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Google Earth has been one of my favorite ed tech tools for more than a decade. Over the years it has evolved as a desktop application and as a browser-based application. The web browser version of Google Earth seems to be getting the bulk of development attention from Google these days so I've created a new video that highlights five features of Google Earth (web version) that teachers should know how to use. These features are helpful and can be used in more than just social studies settings. 

In the video I demonstrate how to do the following things in the web version of Google Earth:

  • Locate and share lessons.
  • Share Google Earth games and quizzes via Google Classroom.
  • Create and share collections of placemarks in Google Earth. 
  • Change the base map in Google Earth. 
  • Change the units of measurement in Google Earth.
Learn much more about Google Earth by taking my online course, A Crash Course in Google Earth and Maps for Social Studies.
Disclosure: Make Beliefs Comix is currently an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

Last month I outlined five ideas for using comics in your classroom. One of those ideas included having students tell stories from their lives outside of school. Continuing on that train of thought, Make Beliefs Comix has a new page of resources designed for families

The Make Beliefs Comix resources for families include creating a memory quilt and telling stories about family pets. The memory quilt activity asks parents and their children to fill in a memory square (templates available here) about things like "happiest day of my life," "favorite family saying," or "favorite achievement." The completed squares are then combined to make a "quilt" of family stories. 

Pet Words is a selection of Make Beliefs Comix story starters all about family pets. Some of these story starters include turning your pet into a superhero, things that people confide in their pets, and things the pets think about when people leave for school or for work for the day. 

Take a look at all of the resources for families on Make Beliefs Comix to find more activities and story starters for parents and their children to do together. 

Watch the video here to learn how you can make comics on Make Beliefs Comix. 

Good morning from Maine where the humidity is making everything feel wet. That's okay because I'm going fishing and will get wet anyway. It's the last weekend of the fishing season on my favorite river and I'm hoping to catch a few landlocked salmon to end the year. I hope that you have something fun planned for your weekend as well. 

This week I co-hosted the latest installment of Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff. Thanks to everyone who joined us for the live session. If you missed it, you can catch the replay right here and register for the next session on that same page. 

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. A Critical Thinking Quiz
2. Five Fun Breakout Games for Online and In-person Classrooms
3. Ziplet - A Good Way to Share Digital Exit Tickets
4. Tract - Project-based, Peer-to-Peer Learning
5. Two Easy Ways to Blur Faces and Objects in Your Videos
6. How to Create Custom Coloring Maps
7. Free Presidential Timeline Poster for Your Classroom Courtesy of C-SPAN

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 37,000 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.

My daughters ask me lots of questions that I haven't thought about since I was their age (4 and 5). Many of those questions I write in a list titled Questions from My Daughters that I have saved on my phone via Google Keep. "Why do we sneeze?" is one of the questions that my youngest daughter recently asked me. My answer was "because something tickles the hair inside your nose." Of course, I then had to do a little more research about her question. That brought me to SciShow and SciShow Kids which both tackled the question. 

Why Do We Sneeze? is a SciShow video that dives into some research that was done by scientists who created a simulated nose to determine why humans sneeze. 

All About Sneezes! is a SciShow Kids video that takes a little less scientific approach to answering the question "why do we sneeze?" while also reminding kids why it is important to cover their nose and mouth when they sneeze. 

YouTube offers a bunch of features that are sometimes overlooked or under-utilized despite being quite helpful when sharing videos in your classroom. In this new video I demonstrate five of those features. 

Playlists

By default your Google/ YouTube account has a playlist titled "watch later." That's a private playlist to which you can save any video. You can also create custom playlists to share or to keep private. In the video below I demonstrate how to create an unlisted playlist. 
Transcripts
YouTube will automatically generate a transcript for almost all videos that have spoken narration. You can copy the transcript and save it in a Google Document. 
Caption display settings
Any video can have subtitles or captions displayed. You can adjust the size and color of the font used in the caption display. Adjusting the size and color scheme can make it easier for some students to see the captions. 
Sharing sections
Rather than sharing a video and telling students to fast forward to specific section, you can share the video so that it automatically starts at a specific timestamp of your choosing. 
Searching within channels
When you've found a video producer that you like take a look at their channel and search within it for more helpful videos they've produced. 

WriteReader, one of my favorite tools for telling stories with pictures, recently launched four new features for teachers and students. One of the new features improves the usability of WriteReader while the other three enhance the overall experience for teachers using WriteReader in their classrooms. 

Phone-friendly Interface
WriteReader was originally built to be used on laptops and tablets. While it could be used on mobile phones it was a little tricky to use on small screens. That's changed now that WriteReader has optimized the user interface to work equally well on phones, tablets, and laptop computers. Students can now add pictures to their books, write, and record on phones just like they can on tablets and laptops. Teachers can also now use their phones to give students feedback on their WriteReader books. Learn more about this update right here.

Standards and Resource Center
WriteReader offers a great resource center for teachers. In that resource center you will find book template, writing prompts, lesson plans, and more. All of the writing prompts are now aligned to Common Core Standards and the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for English Language Arts and Reading standards (that's a mouthful of a title). Learn more about the standards alignment here.

Reading Rooms
Reading Rooms is the latest feature added to WriteReader. Reading Rooms are digital showcases of your students' work. You can select the books that you want to include in the reading room. Once you've made your selections you can then share the reading room with parents and other community members by simply sending them a link to it. Parents don't need WriteReader accounts in order to view books that are shared in WriteReader Reading Rooms. Watch this video to learn more about the Reading Rooms feature in WriteReader.

Long-time followers of my blog have probably noticed that I really like the videos produced by SciShow Kids. Their videos cover a wide range of science topics and almost all of them answer questions that elementary school students are apt to ask. For example, one of the recent releases from SciShow Kids asks, "what would we eat on Mars?" 

In What Would We Eat on Mars? SciShow Kids explains why plants don't grow on Mars and waht it would take to try to grow plants and support life on Mars. The video ends with a series of questions for kids to answer with their thoughts about how we might grow plants on Mars and what to grow and eat on Mars. I think it's a fun video and a fun set of questions to use to get kids thinking about science. 

Disclosure: Breakout EDU is currently an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

A week ago I shared a handful of fun Breakout EDU games for in-person and online classrooms. A couple of those games were actually designed, built, and shared by teachers and not by Breakout EDU staff. In fact, Breakout EDU encourages teachers to create a Breakout EDU games to play online or in-person. To that end Breakout EDU offers an extensive collection of tutorials and materials for designing, building, and publishing your own games. 

Watching the game design tutorial videos is probably the best first step if you're interested in creating your own Breakout EDU games. Those six videos walk you through the overall concept of game design then the five steps of building and publishing your game. 

After watching the game design tutorial videos you'll be ready to build your first Breakout EDU game. All of the templates and artwork that you need to get started are available on this Breakout EDU resources page. The templates are in Google Docs format so that you can quickly copy and save them in your Google Workspace account. 

For inspiration for making your own Breakout EDU games take a look at this handful I highlighted last week. 

There are plenty of places on the Internet to find free outline maps of states, provinces, countries, and regions of the world. Finding blank outline maps of cities, small towns, or neighborhoods is a little harder to do. If you're looking for a blank map of a city, town, or neighborhood for your students to label and or color, Mapbox Studio has the solution for you. 

With a free Mapbox Studio account you can create a custom outline map of any city, town, or neighborhood of your choosing. You can choose how much or how little detail you want to include in the map. Once you've made your selections you can save your map as a PNG or JPG file to print and distribute to your students.

In this short video I demonstrate how to use Mapbox Studio to create your own custom coloring maps. 

ClassHook is a service that I've been using and recommending for the last few years. It provides a good way to find clips from movies and television shows to use in your lessons. You can search it according Common Core standard, recommended grade level, and subject area. Recently, ClassHook added another search option. ClassHook's new Movie Recommendation option lets you conduct a broad, general search for movie clips without having to enter a grade or a standard. Watch this short video to see how it works. 

Applications for Education
Once you've found a clip through ClassHook you could just play it for your class to watch in your room or link to it in your LMS of choice. Another option is to use ClassHook's "pause prompts" feature to incorporate discussion questions into the video. Pause Prompts are timestamped questions that you add to video clips in ClassHook. When you're showing a video to your class, the questions you've written as Pause Prompts will automatically pop-up at the timestamp you've specified. The video will stop and the question will appear full-screen in its place. You can then have a discussion with your students about the prompt. In this short video I demonstrate how to use ClassHook's pause prompts feature.

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