Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Tools to Help Students Analyze Their Own Writing

Like many of my students, I'm often guilty of writing in a rush. Doing that leads to three bad habits that appear in my writing. The first is omitting words that should be in a sentence. The second is repeating words in a sentence when I try to revise a sentence midstream. And the third bad habit is using the same phrases and sentence structures too frequently. To change my habits I'm trying to slow down. I've also enlisted the help of a neat Chrome extension called Wordtune. 

Extension I'm Currently Using - Wordtune

I featured Wordtune in a video and blog post a couple of months ago. The short summary of it is that when you have Wordtune installed you can simply highlight a sentence in Google Docs, Gmail, or Outlook and it will suggest changes to your sentences. The suggestions will include corrections to grammar and spelling. Wordtune's suggestions also include changes to your phrasing and word choices. Here's my short video overview of Wordtune


Other Tools to Try

Analyze My Writing provides a break-down of the readability of your writing on five indices. The analysis includes listings of the most common words and most common word pairs in your writing. A listing of how frequently you use punctuation and punctuation types is included in the analysis provided by Analyze My Writing. Finally, a word cloud is included at the end of the analysis of your writing.

Hemingway App provides students with lots of helpful information about their text. To use the service students just paste some text into the Hemingway editor and it will provide you with a bunch of information about that text. Hemingway highlights the parts of your writing that use passive voice, adverbs, and overly complex sentences. All of those factors are accounted for in generating a general readability score for your passage. Here’s a little video overview of Hemingway App.

Slick Write is a service that students can use to help them analyze their own writing and or that of other writers. Slick Write identifies typical things like word counts, readability, and an estimated reading time for a document. Slick Write will also analyze use of adverbs and prepositional phrases throughout a document. Users can pick and choose what they want Slick Write to identify in a passage.

Five Tools for Staying On Task

It's school vacation week here in Maine. I have a long list of things that I want to accomplish on this blog and on Practical Ed Tech. To get that list done and still have time for fun things like riding bikes with my kids, I have to be focused when I'm online and resist the temptation to open Twitter or Facebook for "just a minute." To do that I'm using a combination of the Stay Focusd Chrome extension and a Pomodoro timer. 

Productivity Tools I'm Currently Using

StayFocusd is a Chrome extension that I've used for years whenever I feel like I'm falling into the bad habit of chasing rabbit holes on the internet. StayFocusd lets me specify the sites that I want to block from myself or limit my time spent viewing them. After specifying the sites and the amount of time I'll allow myself on them, a countdown timer appears whenever I view those sites. The timer resets every 24 hours. 

Pomofocus is a task timer that is based on the Pomodoro method of getting things done. On Pomofocus I create a list of tasks then start the timer. Each task is allotted 25 minutes (you can adjust that). After 25 minutes there is a five minute break timer that automatically appears. After the break the next task timer appears. 


Other Productivity Tools

Dayboard is a free Chrome extension that opens your daily to-do list every time you open a new tab in Chrome. When you open a new tab for the first time Dayboard will appear and ask you to enter your to-do list for the day. After creating your to-do list for the rest of the day whenever you open a new tab you will see your list. You can place a checkmark next to items as you complete them.

FlashTabs is a free Chrome extension that will display flashcards whenever you open a new Chrome tab. The thing that I like about FlashTabs is that it is easy to create your own flashcards to have displayed in your new tabs.

Google Keep can be an excellent to-do list and reminder tool. You can color code notes, make lists, and share notes. Google Keep reminders can be set to pop-up on your desktop or mobile device. My video embedded below illustrate the features of Google Keep reminders.

Monday, April 19, 2021

48 Videos and a Poster About Critical Thinking and Logical Fallacies

Last week TED-Ed released a new video lesson titled This Tool Will Help You Improve Your Critical Thinking. As I wrote last week, I almost immediately used the lesson in one of my computer science classes. Writing that blog post and using that lesson inspired me to take a look back through my archives for other lessons and resources for teaching and learning about critical thinking. Here's my updated list of resources about critical thinking and logical fallacies. 

The Guide to Common Fallacies is a series of videos produced by the PBS Ideas channel. Each video covers a different common fallacy. Included in the series are lessons about Strawman, Ad Hominem, Black and White, Authority fallacies.


Your Logical Fallacy Is is a website that provides short explanations and examples of twenty-four common logical fallacies. Visitors to the site can click through the gallery to read the examples. Your Logical Fallacy Is also provides free PDF poster files that you can download and print.

Wireless Philosophy offers 35 videos that explain various logical fallacies and how they are employed by authors and public speakers.


5 Tips to Improve Your Critical Thinking is a TED-Ed lesson. The introduction to the lesson is a bit long for my liking but once you get past that the tips are solid. The lesson presents critical thinking as a process of five steps. The last step is the one that students will probably struggle to implement, "explore other points of view."



Why People Fall for Misinformation is another TED-Ed lesson about critical thinking. The video does a good job of helping viewers understand the role of simplistic, narratives in spreading misinformation. The video also provides a good explanation of the differences between misinformation and disinformation.


Ever wonder why rational people sometimes make irrational decisions? If so, watch The Psychology of Irrational Decisions. The video explains the role of loss aversion in the formation of decisions that people wouldn't normally make. The video also provides a good explanation of the conjunction fallacy, sometimes referred to as the "gambler's fallacy." 



This Tool Will Help You Improve Your Critical Thinking is a TED-Ed lesson that provides viewers with an introduction to the Socratic method. The video has two main purposes. The first is to explain what the Socratic method is. The second is to explain a bit of Socrates' place in history.



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, Today Headline, and 711Web.

Braingenie is Shutting Down - Transition to CK-12

Braingenie is a service that the CK-12 Foundation has offered for free for many years. It provided online practice activities addressing concepts in math and science for elementary school, middle school, and high school students. Unfortunately, CK-12 is ending the Braingenie service. However, there is some good news. Many of the practice activities and services offered by Braingenie are now being rolled into CK-12's core offerings. 

The Braingenie practice activities are now part of the adaptive practice activities offered for free through CK-12. Teachers can create classroom accounts on CK-12 to give their students access to the adaptive practice activities for math and science. Teachers can then use CK-12's reporting tool to see what their students have done and the areas in which their students might need some more help.

Teachers can share CK-12 activities with their students through Google Classroom, Schoology, Clever, Kiddom, Classlink, and Canvas. Teachers can also create online classrooms directly within CK-12 without using one of the aforementioned learning management systems. 

More information about the transition from Braingenie to CK-12 can found here.  

CK-12 Concept Maps

One of CK-12's underrated features is their interactive concept maps. CK-12 concepts maps are webs of related math and science terms. Clicking on the "details" tab below a term in the web will lead students to definitions and explanations, to interactive concept simulations, and to interactive review exercises. To find a concept map on CK-12 simply go to the CK-12 Concept Map page and enter a science or mathematics topic into the search box. You will then see a color-coded web of terms. Terms appearing in green will lead students to science resources. Terms appearing in blue will lead students to mathematics resources.

CK-12 Concept Maps could be a good resource for teachers who are looking for ideas when developing lessons that incorporate mathematics and science around one topic. For example, the inertia concept map provided me with resources that could be used to teach Newton's first law as well as resources that could be used to teach the calculation of acceleration.

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 711Web.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

A Handful of Resources for Learning About the Start of the American Revolution

Tomorrow is Patriots' Day here in Maine, in Massachusetts, and in a handful of other states. It's a day to mark the anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the first battles of the American Revolutionary War. As a good New Englander with an appreciation of history, every year at this time I like to share a handful of resources for teaching and learning about the American Revolution. 

Images of the Revolutionary War is a compilation of images about the Revolutionary War. The images in the collection chronicle the stirrings of rebellion in the pre-revolution years, the war from both American and British perspectives, and events following the Revolutionary War.

Minute Man National Historical Park offers detailed lesson plans that can be in conjunction with a visit to the park and lesson plans that can be used independent of a visit to the park. Take a look at the Legacy of Conflict lesson plan designed for 5th grade students (link opens a PDF) to get a sense of the type of detailed resources that the park offers.

Creating Google Earth tours of Revolutionary War battle sites is an activity that I did for many years with my U.S. History students. Students would create multimedia placemarks for each battle in sequence. The placemarks contained information about the outcome and significance of each battle. Here's a video on how to make a tour with with the browser-based version of Google Earth.



Video Lessons
Keith Hughes has a popular video in which he explains the American Revolution for middle school and high school students.



Crash Course has an extensive series on U.S. History. Included in that series is Taxes & Smuggling - Prelude to Revolution.



Mr. Betts has a YouTube channel on which he posts cartoons and song parodies to teach U.S. History lessons. Here's one he did about the Battles of Lexington and Concord.



For Red Sox Fans!
This is usually the day that the Boston Marathon is held and Red Sox play a morning game. Neither is happening this year. For my fellow Red Sox fans here's a famous clip from the 2007 Patriots' Day game.

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 711Web.