Last night Google released two new features for Google Classroom. The first was the option to add materials into the Classwork section of your Google Classroom classes without making assignments. The second was the option to update your older Google Classroom classes to include a Classwork section. If you have Google Classroom classes that you want to update to include the Classwork section found in new Google Classroom classes, watch my new video to learn how to do it.

Last night I shared the news that Google has added the option for teachers to add materials like digital handouts to the Classwork section in Google Classroom. Judging by the emails and Tweets I've already seen, this is going to be a popular feature. To help you get started adding materials to your Google Classroom Classwork section, I made the following tutorial video.

Applications for Education

The option to add materials to Google Classroom without having to post an assignment or question is a feature that teachers have been asking for since Google rolled-out the new version of Google Classroom. This update should make it easier for you to distribute materials like videos, documents, slides, and audio files as handouts under the topics in the Classwork section in your Google Classroom classes.

The new version of Google Classroom just got a little bit better. Ten minutes ago I got an email from my contact at Google about informing me that the new version of Google Classroom now has a dedicated "materials" section within the new Classwork section. The new materials option will let you add resources like video files, documents, audio files, and other digital handouts that aren't assignments or questions for students to respond to. You'll find this new materials option in the Classwork section of your Google Classroom classes under the "create" menu. See my screenshot below for more detail.

The second update to Google Classroom is the option to add a Classwork section to classes that you previously created and used in the older version of Google Classroom. So if you have been on the fence about continuing to use your old classes or create new ones, now you can just update your old ones by adding a Classwork section. To do this just open your class and the in the lower, left corner of your screen click the "?" and then select "add Classwork page." See my screenshot below for more detail.

ReadWorks is a free service that provides standards-aligned reading lesson plans for K-12 classrooms. In addition to lesson plans ReadWorks offers a huge libray of fiction and non-fiction literature that you can search according to topic and grade level. All articles in ReadWorks are listed with a lexile score and suggested grade level. ReadWorks has some new features for the new school year. The headliner of those new features is a Google Classroom integration.

ReadWorks now lets you use import your Google Classroom rosters to create class rosters in ReadWorks. You can also now share ReadWorks resources directly into your Google Classroom stream.

Other updates to ReadWorks for the new school year include an expanded library of ebooks that offer narration. Much of the narration is done with human voice instead of computer-generated voice. You can refine searches for articles and ebooks according to those that do or do not have human voice narration.

And now all ReadWorks articles have an audio narration option even if that narration isn't done with human voice.

I don't often make suggestions for physical products to purchase. The exception being if I am if it is for a low-cost product for an individual teacher and it is a product that I have extensive hands-on experience using. That's why I was happy to recommend the Targus Laser Presentation remote to a reader named Therese. Therese asked me if there is a presenter-clicker-pointer that works well with Google Slides and PowerPoint.

I have used the Targus Laser Presentation remote for at least the last five years. It's a plug-and-play remote that I've used on Mac, Windows 7, Windows 10, and Chromebooks to run Google Slides, PowerPoint, and Keynote presentations. To use it all you need to do is plug the receiver into a USB port on your laptop, turn on the remote, and you're good to go. If you need it, the remote includes a black-out function for hiding your slides.

There are more expensive remotes on the market, but at $30-35 on Amazon the Targus Laser Presentation remote is hard to beat.

In 5 Multimedia Projects for Social Studies Classes I included the idea of having students make their own virtual tours of historic and interesting landmarks. The concepts used to make a virtual tour of historic landmarks can be used to create virtual tours based on the books that students read. This is easier to do with books that use the names of real places (cities, states, countries), but it could be done with books that have fictitious locations.

Make a VR Book Tour With Google's VR Tour Creator

  • To make a VR book tour with Google's VR Tour Creator start by having students select a handful of key points, including their locations, in the books they're going to make tours about. Have students write a few sentences about each location and its significance in the book.

  • If you want your students to include audio in their tours, have them record that audio and save it on the computers they are going to use to make their tours. Vocaroo provides an easy way to record and download spoken audio. Click here to learn how to use Vocaroo.

  • Your students can use the imagery that is built into Google's VR Tour Creator and or use images that they have taken or images that they find online at places like Photos for Class. Images that they find or take themselves can be layered into each stop in their virtual tours.

  • Now your students are ready to start putting together their VR book tours. This video provides an overview of the basic steps needed to make a VR tour. To add audio to the tour, follow the steps outlined in this video. And watch this video to learn how to layer-in pictures that students take or find online.

Make a VR Book Tour With Patches

If you want your students to make VR tours of books that feature imagery places (like Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings) then you should take a look at using Patches.

Patches is a free online tool for creating virtual reality scenes. Patches offers animated characters, animals, buildings, and common objects that you can place inside a virtual reality scene. Just drag and drop objects and animations from the selection menus to the Patches design canvas. You can create and customize your VR scenes as much as you like by changing object positioning, color schemes, and even the speed at which an animation moves. You can preview your VR scenes within the Patches editor. Completed projects can be viewed in a VR viewer by just enter the link assigned to your project into your mobile phone's browser.

This year I have made an conscious effort to spend more time exploring the free tools that teachers and students can use. One of those tools is the Microsoft Edge browser that includes built-in features for highlighting, annotating, and sharing webpages with your colleagues and with your students. In the following video I demonstrate how to use the highlighting, annotating, and sharing features built into Microsoft Edge. I think you will find that these tools are easy to use, perhaps even easier than using Chrome extensions for sharing webpages.

Last week I featured some accessibility extensions for Google Chrome. For those who prefer to use Microsoft Edge there are some excellent accessibility options built into that browser. Those options include a read-aloud function and a simplified reading view of webpages. Watch my video that is embedded below to learn how to use the read-aloud function that is built into Microsoft Edge.

Storyboard That started out as simple tool that anyone could use to create good-looking storyboards for a variety of purposes including explaining historical events, plot lines, and even business plans. Over the years Storyboard That has evolved to provide more than 40,000 pieces of artwork and dozens of templates for making everything from simple comics to timelines to complex flowcharts. The update to Storyboard That features a new templates and artwork for making worksheets and story cubes.

Storyboard That's new worksheet templates can be customized with any of the artwork that Storyboard That offers. To make your worksheet start by selecting one of the page layouts and then a template for the page. After making those selections you can customize the template by adding any of the shapes, text boxes, and artwork that Storyboard That provides to your worksheet. To add items to worksheet simply drag them from the artwork menu onto your worksheet page. You can then customize the color, size, orientation, and spacing of the elements that you added to your page.

Storyboard That's new story cube template lets you and your students design printable, foldable story cubes. The process of customizing a story cube is the same as that for customizing a worksheet. The only difference is that you have to select the story cube template instead of a worksheet template at the start of the process.

Applications for Education

You can use the template to make a story cube to make story starter dice that your students roll to generate a combination of words to use as the impetus for writing a fiction story. If you decide to try this method, make a cube that has verbs, a cube that has adjectives, and a cube that has nouns. Then have your students roll all three to come up with a combination to start their stories. You can drag and drop any of Storyboard That's free artwork into your story cube before printing it.

Storyboard That wants teachers to use the worksheet templates to make great-looking handouts for their students. And they encourage entrepreneurial teachers to use the templates to make materials that they can sell through services like Teachers Pay Teachers and Gumroad. In fact, that process will be explained in next week's free webinar Making Great Handouts With Storyboard That Templates.

Disclosure: Storyboard That is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com  

This week I received two emails that reminded me that it is probably time to let new readers know about some of the other places and other ways to follow my work. Here are all of the places where you can follow my work.

Practical Ed Tech Newsletter - I send this out on Sunday evenings. It includes my favorite tip of the week and a short list of the most popular posts of the week from FreeTech4Teachers.com. You can subscribe right here. You can also visit PracticalEdTech.com

Twitter - I post on Twitter about twelve times a day. And I do try to reply to all mentions. You can find me at twitter.com/rmbyrne

YouTube - Every week I post three to five new tutorial videos on my YouTube channel.

Pinterest - My blog posts are pinned to this page.

Facebook - The Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page has more than 445k followers.

Instagram - Follow this if you want to see pictures of my dogs, my outdoor activities, or my cute kids. Instagram.com/rmbyrne

Daily email - I do offer a daily email from FreeTech4Teachers.com. This is an automated email that delivers the day's blog posts to your inbox. You can sign-up for that here.