TinyTap – Create Your Own Educational Games in Your Browser

TinyTap is a company that is best known for its iPad app that lets teachers create educational games to share with their students. I’ve used it and written about it for almost a decade. Recently, TinyTap made a fantastic update. You can now use TinyTap to create your own educational games in the web browser on your computer.

To create your own educational game on TinyTap simply head to TinyTap.com and click “create.” From there you’ll see a menu of six game types to create. (There is an intermediate prompt tosign-in or sign-up if you haven’t already done so). You can then watch tutorials on game design or simply jump into creating a game. All games are created in a slide-by-slide basis. Within each slide you can add pictures, text, and audio prompts. You can choose how your students interact with questions and prompts in your game. They can interact by tapping, clicking, circling objects, matching objects, typing, or speaking. Here’s a short tutorial on making a shape puzzle game on TinyTap.  

If you’d like some inspiration for creating your own TinyTap games, browse through the public gallery of teacher-created games. The gallery is organized according to age, topic, and skill. When you find a game that you like you can use it as is or copy it and customize it in your account.

Applications for Education
One of the things that I’ve always appreciated about TinyTap is that you can make games that are perfectly tailored to your students’ needs.

TinyTap games can be shared with your students via Google Classroom and through the TinyTap platform. Additionally, you can link to the games in any LMS. Games can also be embedded into blog posts and websites as I’ve done with this fun dinosaur game.

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Certify’em – Send Personalized Certificates via Google Forms

Certify’em is a Google Forms add-on that I’ve been using for the last few years whenever I need to distribute personalized certificates. Certify’em will automatically send certificates to students when they get a minimum score on a quiz conducted with Google Forms. You set the minimum passing score that triggers the delivery of the certificate. If students achieve that score or more, a personalized certificate is sent to them via email or Google Drive. 

Certify’em has always provided some certificate templates and the option to utilize your own certificate template. Recently, Certify’em added some new certificate template options. The new options include updated designs and an easier way to utilize your own certificate templates. 
Previously, if you wanted to use your own template design in Certify’em you had to create it in Google Slides before importing it into Certify’em. Now Certify’em lets you simply click “Create My Own” from the certificate template menu to jump right into designing your own custom certificate template. 
Applications for Education
Besides using Certify’em to give students certificates for doing well on a quiz or test, I use Certify’em to send certificates to people who have completed one of my professional development courses. I’ve also seen Certify’em used to send certificates to students who have successfully completed lab safety and protocols assessments. 

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Is it OK for teachers to cry in class?

Teacher Leah Calote pulled up a big digital stopwatch on her shared screen. “You are going to have 90 seconds to grab anything around you to make a party costume,” she told the advanced theater arts students in her Zoom classroom. It was March 2021, and Rancho Campana High School, like others in California, was operating virtually amid the COVID-19 pandemic. At the word “go,” students ducked out of view or switched off their cameras while they assembled impromptu get-ups.

Some students donned a wig or Halloween mask. One wore a banana-colored hoodie and clutched a Curious George toy to be “the man in the yellow hat.” Another applied magenta lipstick and tugged on a blazer.

“Allie, what are you?” Calote asked the blazer-wearer.

“I am a girl boss!” the teen replied, flashing victory ‘v’s with her fingers.

“Oh, yeah, you are!” Calote said, laughing. “Girl boss! 2021!”

In Calote’s classes, students spend a lot of time in character. But when they’re not performing, she wants them to feel safe just being themselves. To encourage that, Calote tries to model it. She participates in warm-up games, shares parts of her life from beyond school, and, perhaps most importantly, she’s honest about her emotions, both the highs and the lows. “You have to have boundaries,” Calote says, but she advocates “being generous with the things that you can so that (students) can feel safe being generous and compassionate with each other.”

That kind of openness is not the norm, according to Patricia Jennings, a University of Virginia researcher who studies teacher stress and how it affects the social emotional context of the classroom. Jennings said that our modern education system tends to view teachers “as people who are always sweet and wonderful and nice and kind and engaged.” But that ideal is impossible to maintain 100% of the time. “Of course, we as teachers all have feelings. And so what happens is teachers suppress those uncomfortable feelings.”

Suppressing negative emotions isn’t good for anyone, Jennings said. It just makes stress worse. The coronavirus pandemic has brought that reality into focus for educators. Over the past year and half, teachers have described the heavy burden of worrying about their students’ academic progress and their own health while being asked to embody a constant “we can do this!” spirit in the face of frequent changes.

For Calote, being truthful about the challenges has been the only realistic way to survive the rollercoaster of uncertainty — and help her students do the same. While many teachers have contemplated quitting during the pandemic, Calote’s approach has helped her reaffirm that she belongs in the classroom.

Seeing the tears

One of the nadirs for Calote’s advanced theater class came in early April. Throughout the prior summer and fall, the veteran teacher put a lot of effort into learning the ropes of digital theater. In the spring, her students dove into creating a show that they could perform on Zoom. They decided to do two versions of the murder mystery Clue — one traditional and one with a modern twist. In both versions, the audience would be able to visit different virtual rooms and make choices that affected the story.

It was exciting. It was innovative. “What you are doing is not being done in most places in the world,” Calote told the young thespians.

But then, after months of adapting to a new artistic form, Calote received an unexpected email from the superintendent. The coronavirus vaccine was rolling out across the country. Pressure to reopen school buildings was mounting. Calote’s superintendent wrote that district teachers would be mandated to return to school buildings within a few weeks.

The news sent Calote reeling. She worried for own health. She worried for her students who weren’t old enough to be vaccinated. And she quickly realized that their plans for Clue would be untenable in the new arrangement.

Because Calote’s classroom at Rancho Campana has no windows, her principal said the school would place air scrubbers near the door. Those machines are loud. Students who remained virtual would hear a sound like a constant ocean wave when Calote or her in-person students spoke into their microphones. Even those in the classroom would have a hard time hearing each other through the noise and masks. The interactive Zoom show they’d been planning could not go on.

Calote’s voice shook as she broke the news to her students over Zoom. “Sorry, I’m trying to like, stay calm. My heart is beating really fast right now,” she said. As she spoke, students sent her messages like, “I’m so sorry you have to go in like this. It’s unfair,” and “It’s OK, Ms. Calote, you’ve done so much for us.” Seeing the messages, Calote’s tears spilled over. She reached for a tissue and wiped her eyes. Then she promised students that she’d find new, safe ways for them to perform and create. “It’ll, it’ll be fine,” she said. “I know it doesn’t look like it right now because I’m kind of a mess. But, you know, it’s very shocking and pretty new.”

In a moment like this, many teachers might have tried to hide their tears until they were off camera or students left the room. But that’s not always possible. 

“When you’re in a classroom with a bunch of students and you’re all basically captive in this room, you can’t leave,” said Jennings, the UVA professor. “When your emotions get the best of you, you have to manage them in front of everybody. You have no privacy.”

Is it OK for teachers to cry in class? Jennings said it’s a difficult question to answer, and it depends. But when a teacher and her students are facing a major disappointment like Calote’s class was, “being honest makes a lot of sense. … I’m sure (crying is) not your first go-to in any given situation. But when it happens, I think it’s OK.”

Permission to feel

Calote hadn’t expected to cry that day, but she didn’t feel bad about it either. “I just did the best I could, and I knew that it’s safe to be expressive and truthful with that particular group. I didn’t need to act and put on, like, a brave face,” she said. After all, she’d been honest all year long about how the pandemic was affecting her, in hopes that students would feel comfortable doing the same.

Jennings said it’s true that being emotionally vulnerable can give students permission to feel their own emotions. That was the case for Allison Girtler, a junior in Calote’s theater class last spring. She said she was angry at how the district’s sudden change in plans disrupted their show, and she was glad Calote didn’t try to shrug it off. “I feel like so much of school has this almost fake positivity energy. But when we come in this class, it’s actually, you know, it’s real.”

In addition to giving students permission to feel, Jennings said that teachers can use their own stressors to model how to recognize and respond to those emotions. For instance, if a teacher is feeling frustrated — “which happens a lot” — they can narrate their observations and responses: “Oh, I’m noticing how frustrated I’m feeling. My shoulders are getting tense. My jaw is getting tense. I’m feeling hot. I need to take some breaths and calm myself down.” These teaching moments can provide real examples to complement more structured social emotional learning activities in schools.

Building social connections

There are other ways that a teacher being emotionally vulnerable can positively impact students, too. Jennings said it can be “an exercise in perspective-taking” and foster empathy. Take Bailey Venzon as an example. She was a senior last spring, and she said that seeing Calote cry was “a wake up call that the students aren’t the only ones that are having a hard time.” It made her appreciate how teachers “learned to do everything virtually just so they can teach us new things.”

Sharing feelings also builds social connections, according to Jennings. “And students feeling connected to their teachers, we know from lots of research, helps kids,” she said.

Venzon said she and her peers already felt connected to Calote because they knew she was an empathetic listener: “She’s kind of like the airbags where she just stops you before hitting your head on the wheel.” But being on the other side strengthened the bond. “Since Calote has always been here for us, having her open up to us was kind of like she was saying that she trusts us.”

After Clue was cancelled, Calote’s students spent the remainder of the school year on independent creative projects, such as choreographing a ballet number or designing character makeup. While they didn’t have a stage or Zoom show to look back on, Calote saw those connections they forged in the year’s highs and lows as their collective achievement. “Everybody had their moments of darkness and their weeks that were terrible, and we lifted each other up during those times. I’m proud of that,” she said at the end of the year.

For her own creative project, Calote wrote a farewell song for the seniors. The lyrics called out some of their shared memories, cheered their next steps and reminded them that “if you ever need support, you know, you’re always welcome here.” During their last class, Calote performed the song on her ukelele — just another medium for being emotionally open with students.

The MindShift team thanks Steve Drummond for editorial guidance on this story. 

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Samsung Solve for Tomorrow – Only Two Weeks Left to Enter

Disclosure: Samsung Solve for Tomorrow is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

Samsung’s Solve for Tomorrow contest is a STEM project contest that awards large educational technology prizes to public schools in the United States. As I outlined a few weeks ago, the contest places a premium on student-teacher collaboration as well as project effectiveness.  

It takes just a few minutes to make your initial entry into the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow contest. The initial entries are used in selecting state finalists who receive prizes and go on to compete in the national competition which awards a prize of $100,000 in classroom technology.

The deadline for initial contest entries has been extended to November 15th! Enter here! 

This short video walks you through how to enter Samsung’s Solve for Tomorrow contest.


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How to Use Google Books

Google Books is one of my favorite search tools. Unfortunately, students often overlook it as a research tool unless they’ve been shown how it works. In this short video I provide a demonstrate of the key features of the current version of Google Books. 

In the video you’ll see how to:

  • Search for a book. 
  • Refine search according to publication date.
  • Use Google Books to find books in your local library. 
  • Use Google Books to search within a book. 
  • Create an online bookshelf to share with others. 
If you just want to see how to use Google Books to find libraries near you that have house rare books, watch this short video that I posted on Instagram last Friday morning. 

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Embed Google Forms & Microsoft Forms into Canva Designs

It seem like every week I find something new and interesting that can be done with Canva. Last Friday I discovered that you can embed working Google Forms and Microsoft Forms into your Canva designs. This works with Canva’s website templates as well as presentation and infographic templates. 

In this short video I demonstrate how you can create a simple website with Canva and include a Google Form or Microsoft Form in that website. 

Applications for Education
Canva’s website templates are great for making simple websites that accomplish a singular goal like attracting interest in an upcoming school event. By putting a Google Form or Microsoft Form into website you can collect RSVPs to your upcoming event. You could also include a form so that people can contact you with questions through the website. 
By the way, this video was also featured in my Practical Ed Tech Newsletter on Sunday evening. If you’re not subscribed to that weekly newsletter, you can subscribe right here

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The Most Popular Posts in October

Good evening from Maine where the sun has set on the month of  October. Some of the colorful leaves of autumn are still clinging to the trees, but more are on the ground than in the trees now. Hopefully, I’ll get them cleaned up before the snow flies (that could be any day now). But I do have some other projects and fun things planned for the last two months of the year. I hope that you do as well. 

As I do at the end of every month, I’ve compiled a list of the most popular posts of the month. Take a look and see if there’s something interesting that you missed earlier in the month. These were the most popular posts in October: 

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

A big thank you also goes to the companies whose advertising in October helped keep the lights on.

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 38,000 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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It’s That Time Again…

Daylight Saving Time ends today for many of my friends in Europe and it ends next Sunday for those of us in North American states and provinces that observe Daylight Saving Time. As someone who gets up early and lives in a northern state, I welcome the change as I’ll see the sun an hour earlier. And hopefully, my kids will take advantage of the “extra” hour of time for sleeping next Saturday night.  Like I do almost every time Daylight Saving Time begins or ends, I have gathered together a handful of short video explanations about why we have Daylight Saving Time. Take a look and see if there is one that can help you explain Daylight Saving Time to your students. 

National Geographic has two videos titled Daylight Saving Time 101. The first one, published in 2015, is a bit more upbeat than the second one that was published in 2019. Both versions are embedded below. 

The Telegraph has a 90 second explanation of Daylight Saving Time. The video doesn’t have any narration so it can be watched without sound.

CGP Grey’s video explanation of Daylight Saving Time is still a good one even if it isn’t as succinct as the videos above.

TED-Ed has two lessons that aren’t specifically about Daylight Saving Time but are related to the topic. First, The History of Keeping Time explains sundials, hourglasses, and the development of timezones. Second, How Did Trains Standardize Time in the United States? explains the role of railroads in the development of the timezones used in the United States (and most of Canada) today.


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A Cute Series of Videos About Engineeering

SciShow Kids recently published series of three videos about engineering. You wouldn’t normally associate engineering with cute, but in this case it’s an appropriate match. Like all SciShow Kids videos these are designed for elementary school students. The presentation of the lesson is made by a person and some puppets with a few still photographs added for illustrative purposes. 

Think Like an Engineer is the first video in the series. It explains what an engineer is and what they do. The video provides a few examples of different types of engineers. 

The Great Button Solution is the second video in the series. In this video students see Webb (a puppet) and his friends try to design a solution to reach a button (switch) that is high off the ground. The video explains to students why it’s okay and important to try many solutions to a problem and gives the example of the Wright Brothers multiple attempts to create a working airplane.

The third video in the series is titled The Amazing Flag Raiser. In this episode, clearly sponsored by LEGO, students see the construction of a small LEGO device that raises a flag and makes a sound when Squeeks (the puppet) wants to play.


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Widgets, Videos, and Maps – The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where my kids are eagerly anticipating Halloween! They had a little celebration at their preschool on Friday and now they can’t wait to put on their costumes tomorrow. It’s kind of a bleak and rainy day here so we just might let them wear their costumes for fun today as well. I hope that you have something you’re looking forward to this weekend as much as my kids are looking forward to Halloween. 

This week I started a new Instagram account. My new account, Practical Ed Tech, features short videos of tips on using educational technology tools. Take a look

These were the week’s most popular posts:
1. BookWidgets – Create Unique Online Activities for Your Students
2. A Video Project for the Week – Halloween Safety
3. Accessible Online Physics Simulations
4. How to Share Specific Google Earth Views and Turn Them Into Assignments
5. An Interactive Land Use Map
6. Samsung Solve for Tomorrow – A Great STEM Contest for Students!
7. Tips on Word Art, Fonts, and Special Characters in Google Docs and Slides

Thank you for your support!
Your registrations in Practical Ed Tech courses (listed below) 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 38,000 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.

Widgets, Videos, and Maps – The Week in Review published first on https://youreduio.tumblr.com/