May 10

Practical Ed Tech Tip-Richard Bryne

Last week I answered a question from reader who was looking for some tools that his students could use to build apps to complement business design projects. It was a question that I was excited to answer because designing apps is something I enjoy doing with students. I also enjoy any opportunity to help non-computer science teachers try something new and get their students to design apps.

Creating a mobile app can be a great way to get students interested in learning programming concepts. It’s also a good way to get them to dive into researching a topic so that they can build the best apps they can. To those ends, here are three ways to approach designing apps with students.

Design With Slides

In an effort to help students think about all of the menus, items, and media that their apps will need, I have my students use Google Slides to outline the design of their apps (PowerPoint would work just as well). They can do this by having each slide in their slidedecks represent a screen in their apps. Then they use the hyperlinking function in Google Slides to link between the slides in their slidedecks. That’s done to simulate tapping screens in the apps they’re designing. In this short video I explain this process a bit more.

Build With Blocks

Block programming helps students build apps without having to first learn a specific programming language like Python or JavaScript. MIT App Inventor and Thunkable are popular block editors for building mobile apps.

In a block programming environment students drag together blocks that when correctly assembled make a functioning app. Typically, each block represents a function, variable, list, or media element. The block editor will show students if they have tried to match incompatible blocks.

MIT App Inventor works in your web browser (Chrome is recommended). The only download that is required for App Inventor 2 is the optional emulator. The emulator allows people who don’t have Android devices to test their apps on their desktops. If you have an Android device then the emulator is not required and you don’t need to worry about installing it. I created this MIT App Inventor tutorial late last year. The MIT App Inventor website also offers a lot of excellent help resources for teachers.

If you want to create an iOS app, Thunkable provides a way to do that in a manner that is very similar to that of the MIT App Inventor. In fact, Thunkable is based on the MIT App Inventor framework of using jigsaw-like pieces that have commands labeled on them. Your job is to put the pieces together to make your apps work. Thunkable offers detailed written tutorials and video tutorials.

Turn a Spreadsheet Into an App

While it won’t introduce your students to the same depth of programming as the block editors mentioned above, Glide is still a good way to quickly create a mobile app. Glide is a free tool that anyone can use to create a mobile app by simply creating a spreadsheet in Google Sheets.

To get started making your first app with Glide you will need to create a spreadsheet in Google Sheets. Your spreadsheet’s column headers are what will become the sections your app. The information that you enter into your spreadsheet’s columns is what will be displayed within each section your app. You can include links to videos, images, and maps in your spreadsheet and those items will be included in your app too. After your spreadsheet is built just import it into your free Glide account and Glide will turn it into a mobile app for you to use and share.

Here’s my complete video tutorial on how to use Glide and here’s a list of ideas for using it.

Learn More!

The topic of this week’s newsletter, app design and building for the non-computer science teacher is one of the topics that I’ll cover in much more depth during the Practical Ed Tech Virtual Summer Camp.

These were last week’s most popular blog posts:

1. Ten Good Tools for Telling Stories With Pictures

2. My Ten Favorite “Hidden” Office 365 Features

3. Ten Google Workspaces Features for Teachers You Might Be Overlooking

4. Five Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp FAQs

5. Blackbird Code – Overview and First Impressions from My Students

6. Wolves in My Yard and Penguins in My House! – Fun With Augmented Reality in Search

7. 7 Interesting Features You Can Add to Google Sites

May 3

Practical Ed Tech Tip of the Week

Before I share my tip of the week, here’s my quick reminder that early registration for the Practical Ed Tech Virtual Summer Camp is available now.

I write a lot about Google Workspaces because I get asked about it a lot and because I work in a school that uses it. I also use Office 365 products quite a bit in my work outside of my classroom.

There are some things about Office 365 tools that I prefer over their Google equivalents. Likewise, there are some things about Google Workspaces tools that I prefer to their Office 365 rivals. This evening I’d like to share my favorite “hidden” features of Google Workspaces and Office 365 tools.

All of the following features are demonstrated sequentially in the videos that are linked below each list.

My favorite “hidden” Google Workspaces features:

  • Google Docs:
  • Google Slides: specify video start and stop time
  • Google Forms: set default point value
  • Google Sheets: apply a theme
  • Google Meet: blur your background
  • Google Classroom: copy an entire class
  • Google Jamboard: duplicating objects
  • Google Drawings: hyperlink elements of a published drawing
  • Gmail: schedule sending of messages
  • Google Keep: set reminders based on time and place

See the features listed above in action in this video.

My favorite “hidden” Office 365 features:

  • Word: Image insert with Pexels add-in.
    • Video insert and playback.
  • PowerPoint: Presenter coach
  • Forms: Open and close dates
  • OneNote: Save articles without annoying advertising pop-ups.
  • OneDrive: Share files with an expiration date and password.
  • Teams: Export Whiteboard Drawings as PNG
  • Excel: Analyze Data
  • Outlook: Schedule sending.
    • Message encryption/ preventing forwarding.
  • To Do: Add multiple steps within a task.

See the features listed above in action in this video.

April 19

Practical Ed Tech Tip of the Week – Alternatives to Google Expeditions and Tour Creator

Like thousands of other teachers, last week I got a reminder from Google that Expeditions and Tour Creator will be shut down at the end of June. I like and use both products so I’m a bit disappointed by Google’s decision. Based on the emails I’ve received, I’m not the only one.

Rather than groaning about Google’s decision to shut down Expeditions and Tour Creator, I’ve sought out some alternatives to both tools. I put those alternatives and descriptions of them in this Google Doc. A couple of highlights from that document are featured below.

Google Arts & Culture

The Google Arts & Culture app includes many of the experiences that are present in Google Expeditions. The one thing that you can’t do is guide students on tours. Google has introduced a new teacher center for Google Arts & Culture. In this video I provide an overview of how to use the Google Arts & Culture teacher center. The video includes directions for sharing specific portions of an Arts & Culture experience with your students.

Story Spheres

Story Spheres is a neat tool for adding audio recordings to 360 imagery. Story Spheres lets you upload short audio recordings in which you describe to viewers what they’re seeing, the history of what they’re seeing, and the significance of what’s in the scene they’re seeing. It’s possible to upload multiple recordings. When you’re done you can share your Story Spheres story in a blog post, on social media, or any other place that you typically post a link.

Take a look at this Story Spheres story about Uluru to get a better sense of what can be done with Story Spheres. I wrote directions for how to use Story Spheres. You can read those directions here or watch my video about how to make a Story Spheres story.

These were my post popular posts of the week:

1. 19 Canva Tutorials for Teachers and Students – Certificates, Comics, and More!

2. 12 Fun, Challenging, and Interesting Geography Games for Students

3. e-Comments Makes It Easy to Add Canned Comments to Documents and Learning Management Systems

4. How to Quickly Duplicate and Sort Jamboard Pages

5. Thousands of National Parks Pictures and Videos to Use in Google Earth

6. How to Add Audio to TeacherMade Activities – And Integrate Google Classroom

7. How to Create Your Own Online Board Game

Self-paced Professional Development Courses

Ten Search Strategies Students Need to Know
A Crash Course in Making & Teaching With Video
A Crash Course in Google Earth & Maps for Social Studies
Recommended Listening

Spaces EDU is releasing 21 short audio interviews with educators over the next three weeks. Each interview contains a quick tip for teachers to try. Find the interviews here.

As always, please feel free to hit reply to ask me anything.

Have a great week!


March 1

Wizer, TeacherMade, PDF’s tech tips from Richard Bryne

Before jumping into this week’s tip of the week I’d like to point out two webinars that I’m hosting or co-hosting this week. On Tuesday I’m hosting Five Google Earth & Maps Projects for Social Studies. On Thursday I’m co-hosting Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff.

I’ve fielded more questions about working with PDFs this school year than in all the years that I’ve published this newsletter. Most of the questions I get about PDFs are related to using them in Google Classroom or Microsoft Teams. If you want to do more than just distribute PDFs to your students, here are three tools to try.


Wizer is an online platform for creating online multimedia worksheet activities that you can distribute to students through a variety of learning management systems. Wizer includes an option to upload a PDF to which you add a variety of question formats are supported including open response, multiple choice, and matching questions.

Last fall Wizer released a Google Drive add-on that lets you quickly convert PDFs that are in your Google Drive into online worksheets on Wizer. With the add-on installed you can simply select any PDF in your Google Drive then choose “open with Wizer” to use that PDF in Wizer where you can then add interactive elements. You can see an overview of Wizer’s Google Drive add-on in this video.


TeacherMade is a free tool that you can use to turn your PDFs, Word docs, Google Docs, and pictures into online activities. You can add multiple choice, true/false, cloze, matching and short answer questions to your PDF activities. And if you choose to make your activity a graded one, TeacherMade will automatically score responses for you.

One of my favorite aspects of TeacherMade is that your students don’t need email addresses in order to complete the activities that you create and share with them. Watch this video for a complete overview of the process of creating activities and how students complete them.

Lumin PDF

Just before winter break one of my colleagues asked me for a suggestion for a way her students could do some free-hand writing on documents that she shares with them in Google Classroom. My suggestion was to have her students try using a Chrome extension called Lumin PDF.

Lumin PDF is a Chrome extension that enables students to draw on top of PDFs that they open in Chrome. After drawing on the PDF students can save the PDF as a new copy or replace the existing copy of the PDF that was sent to them in Google Classroom. Here’s my video overview of Lumin PDF.

Handy PDF Tricks to Know

These aren’t things that will convert your PDFs into interactive worksheets, but they’re good to know anyway.

Last Week’s Most Popular Posts on

1. How to Make Sure Students Aren’t Unsupervised in Google Meet Video Calls

2. – Create Online Whiteboards You Can Share and Monitor

3. A Tour of Google Arts and Culture for Teachers

4. How to Create a Google Slides Template

5. Some of my Favorites – Creating Green Screen Videos

6. Ten Time-savers for G Suite for Education Users

7. Three Easy Ways for Students to Make Short Audio Recordings – No Email Required

Thank you for your support!

I couldn’t keep this newsletter and going without you. Whether you’ve registered for one of my courses or you’ve just told a friend about my work, I appreciate your support.

Have a great week!


February 23

Feb. 23rd Teacher Tech Tip-Bryne

From improved efficiency to increased accessibility, web browser extensions and add-ons can be quite helpful to teachers and students. That said, we should be thoughtful about the add-ons we install and what we recommend for our students to install. Here’s what I look for when trying borwser extensions and add-ons.

Date of Last Update

Modern browsers are updated on a fairly frequently. Sometimes those updates are minor and other times they’re significant. The extensions and add-ons that I use should also be updated regularly. Generally, if an extension or add-on hasn’t been updated in more than six months I get concerned and probably won’t install it or keep it installed. The date of last update is published for Chrome, Firefox, and Edge extensions on their respective landing pages.

Reviews and Responses

The reviews on an extension’s landing page can tell you a little bit about it. What I find more informative is whether or not the developer(s) respond to reviews. A developer that never responds or doesn’t address concerns in an update is a red flag for me.

Data Access

At the most basic level you should read the permissions that an extension or add-on asks you for. However, if you read those permissions on their own without the context of why the permissions are requested it can be easy to freak out over how much permission is requested. For example tools like Read & Write for Chrome and Grackle Docs (both I like and I recommend) ask for permissions to access your Google Docs because they need them in order to perform their respective functions in Google Docs. Likewise, Screencastify asks for permission to “read, add, and modify files” in Google Drive so that you can save your videos in your Google Drive account.

I get concerned when an add-on or extension asks for permissions that aren’t related to its stated purpose. For example, a PDF annotation tool that asks for permission to access my Google Drive or OneDrive would be red flag if didn’t offer the option to back-up my PDF to one of those accounts.

I also look to see whether or not the extension or add-on anonymizes data that it collects. That’s not always easy to find, but generally speaking the companies that do that advertise it.

Finally, if the add-on or extension is one that you’re going to have students install take a good look at CIPPA compliance statements from the developer (if you’re outside of the U.S. there is probably similar legislation about use and protection of student data).

How to Find, Install, and Remove Extensions

Chrome extensions are found in the Chrome Web Store. Directions for installing and uninstalling Chrome extensions can be seen here.

Microsoft Edge add-ons are available in the Edge Add-ons storeWatch this video for directions on installing and uninstalling Edge add-ons.

The gallery Firefox add-ons can be found hereThis short video shows you how to install and uninstall Firefox add-ons.

These were last week’s most popular posts on

1. Three Easy Ways for Students to Make Short Audio Recordings – No Email Required

2. – Create Online Whiteboards You Can Share and Monitor

3. Some of my Favorites – Creating Green Screen Videos

4. Video – How to Annotate Your Screen in Google Meet

5. Ten Time-savers for G Suite for Education Users

6. Some of my Favorites – Flipgrid Whiteboard

7. Some of my Favorites – DIY Common Craft Videos

Thank you for your support!

More than a dozen of you have taken one of my on-demand courses this month. Enrollment in those courses helps me keep this newsletter and going.

Have a great week!


January 1

Practical ED Tech Tip of the Week with Richard Bryne

During a webinar that I hosted last week a teacher asked me a good question about using Zoom breakout rooms with students. The gist of the question was, “do you have any tips about how to keep kids on task when I put them into breakout rooms?”

My top tip for keeping kids on task in in breakout rooms is to keep the activities short and sweet. To that end, I recommend trying an activity known as a “Three Color Quiz.” This activity can be done in breakout rooms in Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams.

A Three Color Quiz doesn’t have to be a graded quiz activity. In fact, it’s hardly a quiz at all, but that’s the name that was given to it in this paper published by the University of Nebraska Digital Commons (link opens a PDF) which is where I learned about it a couple of years ago.

I started using a modified Three Color Quiz with my students as in-classroom assignment last year then transitioned to using it as an in-Zoom assignment this year (you could also do it in Google Meet or Microsoft Teams). Here’s how I run the Three Color Quiz in Zoom.

Step One: First Color

I give students a question or prompt and have them spend two minutes writing responses on their own in a Google Doc or Word Doc. This should be done in one font color.

Step Two: Second Color

After writing on their own for a few minutes put students into breakout rooms to talk to a classmate or two for two minutes to get their ideas in response to the original question. While talking they should also be adding to their original answers. What gets added to the original response should be written in a second font color different from the first.

Step Three: Third Color

Bring the group back together then send them into new breakout rooms where they again talk to classmates for two minutes. This time they can also consult web resources and their notes as they talk. Again, while talking they should be writing and adding to their original answers. The writing in this step is done in a third font color.

The Three Color Quiz in breakout rooms accomplishes a few things for me.

  • First, it gets students who might not otherwise talk to each other a chance to talk.
  • Second, when they turn in their documents I can see how much help a student needed from classmates or the Internet based on the use of color (by the way, I don’t grade the documents).
  • Third, by only making the breakout sessions a couple of minutes students don’t have time to get off-task for too long if at all before I bring the group back together.

If you need help creating breakout rooms in Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, or Zoom, I have directions for each included in this blog post. In that post I included Mike Tholfsen’s great tutorial on using Microsoft Teams breakout rooms.

These were last week’s most popular posts on

1. My Current Hybrid Classroom Arrangement and Equipment

2. How to Create Freehand Drawings in Google Slides

3. How to Find “Lost” Items in Google Drive

4. Five Ideas for Online Breakout Room Activities

5. What is a DDos Attack? – A Simple Explanation

6. Best Job Ever – National Geographic Stories About Interesting Jobs

7. How to Create Breakout Rooms in Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet

On-demand Learning

I currently offer A Crash Course in Making & Teaching With Video and Ten Search Strategies Students Need to Know. During my school break I’ll be finishing up a redesign of and will have a couple of new on-demand courses available in the new year.

If you’ve already started your school vacation week(s), enjoy it! If, like me, you still have a few days to go, hang in there because rest is coming soon.

Have a great week!


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September 14

Teacher Tech Tip from Richard Byrne

Whiteboards Fi, Whiteboard Chat, Jamboards, and more tech tools!

One of the things that I’ve been stressing to anyone who will listen this fall is to give students activities to do during remote instruction, don’t just talk at them. For example, this week during my Intro to Networking class I had my online students diagramming simple router and switch networks. They did that on Jamboards that I shared with them through Google Classroom.

Using remote whiteboards like Jamboard is a good way to have students create diagrams, to solve math problems, to draw, or to respond to any prompt that might be tricky to type a response to. By using remote whiteboards they can work independently and you can watch them work. Jamboard isn’t the only tool for this. You might also try Whiteboard Fi or Whiteboard Chat. All three tools are explained below.


Jamboard is Google’s free online whiteboard tool. It is different from Google Drawings in two ways. First, it allows you to have multiple pages within the same file. Second, it doesn’t have as many drawing tools as Drawings. That’s not necessarily a bad thing when you want students to focus on answering math problems or creating a rough sketch. Jamboards can be shared just like a Google Doc which means you can see your students working on them. Jamboard can be shared through Google Classroom as an assignment. That process is demonstrated in this short video.

Whiteboard Fi lets you create an online room in which each of your students has his or her own whiteboard to draw on. As the teacher, you can see what your students are drawing as they do it. You have the ability to clear students’ boards and to kick them out of the room if they are not using their whiteboards as intended. Students are also able to see your whiteboard if you choose to push it out to them.

Combine Whiteboard Fi with Google Meet or Microsoft Teams and you can see what students are doing in real-time without having to screen share. Here’s my short video about that process in Google Meet.

Whiteboard Chat

Whiteboard Chat is a free service that you can use to create collaborative whiteboards to use with your students. It is possible to use Whiteboard Chat without an email address which makes it quick and easy to get started. Whiteboard Chat includes an option to create individual whiteboards for each student to use that you can also observe. Check out this video to see how it works.

These were last week’s most popular posts on

1. Google Adds More Teacher Controls for Google Meet – Yay!

2. Movies on Map – Discover the World Through a Map & Video Combination

3. Whiteboard Chat – Online Whiteboards You Can Share and Monitor

4. TeacherMade – Quickly Create & Share a Variety of Online Activities

5. Add Science & Math Simulations to Google Sites

6. An Easy Way to Make a Stop Motion Video

7. Video Puppet is Now Narakeet – Still Turns Slides Into Narrated Videos

On-demand Webinars!

Last week I hosted Ten Search Strategies Students Need to Know. If you missed it, you can watch it here. Every Thursday Rushton Hurley and I co-host Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions & Share Cool Stuff. You can catch those recordings here.

Have a great week!