Thursday, December 17, 2020

How to Create Your Own App With the MIT App Inventor

The MIT App Inventor is a free app development tool that has been available for free for the last decade. It's a great tool to use to introduce students to some programming concepts while letting develop apps that they can actually use on their phones. While it might seem complicated at first glance, after they have mastered a few basic concepts students can create some amazing applications through the MIT App Inventor. 

This morning I used part of my snow day to create a video tutorial on how to create your first Android application through the MIT App Inventor. Watch the video then try making your first app. Or watch the video in one tab while following my instructions with App Inventor open in another tab. 

Applications for Education
My 9th grade students are currently using it to create quiz game apps. One of them is trying to create a "personality quiz" application (what kind of cat are you?). I've personally used the App Inventor in the past to create a study guide for a U.S. History course that I taught. And I've seen 6th and 7th grade students use App Inventor to create scavenger hunt games.

Tozzl, Tozzl, Tozzl, Tozzl, Tozzl - How to Search for a Trademark

Back in October I received an email from the owner(s) of the domain It was a cease and desist notice for using the word "Tozzl" in some of my old blog posts and videos. Today, I received a second one from them. In both cases I'm telling them to take a flying's why. 

There is a lesson in Trademark, Copyright, and Fair Use here for anyone who cares to continue reading. 

Years ago the domain was owned by an independent developer who created a nice backchannel tool. I wrote quite a few blog posts about various ways to use it classrooms. I also made a tutorial video about it. Unfortunately, it no longer exists and the new owners of the domain are upset because blogs like this one rank higher in search engines than the new Tozzl website does. 

The email that I received in October and again this morning threatened a lawsuit if I didn't remove all references to Tozzl. According to them it is their trademarked term. Unfortunately for them, Tozzl isn't actually a registered trademark in the U.S. Trademark database. Furthermore, using the word Tozzl in an editorial context is a fair use. 

I responded to Tozzl's email in October by pointing out that their claim had no merit and that they should get lost. This morning I responded a bit more strongly by threatening to sue them for harassment and emotional distress. Then, as I always try to do, I decided to turn this into a teaching moment and made a video about how to search the U.S. Trademark database known as TESS. You can watch that video on my YouTube channel or as embedded below. 

My Current Hybrid Classroom Arrangement and Equipment

Last Friday I posted this picture on Instagram. It prompted a few questions on Instagram and in my inbox. The picture is of my current hybrid classroom equipment arrangement. Back in August I published a rundown of my hybrid classroom arrangement. It's changed a bit since then to meet my changing needs and those of my students. Here's a rundown of my current hybrid classroom equipment and arrangement. 

Two laptops = Mr. Byrne x 2!

I use two laptops during Zoom meetings. I sign into one of them to initiate the meetings then on the other one I sign in and become a co-host. By doing this I can screen-share from one laptop while using the other to monitor chat, check Google Classroom, check email, or do other things that I don't want to have students see. 

My school provides every teacher with a MacBook Air to use for Zoom and or other tasks. I also have laptops assigned to my classroom for student use. And I bring my personal laptop to school. Most days I use the MacBook Air and one of the classroom laptops. 


If you look at the picture, I have my MacBook Air on top of a stack of text books which is on top of an old rolling cart (wheels are locked). I do that so that the camera is eye-level. That MacBook is also hooked up to a FiFine microphone, a Bose Bluetooth speaker, and to my LCD projector. That's the computer that I primarily use for screen-sharing. Students who are in the room see exactly what I'm showing to the kids who are at home. 

The second laptop is on a small rolling podium. I use the rolling podium so that when my in-person students are working on something that I want their at-home classmates to see, I can quickly roll it over and show them. Again, most days I use one of the classroom laptops for this, but on Monday I used a MacBook Air for this. Which device is where isn't as important as having two relatively mobile devices. 

In the picture above I had three in-person students working on a switch and router configuration activity and three at-home students helping them. The at-home students were able to see what the students in class were doing. All six students were talking to each other to work through the configuration activity together. 


It turns out that my voice carries quite well (not only do I have a face made for radio, I also have voice for it) so I haven't needed to use my wireless microphone for my at-home students to hear me when I wander away from my laptop. The FiFine microphone that my school purchased has been sufficient. That said, when some of my quieter in-person students speak I do have to ask them to speak up in order for their at-home classmates to hear them. 

Bottom Line

As you can see from my pictures, I don't have the fanciest set-up or a Pinterest-worthy classroom. What I have focused on is making sure that everyone can see and hear what needs to be seen and heard during class. I'm also doing my best to make sure that at-home students and in-person students can interact during class. 

Finally, it is infinitely easier to teach when all students are in one place. 100% online and 100% in-person is a heck of a lot easier to manage and make meaningful than a 50/50, 40/60, or 10/90 split (yes, I have one class in which only one student comes into school). 

Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions & Share Cool Stuff - Episode 29

Last week Rushton Hurley and I hosted the 29th episode of Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff. We're taking a break from hosting those webinars until January. We'll be back on January 21st at 4pm ET/ 1pm PT. You can register here to join us for that episode. In the meantime, you can watch last week's episode and the twenty-eight others right here

Some highlights from the last episode include:
  • A new Amazon Prime show about teachers. 
  • Keeping Kids in Motion
  • Cookies for Tanzania
  • The Whiteboard Blog
  • Padlet & Wakelet
  • Books by Rushton

Quickly Create Polls and Quizzes in Google Meet With Edu-pal

Edu-pal is a new Chrome extension developed by students for teachers and students to use with Google Meet. The extension was recently featured on Product Hunt and I gave it a try earlier this week. It worked as advertised and is an extension that I'd recommend to any teacher who is looking for a quick and easy way to create polls or quizzes in Google Meet. 

Edu-pal provides an easy way to quickly create multiple choice, true/false, and free response questions to distribute to your students to answer during a Google Meet call. You can create your question at anytime during your call by simply selecting it from the Edu-pal menu that appears in your Google Meet when you have the extension activated. Students receive a notification in Google Meet that you've posted a question for them to answer. You can see their answers in real-time in Google Meet. 

For Edu-pal to work you and your students need to have it installed in Chrome. And it will only work if when using the browser version of Google Meet and not the Google Meet mobile apps. 

Applications for Education
At this time there isn't a way to save all of your students' responses to the questions you share through Edu-pal. That said, it is easy to use and could prove to be a convenient tool to use to quickly take the pulse of your online class.