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Monday, August 26, 2019

Camera and Locomotive - A Mapped Story About the Transcontinental Railroad

Camera and Locomotive is the title of a fantastic mapped story published by the Library of Congress. Camera and Locomotive tells the story of the building of the Transcontinental Railroad and the development of photography in the United States. As you scroll through the story you will find interactive maps that are loaded with photographs taken during the construction of railroads. You can click on any placemarker on the maps to reveal an image. Clicking on an image will take you to a corresponding Library of Congress page where you can learn more about the photograph and download a high resolution copy of it.

Camera and Locomotive has seven connected sections that you can jump to from the introduction. One of the most fascinating sections for me was Plumbe's Dream. Plumbe's Dream is about John Plume, Jr. who was a photographer and early advocate for the construction of a transcontinental railroad who never did see any of the tracks of what would become the first Transcontinental Railroad. From the section on Plumbe the story continues to tell readers about other photographers including Andrew Joseph Russell who captured some of the iconic photographs of the west associated with the Transcontinental Railroad.

Applications for Education
If you teach U.S. History Camera and Locomotive could be a great addition to your lists of resources for teaching and learning about the Transcontinental Railroad and the westward expansion of the United States.

A couple of related resources worth noting are Railroad Journey and the Industrial Revolution and this collection of primary sources hosted on DocsTeach.

H/T to Maps Mania for the link to Camera and Locomotive. 

Intro to Using AR & VR in Your Classroom - Webinar This Thursday

More than 100 people have participated in a Practical Ed Tech webinar this month. Thank you for your support!

This Thursday I'm hosting the last Practical Ed Tech webinar of the month. This week's webinar is Intro to Using AR & VR in Your Classroom. This an update to last year's webinar on the same topic. It has been updated for the new school year with new research, new tools, and new ideas for using augmented reality and virtual reality in your classroom.

Five Things You Can Learn in Intro to Using AR & VR in Your Classroom

  • The differences between AR and VR.
  • How to create AR and VR experiences.
  • Research on the benefits of AR and VR in education.
  • The best AR and VR apps for beginners.
  • Solutions to common quirks with AR and VR apps.

Register here!

A Chrome Extension to Help With a Facebook Fast

I'm going on a bit of a Facebook fast. Like many people I say that I'm going "just check Facebook for a minute" and then find that I've wasted twenty minutes going down a rabbit hole following interesting links or commenting on friends' posts. I'm also prone to getting melancholy when I see some of "my memories" pop-up in my Facebook feed. Those melancholy moments have a bigger impact on my productivity than anything else. All this is to say that I'm going on a Facebook fast for the next two weeks.

I've enlisted the help of the StayFocusd Chrome extension to stick to my Facebook fasting plan. Because of the nature of running a small business like mine I can't completely give up posting on the Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page. What I can do is limit my time on Facebook to only things that are directly related to business. The StayFocusd Chrome extension lets me set a maximum amount of time that I can cumulatively spend on Facebook during a twenty-four hour period. I've set a limit of twenty minutes which should be more than enough time to update the Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page.

The StayFocusd Chrome extension works with more than just Facebook. You can customize it to block yourself from any website that you want to avoid wasting time on during your day. You can use StayFocusd to block or limit access to sites like Reddit, Twitter, Pinterest, or even Amazon. Whatever the site is that sucks time out of your day, you can block it or limit it with the StayFocusd Chrome extension.

It's important to note that StayFocusd will only work on Chrome on your computer. It won't prevent you from accessing your blocked sites via a web browser on your phone and it won't stop you from accessing your blocked sites via their corresponding mobile apps. Therefore, I've uninstalled the Facebook app on my phone (I never had it installed on my iPad).

A Time-saving Tip for Testing iPad and Android Apps

As you might expect, I test tons of apps every year. Some of those apps are brand new ones and others are older ones that people suggest that I try. And throughout the year I go back and look at some apps that I've previously reviewed to see if they've been update or are even still working as well as they once did. When I look at older apps the first thing that I do is look at the version history and "last updated" dates.

When looking at the listing for an iPad app or iPhone app I check the version history before I install it. If it hasn't been updated in a couple of years, there's probably a good chance that the app is no longer being actively supported by the developer. Likewise, when I look at the listing for an Android app I check the "last updated" date. Again, if it hasn't been updated in a couple of years the developer probably isn't actively supporting. In both cases I won't install an app that hasn't been updated in a couple of years.

Where to find the update history for an Android app. 

Where to find the update history for an iOS app. 


Time and Security
Not installing apps that haven't been updated in a couple of years not only saves you time, it can potentially save the security of your phone or table. Older apps that haven't been updated in a couple of years are more susceptible to security flaws than those that have been updated on a recent and regular basis.