picture of a baseball and a picture of an American football. Both pictures were found through the integrated image search tool.
After adding an image or two, it’s time to create an activity for the game. To ask a question you’ll need to click on “set activity” (see screenshot below) then choose the type of activity you want to add to your game.
An easy first activity is to just ask a question. Clicking on “ask a question” will open an audio recorder. You can then record yourself asking a question about what is displayed on the screen (it’s also possible to upload an MP3 instead of recording in TinyTap). For example, in my game I asked the question, “which of these is used to play American football?”
After recording your question(s) for your first activity you will need to identify the correct and incorrect answers. In my example of asking, “which of these is used to play American football?” I needed to indicate that the football is correct and the baseball is incorrect. To do that I simply clicked on the football then circled it with the tracing tool built into the TinyTap activity editor. (You can also use the tracing tool for squares and other geometric shapes). After circling the football I then used the recording tool in the TinyTap activity editor to say, “that’s correct, good job!” I also made a recording that said, “sorry, that’s a baseball” that plays when someone taps on the baseball.


So far we’ve created just one question with two answer choices. You could create a slide that has more images and answer choices on it, TinyTap calls this a Soundboard activity. You can also create multiple slides to be published as part of the same game. That’s where TinyTap begins to shine. By adding more slides you begin to create a larger and better game experience for your students.

Expanding Your First TinyTap Game
As I alluded to above, there is a lot more that you can do with TinyTap’s game creator than just make a one-slide identification game. I’d recommend at the very least adding an engaging title slide and a “say something” activity.

To add a title slide to my game I just clicked the new slide icon then selected a new style for it. The style selector gives you access to a wide selection of “creation packs” offered by TinyTap. In the screenshot below you can see where to access the creation packs and where to click to add more slides to your game.
To my title slide I added an activity type called “Say Something.” That activity type is simply a way for you to add your voice to the game. In this case I recorded myself saying “welcome to the game all about sports.” That audio plays back when students open the game.

My game now has a title slide, an audio introduction, and an identification question. Now I’ll add one more slide and another activity type. This time rather than tapping to identify their answer choices, students will type their answers. To create that kind of question I added a new slide and an image to it. In this case (seen in the screenshot below) I added a picture of a skier. I then selected the activity type of “Talk or Type” which allowed me to trace the skier and then ask the question, “is this a summer or winter sport?” When students see this question in the game they’ll type or speak their responses.
Publishing Your TinyTap Game
Before finishing the editing of your game you can preview it and play it as your students would. When you finish your game just click the “done” button and it is automatically saved in your TinyTap account. In your account dashboard you can choose to keep your game in draft mode (nobody but you can see it) or you can publish it and share it with your students.

A complete set of game creation tutorials is available by clicking “tutorial” in the upper-right corner of the game editor screen in TinyTap. I also made this short tutorial to demonstrate everything that is outlined above.



Applications for Education
TinyTap makes it easy to create engaging, educational games for your students to play at home or in your classroom. You can use the basic framework that I shared today to create identification games for topics in elementary school science and math lessons. For example, you could create a game in which students have to identify all of the mammals that appear on the screen. Another example is to create a game in which students identify shapes.

Thinking back to the days when I thought that I might want to be a music teacher, creating a TinyTap game in which students practice identifying whole notes, half notes, quarter notes, and eighth notes could be a fun way for them to practice reading music. Additionally, another way to use TinyTap for music lessons is to import images of musical instruments and have students practice identifying and “playing” them. Here’s one example and here’s another.
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Read Aloud in Edge and Other Immersive Reader Uses

10 de Janeiro de 2022, 13:03

Yesterday morning I published a blog post about using the Read Aloud Chrome extension. In the introduction to that post I mentioned that I usually recommend using Immersive Reader in Microsoft Edge if you need to regularly have webpages read aloud. A reader emailed me this morning to ask why I prefer Immersive Reader. Here's the short explanation that I gave. 

Immersive Reader in Edge lets users pick the voice in which pages are read aloud, lets users chose the speed at which pages are read aloud, and it lets users adjust the size and spacing of the font that is displayed while pages are read aloud. There are some additional features that are also helpful in some situations. For example, you can have parts of speech highlighted by Edge. In this short video I provide a demonstration of using Immersive Reader in Microsoft Edge. 



Here are a few more ways to use Immersive Reader.

How to Highlight, Annotate, and Share Pages in Microsoft Edge



How to Have PDFs Read Aloud by Using Microsoft Edge



How to Use Immersive Reader in Microsoft Forms

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What's the Difference Between Snow, Sleet, and Freezing Rain?

10 de Janeiro de 2022, 11:55
Yesterday it started to sleet during my daughters' skiing lessons. They didn't mind and kept right on skiing. But I heard a lot of other parents saying things like, "what the heck? why isn't this snow? it's cold enough to be snow!" As an amateur meteorologist I knew the answer was that while the temperature at ground level was cold enough for snow, the atmosphere above us wasn't cold enough to create snow. As a parent who didn't want to be "that guy" in the group, I just sipped my coffee with the other parents standing in the sleet. If you're curious about the answer, I have a couple of quick video explanations for you to watch.

The following videos explain the conditions that create freezing rain, sleet, and snow. 

Freezing Rain Explained is a video from the Weather Channel. The video includes a demonstration that science teachers could recreate with dry ice in their science labs. 



The Difference Between Snow, Sleet, and Freezing Rain is a video from a news channel in my hometown. This video not only does a good job of explaining the differences, it's also a good model for using some simple green screen effects to create an explanatory video.



Speaking of green screen effects, my ebook 50 Tech Tuesday Tips includes ideas and tutorials for creating green screen videos. Get your copy right here!
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Old School Meets New School in Volley for Education

10 de Janeiro de 2022, 10:07
Last week I wrote a lengthy blog post and shared a few videos about an exciting new messaging platform called Volley. Even though I spent a long time dabling in Volley and setting up some spaces in it, I never really settled on a great, quick description of it. Then on Friday afternoon as I was walking my dogs it hit me, Volley is like if message boards or listserves (I'm really dating myself with that reference) had video and audio components. 

If you're about my age or older, you probably remember the first online courses being almost entirely text-based and conducted through a message board or listserve platform. In those courses you would have a section for group discussion (with perhaps some subsections) and a section for dialogue with just the instructor. You'd write to participate in the discussions. 

In Volley you could set-up an online course discussion with the same structure of places for group discussion and places for individual discussions with the instructor. The benefit of using Volley is that those discussions can include video and audio dialogues in addition to the text component. There's also a handy screen recording tool that you can use to make videos in which you give private feedback about a student's essay or slideshow. That simple process is demonstrated in this video


Applications for Education
Volley could be the solution you're looking for if you're someone who always liked the structure of message boards for online courses, but wished it had video and audio messaging components.

Disclosure: Volley is currently an advertiser on this blog. 
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The Science of Winter Olympics Sports

9 de Janeiro de 2022, 10:56
The 2022 Winter Olympics are scheduled to start in a little less than one month from now. I'm looking forward to sitting on my couch and drinking some hot chocolate while watching the world's best in alpine and nordic skiing. I also enjoy watching curling even though I don't always understand all of the rules of that game. There's a whole lot of science behind all of the Winter Olympics events that we see on our screens. If you have students who are interested in the events, capitalize on that interest and share these Olympics-based science lessons with them. 

The National Science Foundation offers a YouTube playlist of sixteen videos on the science of Winter Olympics events. These short videos teach lessons on the physics and engineering behind the events we see on television. The videos are a decade old, but the science concepts covered are just as relevant to these Olympic games as they were to previous Winter Olympics.
 

It's hard to host skiing and snowboarding events without a lot of snow. That's why a lot of the snow we'll see on television during the Winter Olympics is human-made snow. How to Make Snow (If You're Not Elsa) is a short video produced by SciShow that explains how snow is made at ski resorts by using cooled water and compressed air.


 
In the United States NBC owns the rights to nearly all Olympics-related footage and logos which is why it's a little disappointing that they don't offer more student-focused resources than this PDF guide to the Winter Olympics and some YouTube videos that aren't well organized beyond this playlist. I went through the NBC News Learn channel and highlighted a few favorites and included them below.  

Science of the Winter Olympics: Building Faster & Safer Bobsleds



Science of the Winter Olympics: Banking On Bobsled Speed



Sliding Down At 90 MPH: The Science Behind The Fastest Sport On Ice



Science of the Winter Olympics: The Science Friction of Curling



Science of the Winter Olympics: Figuring Out Figure Skating



Science of the Winter Olympics: The Science of Snowboarding

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Read Aloud in Chrome

9 de Janeiro de 2022, 10:30
My usual recommendation for teachers and students who need webpages read aloud is to use Immersive Reader which is built into Microsoft Edge. But if Edge isn't available to you then you might want to try the Read Aloud extension for Chrome. The Read Aloud extension does exactly what its name implies, it reads pages aloud. 

The Read Aloud extension doesn't offer nearly as many options as Immersive Reader in Edge offers, but there are a few customizations that you can make to it. You can adjust the speed at which pages are read, the size of the text as it's displayed when being read aloud, and you can change the size of the text box that is displayed when a page is read aloud. 

Watch this one-minute video to see how Read Aloud for Chrome works. 

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Audio, Buffalo, and Skiing - The Week in Review

8 de Janeiro de 2022, 10:07

Good morning from Maine where we have a fresh layer of snow on the ground. It's going to be a great weekend for skiing at our favorite little ski mountain, Mt. Abram. One of the things that I like about Mt. Abram is that when it's closed during the week I can still skin up and ski down the mountain. That's exactly what I did earlier this week when I was in desperate need of some fresh air and good, hard exercise. But this weekend I'll be riding the lift with my daughters. I hope that you also have something fun planned for your weekend. 

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Volley - Video, Audio, and Text Messaging for Learning
2. Best of 2021 - The Science of Cake!
3. Add Audio to Almost Anything in Google Workspace
4. How to Record and Embed Audio in Google Docs
5. How to Create and Publish Your First Podcast
6. The National Jukebox - 16,000+ Early Music Recordings
7. All About American Buffalo

Thank you for your support!
Your registrations in Practical Ed Tech courses (listed below) and purchases of my ebook help me keep Free Technology for Teachers going.

On-demand Professional Development
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 39,000 subscribers watching my short tutorial videos on a wide array of educational technology tools. 
  • I've been Tweeting as @rmbyrne for fourteen 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 CloudComputin and WayBetterSite. Featured image captured by Richard Byrne.
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Two Ways to Create Virtual Manipulatives for Elementary School Math Lessons

8 de Janeiro de 2022, 10:04
Earlier this week I received an email from a reader who was looking for some ideas for creating virtual manipulatives she and her elementary school students to use during remote instruction days. I had two ideas immediately come to mind that I shared with her and I'll share with you. 

The first idea I shared was to use Google Drawings to make virtual manipulatives and then distribute them through Google Classroom. You can do this in two ways. One is to make a set of text boxes and other shapes in Google Drawings and then share it as an assignment in Google Classroom. The other way is to make an assignment and then choose "Drawings" to create a new drawing to distribute to students. In this video I demonstrate how to do that. 


My other suggestion for making virtual math manipulatives was to try Lumio (disclosure, a recent advertiser on this blog). Lumio offers more than a dozen premade virtual math manipulatives that you can use to create individual and group online mathematics activities. Here's a little video overview of Lumio's virtual manipulatives. 

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About Primary Sources

7 de Janeiro de 2022, 10:42
As a U.S. History teacher one my primary goals was to help students understand the past to understand where we (Americans) came from to understand how we got here and to, hopefully, avoid mistakes of the past. To that end, I frequently had students read excerpts from primary source documents. Sometimes that meant confronting language and sentiments while common at the time of writing would be completely unacceptable if they were written today. 

Confronting primary source documents whose content if written today would be completely unacceptable  becomes a very teachable moment in terms of helping students understand the context (physical as well as political and cultural) in which the documents were written. It's also an opportunity to teach how and why change happened. 

It is difficult to teach with primary sources if students don't first fully understand the differences between primary and secondary sources. That's every year that I taught U.S. History began with lessons on identifying primary and locating primary source documents. To that end, I have a few resources that helped me help my students and I hope will help you as well. 

Compare textbooks, primary sources, and Wikipedia.
This is a rather simple activity that I've done over the years as an introduction to the value of primary sources. In the activity I provide students with a textbook entry, a Wikipedia entry, and a primary source document about the same event or topic. I then have them read all three and compare the information about the event. The outline of questions for students is available in this Google Document that I created.

Guided reading of primary sources through Google Documents.
One of my favorite ways to use the commenting feature in Google Documents is to host online discussions around a shared article. Through the use of comments connected to highlighted sections of an article I can guide students to important points, ask them questions, and allow them to ask clarifying questions about the article. All the steps for this process are outlined in Using Google Documents to Host Online Discussions of Primary Sources. A variation on this activity can be completed with Formative. I outlined that process here

What's the Difference Between a Primary and a Secondary Source?
The Gale Family Library at the Minnesota History Center offers this good and concise video explanation for students. My friends Lee and Sachi at Common Craft also offer an excellent video explanation of the differences between primary and secondary sources. 





Disclosure: I have a long-standing in-kind relationship with Common Craft. 
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StoryMap JS - A Nice Alternative to Tour Builder

7 de Janeiro de 2022, 10:05
Like many teachers, I was disappointed when Google deprecated Tour Builder and Tour Creator last year. Since then in my webinar series with Rushton Hurley and on social media I've answered a lot of questions from teachers about alternatives to Tour Builder. StoryMap JS is one of the tools that I've been suggesting when asked for Tour Builder alternatives. That's why earlier this week when I got a Twitter DM from a teacher in Texas who was looking for a Tour Builder alternative I decided to create a new tutorial video about using StoryMap JS

In this tutorial video I demonstrate how you can use StoryMap JS as an alternative to Tour Builder. In the tutorial I include directions for incorporating Google Street View imagery into your mapped stories built with StoryMap JS. 



Applications for Education
Building a storymap with Storymap JS provides a good way for students to make connections between historical events and their locations. For example, in the storymap I made in the video above I included a reference to the New York Yankees losing the 2004 American League championship to the Boston Red Sox in an unprecedented and historic fashion. 
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Q&A in Microsoft Teams Meetings

6 de Janeiro de 2022, 10:05
I'm not a regular Microsoft Teams user (the schools and clients I work with all use Zoom or Meet) which is why I rely on Mike Tholfsen's great YouTube channel to keep me updated about the latest and greatest in Microsoft Teams. It's through Mike's channel that I learned about the relatively new and updated Q&A feature in Microsoft Teams meetings. Mike published this concise tutorial on how to use it. His video shows the teacher view and student view of using the Q&A tools in Microsoft Teams meetings. 


Applications for Education
What I like about this Q&A feature in Microsoft Teams meetings is that you can pick a question from all of those submitted by students and publish it for the whole class to see. That way there is a visual reminder for the whole class as you are answering a student's question. 
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Whiskers and Transcripts

6 de Janeiro de 2022, 09:49
One of the many things that I love about being a dad to two little girls is all of the questions they ask me. Many of their questions are about things that I haven't thought about in decades. For example, the other night my four-year-old asked about our cat's whiskers. Specifically, she wanted to know why cats have whiskers. My answer was that cats have whiskers to help them feel and sense things near them especially in the dark. For my four-year-old that was a suitable answer. If you'd like a bit more in-depth answer as to why animals like cats have whiskers, SciShow Kids offers this good video lesson.


While watching the video above, I accidentally clicked on the "open transcript" button on YouTube. That reminded me of this tutorial I published about how to create a hyperlinked transcript of almost any YouTube video. 

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