Saturday, February 22, 2020

Four Videos Explaining Leap Year

This year is a Leap Year and Leap Day is just a week away. Thanks to Larry Ferlazzo I recently learned about this new video from Homeschool Pop that explains Leap Year to kids.

Here are three other video explanations of Leap Year. These were all featured on this blog for the last Leap Year.

Friday, February 21, 2020

It's Not Just You - The Google Keep Chrome Extension is Broken

Google Keep is a great tool that can be used for all kinds of things including setting reminders, taking notes, and bookmarking websites. The Google Keep Chrome extension makes it easy to do all of those things, when it's working. Unfortunately, for the last couple of days the Keep Chrome extension has not been working. I thought it was just me until I looked at the support section of the Keep Chrome extension page and saw tons of people also complaining the that extension was corrupted.

Running the built-in repair function for the Keep Chrome extension doesn't fix the extension. So for now we're all just stuck waiting for Google to fix the Keep Chrome extension. I'll update this post when the extension is repaired.

In the meantime, I'll be using the OneNote extension and or Chrome's built-in bookmarking tool to save links.

How to Annotate Videos With Timelinely

Timelinely is a free service for adding annotations to YouTube videos. You can use Timelinely to add text, image, and video annotations to any public YouTube video. After you have added your annotations to a video you can share the annotated version with anyone much like you would share any other video. You can share your annotated video by embedding it into a blog post or by just giving people the link to the annotated version of the video. In the following video I demonstrate how to use Timelinely to annotate YouTube videos.

Applications for Education
One of things that I like about Timelinely is the option to include pictures and videos in your annotations. I can see the image option being used to include an alternate example for students to view when watching a math lesson. Adding a video into your annotation could be a good way to add your own commentary or clarifying comments to a video about a topic in history or current events.

GoSoapBox - Quickly Poll Your Class

GoSoapBox is a student response system that I've used off and on over the years. It offers a few ways to conduct online polls for your students to respond to on their phones, tablets, or laptops.

My favorite polling option in GoSoapBox is called the Confusion Meter. The Confusion Meter is a simple poll that just asks students if they're "getting it" or if they're confused. Students can change their answers as many times as they need to during your lesson or class period. Watch my short video below to see how the Confusion Meter and other GoSoapBox features work.

As is demonstrated in the video above, there are other polling options in GoSoapBox in addition to the Confusion Meter. You can create and distribute quizzes in GoSoapBox. You can also create a simple discussion forum in which students can ask questions of you and or their classmates.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

The Practical Ed Tech Podcast - Episode 33 - Larry Bird

In this week's episode of The Practical Ed Tech Podcast I'm back from the flu and from a short vacation. Highlights of this episode include new Google Docs tools, a new way to make videos from text, and a cute app for little kids like mine. As always, I answered a handful of questions from readers, viewers, and listeners like you!

Get the complete show notes in this Google Doc.

Listen to the episode right here or on your favorite podcast network.

Listen to all episodes of the podcast here or find them on the following podcast networks:

Volcanoes 101 - Updated

A few years ago National Geographic published a video titled Volcanoes 101. Last month they published a new video with the same name. The new Volcanoes 101 explains the types of volcanoes, their shapes, common locations, and what causes volcanoes to erupt.

On a related note, The BBC has a series of interactive guides that explain how natural disasters are caused. The series of guides is twelve years old, but still includes good information presented in a clear manner for students. Included in this series is a twelve part animated explanation of volcanic eruptions. The series also includes explanations of hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and tsunamis.

Applications for Education
Volcanoes 101 is the right length and has the right style and pacing to make it an excellent choice for a flipped lesson intended to introduce the big concepts of a lesson about deserts. My go-to tool for making flipped lessons continues to be EDpuzzle. You can learn how to use EDpuzzle by watching the following video.

5 Ways to Create Social Videos

Yesterday, I wrote about a new video creation tool called InVideo. InVideo is one of many tools to emerge in the last couple years that is designed to help users create eye-catching videos to post on social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter. These videos use a mix of images and text to grab your attention and quickly tell a short story. Most include music, but can also be effective even when the music is turned off. If you're using social media to share school or classroom announcements, you might want to try making social media videos. Here are five tools worth trying for making social media videos.

Lumen 5
Lumen5 is a service that will produce a video for you based upon your written work. To create a video with Lumen5 you can enter the URL of your published work or paste in the text of your blog post. Lumen5 will then select highlights from your writing to feature in a video. Lumen5 generates a preview of a video for you based on the title, keywords, and key phrases in your blog post. The video will consist of images and video clips matched to the words in your blog post.Completed Lumen5 projects can be shared directly to Facebook. You can also download your video to use on Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and anywhere else that you like post short videos.

Canva offers tons of templates for making social media graphics. One of the overlooked options for sharing Canva graphics is exporting as MP4. In the following video I demonstrate how to create a video with Canva.

Adobe Spark
Like Canva, Adobe Spark offers a lot of templates for making social media graphics. Adobe Spark also offers a dedicated video editor for making videos. You can make a video from scratch or use one of the templates that is designed specifically for posting on social media.

Sharalike is a simple video creation tool that is available as a browser-based tool as well as an Android app and iOS app. All three versions let you bulk upload/ import a collection of pictures then drag and drop those pictures into the sequence in which you want them to appear. Once you've arranged your images you can add music from Sharalike's library of free, royalty-free music. Sharalike will then create the video for you. I've successfully uploaded as many as 45 pictures at once to Sharalike to make a video. The only downside to Sharalike is that you can't download your video, you have to watch it online.

Headliner is an online video creation tool that offers templates designed for creating videos to share on social media. Headliner also offers a neat service that will turn your spoken audio or podcast files into video files. Headliner offers their pro version to schools for free.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Quickly Turn Articles Into Videos With InVideo

This morning I was browsing Product Hunt when I saw a new product that was promoting itself as a way to create "insanely good social videos." The service is called InVideo. While it is fairly easy to use to make audio slideshow-style videos, that's not why I'm mentioning it today. The reason I'm mentioning it is that contains a feature to convert written articles into videos.

InVideo offers lots of tools and templates for making audio slideshow videos to share on social media and elsewhere. One of those tools lets you copy the text of an article into a template then have InVideo automatically select images to match the text of the article. A similar InVideo template lets you enter the URL of an article and have a video made with images that are automatically selected to make the text of the article. In both cases parts of the text appear on the slides with the images. And in both cases you can manually override the automatic image selections.

When your InVideo video is complete you can download it for free with a watermark applied to it. Alternatively, you can invite other people to join InVideo and the watermark is removed. Or you can purchase an InVideo subscription to have all watermarks removed.

Applications for Education
InVideo probably isn't a tool that students can use because it does require a phone number in order to sign up. That said, it could be useful for teachers who want to provide their students with a visual summary of the key points of a long passage of text.

Convert PDF to Word and More

I don't get nearly as many requests for help with file conversion as I did 5-10 years ago, but I still do get them from time to time. Last week I was asked for help converting a PDF into Word for editing. My immediate suggestion was to try the conversion tool available from Online Convert.

Online Convert offers a dozen tools for converting all kinds of files from one format to another. That includes a free tool for converting PDFs into Word documents. To use the PDF to Word conversion tool simply upload your PDF or import it from your Dropbox account. Once your PDF is uploaded just hit the "start conversion" button and your file will be converted. You can wait on the Online Convert screen for the file conversion process to happen or you can enter your email address to be notified when your converted file is ready to download.

In addition to the PDF to Word conversion tool, Online Convert offers tools for converting video files, audio files, image files, ebook files, and a handful of other file types.

Online Convert also offers a Chrome extension and a Firefox add-on for converting files without having to visit the Online Convert homepage in a new tab or window.

Applications for Education
Thanks to services like Google Docs and Microsoft 365 we no longer have the problem of years ago when students would email assignment submissions as file attachments that couldn't be read because they were in the wrong file format. Today, the utility of a tool like Online Convert is in converting our older documents and files into formats that we can edit and update. The last person who asked me about converting PDF to Word was trying to do so that he could update some older handouts that he still wanted to use with students.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

5 Google Slides Features New Users Should Know - Updated

One of the things that I've been reminded of a few times in the last month is to revisit the basics even if you're working with people who have had access to G Suite for a long time. On that note, here are five Google Slides features that all users should know how to use.

How to Add Images to Google Slides

How to Add Videos to Google Slides

How to Import PowerPoint Slides Into Google Slides

How to Insert Audio Into Google Slides

How to Print Google Slides

Write Faster With These Two New Google Docs Features

Two new Google Docs features are rolling out to all G Suite users beginning today. Today, Google announced the addition of Smart Compose in Google Docs for G Suite users. Earlier today, Google also announced that autocorrect is being added to Google Docs for all users.

Smart Compose in Google Docs works much like Smart Compose in Gmail. As you type, suggests for completing your sentences appear in light gray text. If you like the suggestion, just hit the tab key to accept the suggestion and continue typing your next sentence. Smart Compose in Google Docs is available only to G Suite users and not to those using personal Google accounts.

Autocorrect in Google Docs is available in G Suite accounts and personal Google accounts. Autocorrect in Google Docs works like that in Gmail. Suggested changes to your spelling are made as you type.

Both of these new features should make it possible to accurately create documents more quickly than before. Smart Compose and Autocorrect in Google Docs is appearing in accounts now and will be rolled out to all users over the next few weeks.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

The Practical Ed Tech Podcast - Episode 32 - Back from the Flu

Last week I had the flu and lost my voice so I wasn't able to record the Practical Ed Tech Podcast. But after a week I'm back to full strength and have a new episode of the Practical Ed Tech Podcast.

In this episode of the podcast I shared a neat new stop motion video tool and a handy update to Wakelet. I also explained a new tool called that I'm trying with my freshmen. And in the Q&A I answered a tricky Creative Commons license question.

You can listen to episode 32 of the Practical Ed Tech Podcast right here or on your favorite podcast network. The complete show notes can be read here.

Listen to all episodes of the podcast here or find them on the following podcast networks:

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Animate Anything With Cloud Stop Motion

Cloud Stop Motion by ZU3D is a new stop motion animation tool that I recently learned about from Danny Nicholson's The Whiteboard Blog. Cloud Stop Motion is a browser-based tool for creating short stop motion videos. I gave it a try this afternoon and found it quite easy to use.

You can try Cloud Stop Motion without creating an account. That said, I'd recommend creating a free account because without one your video has to be so short that you really can't get a sense for how all of the tools work.

Once you've created your Cloud Stop Motion account you should enable your webcam so that you can use it to capture pictures of objects that you place in front of it. Taking a series of pictures is as simple as clicking the camera icon in the Cloud Stop Motion editor. Your pictures are automatically added to the editor in the sequence in which you took them. If you already have a set of images that you've taken with another app or device, you can upload them to Cloud Stop Motion to use in your projects.

After adding images to your Cloud Stop Motion project you can upload sounds, record sounds, or select sounds from the gallery provided by Cloud Stop Motion. You can also add text and title screens to your project.

When all of the media for your Cloud Stop Motion project are in place you can preview your video by hitting the play button. If you don't like any element of the video, you can go back and edit it out. Adjusting the frames per second is a simple edit that you can make in the Cloud Stop Motion editor.

Applications for Education
Cloud Stop Motion offers free accounts for schools. The free school accounts provide 2GB of storage for every student. The school accounts also provide tools for administrators to manage student accounts.

Cloud Stop Motion could be a great tool for students to use to create short videos to animate stories they've written by using toys or clay models. Making a stop motion video is also a good way for students to demonstrate the steps of a long process in a short window of time.

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good morning from Maine where it is a crisp -9F! Unfortunately, the forecast indicates that it's not going to get much warmer than 0F and it will be windy. In other words, it might be a day for bowling instead of playing outside. My youngest daughter recently discovered that she loves bowling! Well as much as you can call it bowling when you're two years old. Wherever you are this weekend, I hope that you have time for something fun no matter what the weather holds.

As it is a frigid day here in Maine it's only natural to remind myself that spring isn't too far away. And my spring will be busy as I get ready for Dirty Kanza 200 and then the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp. Tickets for the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp are on sale now! Fill out the form on this page to get a discount code.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Fifteen Digital Citizenship Resources for K-12
2. The Electoral College Explained by Common Craft
3. Headliner - A Good Alternative to Adobe Spark Video
4. Three Neat Things You Can Do With Google Sheets
5. PayGrade - A Classroom Economy Simulation You Can Use All Year
6. Three Easy Steps to Encourage Technology Integration
7. Four Tips for Facilitating Classroom Arduino Projects

I'll come to your school in 2020! 
Send me an email at richardbyrne (at) to learn more about how we can work together. This year I'm offering an opportunity to bring me to your school for free! Ask me for details.

Thank You for Your Support!
Other Places to Follow My Work
Besides and the daily email digest, there are other ways to keep up with what I'm publishing. 
  • Practical Ed Tech Newsletter - This comes out once per week (Sunday night/ Monday morning) and includes my tip of the week and a summary of the week's most popular posts from
  • My YouTube Channel - More than 17,000 people are subscribed to my YouTube channel for my regular series of tutorial videos including more than 300 Google tools tutorials. 
  • The Practical Ed Tech Podcast is where I answer questions from readers, share news and notes, and occasionally talk to interesting people in education. 
  • Facebook - The Facebook page has nearly 450,000 followers. 
  • Twitter - I've been Tweeting away for the last twelve years at
  • Instagram - this is mostly pictures of my kids, my dogs, my bikes, my skis, and fly fishing.

Friday, February 14, 2020

DNS & IP Explained

One of the things that quickly became clear when I started teaching an introduction to computer science course for high school freshmen was that while they are happy to use the Internet, they don't really understand how the Internet works. I suppose the same can be said for lots of adults too. The Domain Name Systems is the most important or at least most frequently used part of how people use the Internet today. PowerCert Videos, a YouTube channel that I featured a couple of weeks ago, has a good video that explains how a DNS server works. I used this video with my own students earlier this year. offers a video on the same topic.'s video gets into a bit more of the history of the development of the Internet. I also showed this video to my students, but I didn't find it nearly as effective as the PowerCert video.

Applications for Education
If you have never built a website from scratch without the use of service like Weebly or Google Sites, you may not have ever thought about the role of IP addresses and the domain name system in getting a website online. These videos can help students understand how that process happens and how DNS makes it easy to navigate the web today.

Local vs. Online Documents

I've been a Google Docs user longer than most middle schoolers have been alive. I don't need convincing that online documents are great. But not everyone is convinced. In fact, just last week I had a conversation with a teacher in my school who wasn't convinced that there could be any benefit to moving away from using Word on his desktop PC. I even tried telling him that there is an online version of Word. (This was also the same person who didn't want to use two-factor authentication on his G Suite account because "who knows who can see my phone number?")

If you find yourself, like I did last week, trying to explain the benefits of online documents to someone, consider using Common Craft's new video on the topic. In my case, with the colleague I described above, it might not help. Hopefully, in your case it does help explain the benefits of online documents.

Disclosure: I have a long-standing, in-kind relationship with Common Craft. 

Thursday, February 13, 2020

How to Get Reminders Based On Your Location

Without using reminders in Google Keep, I'd forget half of the things that I'm told asked to do every day. I use time-based reminders and location-based reminders in Google Keep. The location-based reminders are particularly useful to me when running errands around town. In the following video I demonstrate how to use Google Keep's location-based reminders feature.

Applications for Education
The obvious use for location-based Google Keep reminders for students is to set reminders to do homework or get papers signed when they arrive at home.

Location-based reminders is just one of many Google Keep features. In the following video I demonstrate ten other useful Google Keep features.

Kissing, Love, and Math - Three Valentine's Day Lessons

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day. It is also day of the Winter Carnival Dance at my school. In short, love and hormones will be flying all around the hallways of my school tomorrow. Perhaps the same will be happening in your middle school or high school. If you're looking to work a little Valentine's Day themed lesson into your day tomorrow, here are three good videos to consider viewing.

Why Do We Love? is a TED-Ed lesson that explores some philosophies on why people love. The lesson won't provide you with any clear answers, but it will make you think. And isn't that what philosophers want you to do?

The following video from It's Okay To Be Smart (produced by PBS Digital Studios) explains why humans kiss, the history of symbols associated with kissing, and some cultural views of kissing. When I saw this video I immediately thought of my friends who teach middle school and high school health classes.

The following fun video, also from It's Okay to Smart, attempts to use math to determine the odds of a 25 year old woman finding love in New York. (Remember, the video is just for fun).

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Fifteen Digital Citizenship Resources for K-12

As it is Safer Internet Day it's a good time share the following excerpt from my free Practical Ed Tech Handbook.

Common Sense Education (often referred to as Common Sense Media) offers an extensive set of free lesson plans for teaching digital citizenship to all K-12 students. The lesson plans are listed by grade level on Common Sense Education’s Digital Citizenship Curriculum homepage. As is to be expected Common Sense Education’s series of lesson plans include videos and instruction about privacy and what to share or not share online. What I like about Common Sense Education’s curriculum is that beginning with Kindergarten and running through twelfth grade there are lesson plans under the heading of “media balance & well being.” Those lessons get beyond the nuts and bolts digital citizenship by making students think about how their media choices and media use affect them and others.

Planet Nutshell's Net Safe series contains eighteen episodes covering topics like protecting personal information, responsible posting of pictures, and mobile location privacy. The videos are labeled with grade levels. Below each grade level label you will find a summary of the key points of each video.

Elementary School Resources
Be Internet Awesome is Google's Internet safety curriculum. The Be Internet Awesome site features a game called Interland. The game is set in a virtual world that students navigate by correctly answering questions about Internet safety. The graphics of the game are great and there are some elements in which students navigate, but there is also a heavy reliance on multiple choice questions in the game. The Interland game can be distributed through Google Classroom. G Suite administrators can push the game to the taskbar on managed Chromebooks. There is a 98 page PDF containing lesson plans on each concept in the Be Internet Awesome curriculum that teachers can download for free. The curriculum is based on five concepts: Share with care, Don't fall for fake, Secure your secrets, It's cool to be kind, When in doubt, talk it out.

Ruff Ruffman: Humble Media Genius is a PBS Kids online series of videos and online quizzes designed to help elementary school students understand the importance of things like online privacy, safe texting behaviors, and managing screen time. The series also includes a section on how to conduct internet searches and how to tell the difference between what is an advertisement on a webpage and what is useful information.

Professor Garfield is a free resource that has been helping students learn about internet safety, search, and responsible online behavior for more than a decade. developed in part by the Virginia Department of Education. Professor Garfield teaches students how to be safe online, how to recognize and respond to cyberbullying, and how to decide if something is a fact or an opinion. These educational activities can be found in the free Professor Garfield apps; Online SafetyFact or Opinion, Cyberbullying. All of the free Professor Garfield iPad apps use the same format. The format is a set of comic strips that students read to learn about the issues the app is focused on. At the end of the comic strips students play some simple games to practice recognizing good online behaviors.

Middle School / High School Resources
A Thin Line is a digital safety education resource produced by MTV in collaboration with other media partners. The purpose of the site is to educate teenagers and young adults about the possible repercussions of their digital activities. A Thin Line offers a series of fact sheets about topics like sexting, digital spying, and excessive text messaging and instant messaging. A Thin Line gives students advice on how to recognize those behaviors, the dangers of those behaviors, and how to protect your digital identity. Students can also take a short quiz to practice identifying risky digital behaviors.

Own Your Space is a free ebook designed to educate tweens and teens about protecting themselves and their stuff online. This ebook isn't a fluffy, general overview book. Each chapter goes into great detail explaining the technical threats that students' computers face online as well as the personal threats to data that students can face online. For example, in the first chapter, students learn about the different types of malware and the importance of installing security patches to prevent malware infections. The fourteenth chapter explains the differences between secured and unsecured wireless networks, the potential dangers of an unsecured network, and how to lock-down a network.

Seven Digital Deadly Sins is an interactive story produced by the National Film Board of Canada. The story contains seven chapters each containing short videos, essays, and polls. The videos and essays tell the stories of people suffering from digital sins like greed (illegally downloading media) and wrath (cyberbullying). After reading or watching the stories viewers can vote on questions about what they would do in similar situations. Seven Digital Deadly Sins does deal with some content, mostly in the section on lust, that you will want to screen before deciding if it is appropriate for the students in your classroom.

Factitious is a game for testing your skills at identifying fake and misleading news stories. The game was developed by the American University Game Lab and the American University's School of Communication. To play Factitious simply go to the site and select quick start. You'll then see an article appear on the screen. Read through the article, click the source listed at the bottom, and then select either the green check mark or red X to indicate whether or not you think the article is a real news story. After you make your selection you'll get instant feedback and an explanation of how you can tell if the article was a real or fake news story.

Checkology is a service that is designed to help students develop those skills. Checkology's free version offers four interactive modules for students to complete. Each of the modules is comprised of between twenty and forty-seven instructional video clips and interactive comprehension checks. The four modules are titled Info Zones, Democracy's Watchdog, Practicing Quality Journalism, and Misinformation. As you might expect, the contents of the modules gets progressively more difficult as each section is completed.

Bad News is a website that offers simulations that show visitors how misinformation is spread through social media. Bad News is available in two versions. The regular version is intended for those who are high school age or older. Bad News Junior is appropriate for middle school and older elementary school students. The difference between the two versions is found in the news topics that are used in the simulations.In both versions of Bad News players work through a simulation in which they attempt to build a Twitter following by spreading misleading news stories. (I must emphasize that there are no real Tweets sent and you don't have to even have a Twitter account to play Bad News). Through the simulation players learn how headlines, memes, and Tweets are designed to manipulate people and prompt reactions from them. The simulation also shows players how Twitter bots are used. There are six distinct sections of Bad News. At the end of each section players are awarded a badge signifying that they have learned about the manipulation techniques associated with trolling, impersonation, discrediting, polarizing, emotional manipulation, and conspiracy theories.

Creating and Protecting Strong Passwords
One of the best ways to protect your online identity is to create strong passwords containing unique characters. Creating a strong password is the first step in securing your online accounts. Google offers good advice in this video.

Sometimes it's difficult to think of new strong passwords. When you're having a mental block thinking up a new password try using Wolfram Alpha to come up with a new password. To do this simply go to and type in “password.” Then a random eight character password will be shown to you.

Whenever it is offered as an option, it is a good idea to use two-step or two-factor authentication on the online services you use. Google, Dropbox, Box, and many other cloud services offer this option. Two-step authentication means that just entering one password isn’t enough to log into a service. Learn about Google’s two-step authentication in this video and read about it in detail at

Common Craft offers some excellent videos on crafting strong passwords, understanding why creating a strong password isn’t enough to stay safe online, and how to protect your mobile phone from hacking.

A Few Good Reminders for Safer Internet Day

Today is Safer Internet Day. As Google is reminding people when who visit today, it's a good day to perform a little check-up on your account security. That means making sure you're using strong passwords, not re-using passwords on multiple sites, and using two-factor authentication whenever it is offered.

One of the best things that you can do to keep your online accounts safe is to use two-factor authentication. In fact, my school district just made all staff start using two-factor authentication on their G Suite accounts. Here's how you can enable two-factor authentication on your Google account.

The mandate for all staff in my district to use two-factor authentication was a response to a few faculty members falling for phishing scams that compromised their G Suite accounts. Here's a Common Craft video that explains how common phishing scams work.

Of course, the first line of defense in protecting your online accounts against brute-force attacks is using a strong password. Here's Common Craft's explanation of how to create a strong password.

Disclosure: I have an in-kind relationship with Common Craft. 

Monday, February 10, 2020

Headliner - A Good Alternative to Adobe Spark Video

In the last episode of the Practical Ed Tech Podcast I answered the following question from a reader,
"I was wondering if I may ask for a suggestion/recommendation. I have some eighth grade students creating videos incorporating music. I'd prefer not to use adobe spark because I don't want the adobe logo on each slide. What would you suggest? Their devices are managed by the school so it needs to be a free app that I can push out."
My answer to the question was to take a look at Headliner. Headliner is a browser-based video editor. It has more editing features than Adobe Spark but not quite as many as WeVideo. Headliner provides four tracks for editing the pictures, video clips, text, and audio files that you use to create your videos. There is an integrated audio library as well as integrated image search tool. There is also a tool for adding and editing captions in your videos.

Headliner provides its "pro" version for free to schools. The pro version removes all watermarks. Finished videos can be saved without watermarks for free.

Three Easy Steps to Encourage Technology Integration

This afternoon I hosted a short webinar titled Three Easy Steps to Encourage Technology Integration. I recorded the webinar for those who couldn't attend the live broadcast. The recording is now available to view on my YouTube channel. The slides that I used during the webinar can be seen as embedded below.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

The Electoral College Explained by Common Craft

We still have a long way to go in the party primary and caucuses before the Democratic nominee for President will be chosen. And then we have even longer until we go to the polls to choose a President of the United States. And a President is finally elected through the Electoral College. How the Electoral College system works is a bit confusing to some students. Fortunately, Common Craft offers a nice little video explanation of how it works.

How the U.S. Elects a President provides a concise overview of the Electoral College. The version embedded below is an update to the original that Common Craft released and I used in my classroom in 2008.

Disclosure: I have an in-kind relationship with Common Craft.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good morning from cold and dreary Maine. It seems like forever since we've seen the sun. To add insult to injury what was supposed to be snow turned out to be two days of sleet. I hope that wherever you are this weekend, the weather is a bit cheerier than it is here.

This week I announced that I'm going to host a free webinar on this coming Monday afternoon. The webinar is designed for tech coaches, instructional coaches, principals, and anyone who is in charge of encouraging teachers to use technology in new and meaningful ways in their classrooms. There is still time to register here. And speaking of registering, there is one week left to get the super-early discount on the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp registration.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. PayGrade - A Classroom Economy Simulation You Can Use All Year
2. Two Ways to Make Progress Trackers With Google Sheets
3. Designing & Sending Certificates With Google Slides and Forms
4. Three Interesting Ways to Use Google Slides Besides Making Presentations
5. A Great Set of Videos for Teaching Networking and Computer Hardware Concepts
6. Short Lessons on Colds and Flu
7. Free Webinar - Three Steps to Encourage Technology Integration

I'll come to your school in 2020! 
Send me an email at richardbyrne (at) to learn more about how we can work together. This year I'm offering an opportunity to bring me to your school for free! Ask me for details.

Thank You for Your Support!
Other Places to Follow My Work
Besides and the daily email digest, there are other ways to keep up with what I'm publishing. 
  • Practical Ed Tech Newsletter - This comes out once per week (Sunday night/ Monday morning) and includes my tip of the week and a summary of the week's most popular posts from
  • My YouTube Channel - More than 16,000 are subscribed to my YouTube channel for my regular series of tutorial videos including more than 300 Google tools tutorials. 
  • The Practical Ed Tech Podcast is where I answer questions from readers, share news and notes, and occasionally talk to interesting people in education. 
  • Facebook - The Facebook page has nearly 450,000 followers. 
  • Twitter - I've been Tweeting away for the last twelve years at
  • Instagram - this is mostly pictures of my kids, my dogs, my bikes, my skis, and fly fishing.

Do Politics Make Us Irrational? - A TED-Ed Lesson

As the 2020 Presidential primaries and caucuses roll on more there is no avoiding political advertising unless you shut off your television, your radio, and never go on YouTube. Politics stir up all kinds of feelings in us. People who are otherwise very even-keeled sometimes get very passionate and perhaps irrational when it comes to politics. That's the topic of the latest TED-Ed lesson.

Do Politics Make Us Irrational? explains the results of 2013 study about how politics can affect other parts of our decision making processes. Watch all the way through the lesson and you'll learn that it might not be just politics but any other deeply held allegiance that can cause us to make decisions that might be a little bit irrational. The lesson is made relatable to students through the us of an analogy between politics and sports. Watch the lesson as embedded below and find some good discussion questions here.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Four Tips for Facilitating Classroom Arduino Projects

This year I have been doing a lot of Arduino projects with students in my Intro to Computer Science Principles course. Some of the projects have gone quite well and some not so well. I've talked about these in a couple of podcast episodes, but I haven't written anything about Arduino until now. If you're thinking about trying an Arduino project or you have tried one and it didn't go as well as you would have liked, here are four tips that I have to share based on my experience this year.

1. Start small and build slowly!
The first group of students that I had do Arduino projects got really excited. That excitement motivated them to start Googling for ideas for bigger projects than what I had anticipated. That's not a bad thing at all and I wanted to capitalize on their excitement so I let them run with it. Problems started to arise when they got into those bigger/advanced projects without having done all of the basic/beginner exercises first. They were missing some key concepts and had to go back before they could go forward. In the end, it all worked out okay but we took a very round about route to "okay."

The group of students that I have doing Arduino projects right now are going through each of the basic/ beginner projects that are built into the Arduino IDE and are available online right here. Because we're getting the basics covered early, I think that my current group will be able to complete advanced projects much more quickly than my first group did.

2. Make Printouts!
Unless you have an abundance of computers or monitors to the point that every student can have two to use, use printouts. My students seem to forget which windows they need open and toggling between the IDE and the sample code or directions on the same screen seems to cause more confusion than it does speed or clarity. I printed tutorials and sample code for my current students and it has gone quite well.

3. Work in pairs. 
Not only does working in pairs cut down on the amount of material that you need to purchase, it also introduces students to the concept of pair programming. Another benefit is that you have half as many hands going up when students do get stuck on a problem with their projects.

4. Assign cabinets or bins. 
Nothing will slow students' Arduino project progress like having to rebuild every at the beginning of every class. I'm fortunate to have a lot of cabinet space in my classroom so I can give pair of students their own shelf for their project materials. If I didn't have those cabinets I'd use shoe boxes or something similar for students to keep all of their project materials in. And I have students tape small, easily lost pieces like resistors that aren't currently in use to pieces of paper or to plastic boxes in their assigned cabinets. (I started the year with a bunch of pre-packaged Arduino kits, but over the course of the year the pieces got mixed around as needed).

Want to learn more about using Arduino in your classroom or makerspace? Come to the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp where you'll get hands-on experience and a kit to take home with you. 

ClassDojo Adds an Events Feature

This week ClassDojo introduced a new feature that, according to Twitter responses, seems to be exciting for many teachers who use ClassDojo. The new feature is called Events and it lets teachers post event notices for parents to see in the ClassDojo app and website. ClassDojo even handles sending automated reminders of the events that teachers have created.

The types of things that teachers can post as ClassDojo Events include field trips, classroom parties, conferences, or due dates for returning important paperwork. Once an event is scheduled parents can see it in the ClassDojo app and website and receive reminders in the same place. If parents have push notifications turned on, they're more likely to see the reminders.

Applications for Education
ClassDojo Events has the potential to be a great tool for keeping parents informed about important and interesting things that are happening in your classroom. This feature is another sign of ClassDojo's commitment to evolving beyond its early days as a behavior reporting tool.

10 Things You Can Learn at the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp

Snow and sleet is falling here in Maine, I'm on the second day of a brutal chest cold, and 25% of my students were absent earlier this week. In other words, it's the perfect time to think about summer and all of the good things that come with summer. One of those good things that I'm looking forward to is hosting the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp.

Tickets went on sale last week. There are still some discounted super-early registration tickets available. If you're thinking about coming this year (this is the seventh time I've hosted it), here is a list of ten things you can learn and then use in your classroom.

Ten Things You Can Learn at the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp

1. How to create fun and engaging search lessons.

2. How to implement some workflow hacks to free up time to take care of yourself throughout the school year.

3. How to make and use virtual reality and augmented reality experiences in your classroom.

4. How to blend technology into outdoor lessons.

5. How create engaging video projects with your students.

6. How to produce podcasts with students.

7. How to design and publish simple mobile apps.

8. How to use technology to craft meaningful formative assessments (we'll go beyond Kahoot and Gimkit).

9. How to create a plan to make the most of the technology you have in your school.

10. How Arduino electronics and programming work and how you can use it in your classroom. You'll get your own kit to take home!

Only seven days left to get the lowest price I've ever offered for the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp!

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Adobe Spark Adds a New Way to Manage Your Projects

Last year Adobe finally added a collaboration option to Adobe Spark. That enabled students to remotely work together on video projects and graphic design projects. Today, Adobe added a new feature that students who are working on group projects may benefit from using.

Today, Adobe announced the option to create and manage multiple brands within your Adobe Spark account. While this is clearly designed for business users, other users could benefit from this. With the new brands feature you can design and save graphics for quick re-use across multiple projects. Think of the brands like folders that contain graphics aligned to one theme.

Applications for Education
I see the brands feature being useful to those who are in charge of publishing school newsletters, social media updates, and website updates. You could have a template or graphic saved and ready to re-use whenever you're publishing. This would keep the school's communications looking consistent from update to update.

Google Publishes 15 Favorite Street View Images

Google Maps turned 15 today. To celebrate, Paddy Flynn (Vice President of Geo Data Operations at Google), published Street View's 15 Favorite Street Views. Notably, only one of the fifteen actually has a street in it! The rest are images of interesting places around the world and one is from space. My favorite of the fifteen is Horse around with us at Mongolia’s Lake Khövsgöl Ice Festival.

I've always found letting students explore Street View imagery is a fun way to get them to ask questions about places they've either never heard of and places that they have heard of but don't have a good understanding of.

If you're wondering how to embed Google Street View imagery into a blog post, watch this short video.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Short Lessons on Colds and Flu

Well it's that time of year when classrooms aren't full because kids have a cold or the flu. 25% of my students were out today. I've been running a fever all afternoon. The only upside to this for me is that I am reminded of a few short video lessons about colds and flu.

Colds, the Flu, and You is a video from SciShow Kids that is appropriate for elementary school classrooms.

How is a cold or flu passed from person to person and what exactly is it doing to your body? NPR answers those questions in the following animated video.

Did you get your flu shot this year? This TED-Ed lesson explains why you should get one every year.

Here's one more explanation of the difference between a cold and flu.

Two Ways to Create Your Own Online Memory Games

Last week I was asked if it's possible to use the MIT App Inventor to create a matching game. It certainly is. In fact, I have a student who is working on doing that right now. It's a great exercise through which she's learning about all of the variables and parts of the app that need to be designed. If you're a little more pressed for time than my student is and you just want to quickly generate some matching games for your students to play, there are easier methods than programming your own app.

Educandy is a game builder that I reviewed last fall. Since then a couple of more game templates have been added. One of those is a matching or memory game template. To use the template you simply provide a list of words or terms and Educandy does the rest. Your game will be assigned its own URL that you can distribute to your students.

Matching Game is one of the many Google Sheets templates that Flippity offers. Like all Flippity templates you can make a copy of the template, modify it by adding your own words or terms, and then clicking the activity URL provided by Flippity. Try a sample Flippity Matching Game here and get the template here.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Free Webinar - Three Steps to Encourage Technology Integration

Next Monday at 4pm ET I'm hosting a free webinar for tech coaches, instructional coaches, tech directors, and anyone else who is responsible for helping teachers use technology in their classrooms. The webinar is titled Three Easy Steps to Encourage Technology Integration.

In the webinar I'll layout my framework for helping teachers use technology in meaningful ways in their classrooms. I'll also provide some examples of how I've done it in the past and how you can replicate them in your school. Register through the form that is embedded below.

Yes, the webinar will be recorded. Directions for accessing the recording will be emailed to everyone who registers for the webinar.

What's the Difference Between a Caucus and a Primary

When I turned on the news this morning I was greeted with the news that the results of the Iowa caucuses would be delayed. That made me realize that I haven't posted any resources that can be used to help students understand how a president is chosen in the United States.

The first step in choosing a president is the party primaries and caucuses. Some people think they are the same thing, but they're not. USA Today has a video that clearly explains the differences between the two processes.

Your students, like mine did last week, might ask you why Iowa is always the site of the first caucus. Here's a good video from 2016 that explains why Iowa goes first.

PayGrade - A Classroom Economy Simulation You Can Use All Year

PayGrade is a great program that at its core teaches students money management lessons, but can be used for much more than that. In fact, even though I'm teaching computer science this year I plan to try using PayGrade in one of my classes.

To get started on PayGrade you set up a classroom in which you'll manage your students' accounts. You can manually add students to your classroom by entering their names and assigning them passwords. Alternatively, you can give your students a join code to register themselves to participate in your PayGrade classroom. In either case, students don't need to have an email address to use PayGrade. They simply need to remember their usernames and passwords which you can reset if they forget.

Once you have your students in your PayGrade account you can assign jobs for them to do in your classroom. Students are paid in virtual currency for completing their assigned jobs. PayGrade offers a list of default jobs that you can assign to students or you can create your own jobs for students to complete. Some of the default jobs you'll find listed in PayGrade are secretary, conservationist, and technology assistant. A secretary does things like post the date and special events on the classroom board every day. The conservationist is responsible for things like making sure only recyclables are in the classroom's recycling bin. A technology assistant makes sure that things like iPads in a cart are all plugged in. You can assign those jobs to students as written or make up your own descriptions and rates of pay.

Students in your PayGrade classroom earn virtual currency for doing their assigned jobs. The rate of pay is something that you can determine. That's not the only way that students can earn their virtual currency. You can also give them bonus pay for things like a good report from a substitute teacher, helping a classmate with a difficult task, or any other action that you deem worthy of a bonus payment. You can also deduct currency from their accounts for things like not following directions or failing to complete an assigned task.

Budgeting & Entrepreneurship
You choose the frequency at which students get paid in your PayGrade classroom. That frequency can be daily, weekly, bi-weekly, or even monthly. I'm planning to pay my students weekly because I think it's a sweet spot between having to do daily paychecks and not letting students feel like I've forgotten about their work.

The weekly payout intervals encourages students to budget their paychecks. Where does budgeting come into this? PayGrade lets you set-up a billing system in which students have to use their paychecks to pay for things like pencils, desk space, or their shares of the electric bill. Again, you can decide what the bills will be. You might even decide that you want to simulate payroll taxes and have a percentage of paychecks withheld when you run payroll in PayGrade. Whatever students have leftover after taking care of their expenses is money they can save to spend on things they want like prizes that you've established.

Just like a real banking environment, students can write checks and transfer funds in their PayGrade accounts. They can also earn interest on money that they save in their PayGrade accounts.

The budding entrepreneurs in your classroom may want to figure out how to earn more money. They might ask to do more jobs. But I heard of one case where a student started hiring other students to work for him. Another case involved a student who built up a little savings and then started making loans at an interest rate exceeded that of what his teacher had established in the PayGrade classroom.

Run the Simulation as Long as You Like
The thing about PayGrade that impresses me the most is its flexibility. You can use it for a week or two to teach personal finance concepts, use it all year long as a classroom behavior management tool, or do something variation in between those extremes. I'm planning to try it with my ninth grade students. I'll use it for a month and then report back here on

Disclosure: PayGrade is an advertiser on this blog. 

Monday, February 3, 2020

The 2020 Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp Registration is Open

Every summer except one since 2013 I've hosted the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp here in Maine. Last year I moved it to a new location within the state and it was the best location yet! That’s why I’m excited to announce that this year we’re going to be back at the Bethel Inn Resort for two days of hands-on learning on July 13th and 14th.

New Topics and Events for 2020!
This year some new things will be added to the agenda. This year will include a section about programming simple electronics using Arduino. To that end, every participant will get an Arduino starter kit this year. And in response to many suggestions, I’m adding more time to explore podcasting this year. Of course, as in the past, the pace of the two days will reflect the needs and interests of those in attendance.

Evening Social!
One of the things that I’ve always wanted to do is to host a social gathering in the evening for those who want to continue the conversations that started during the day or just get to know other passionate educators. This year there will be an optional evening social ($25) at Steam Mill Brewing just walking distance from the resort. Tickets will be available for this optional activity in a couple of weeks.

Register Early and Save $75!
Just like in the past, registration will be capped at 25. There is a limited number of super-early registration tickets. Register online by February 14th and you’ll get the lowest price I’ve ever offered for the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp (registration must be completed online to get the super-early discount price).

Group Discounts, POs, and other FAQs
I do offer a group discount for three or more people coming from the same school district. The discount can’t be applied to the super-early ticket pricing but can be applied to the other registration tickets. Send an email to richard(at) for details.

Need to use a purchase order? No problem. Just send me an email to get that process started.

Have more questions? This page covers everything you need to know about traveling to Bethel, Maine, things for kids and spouses to do in the area, and more.