Wednesday, April 28, 2021

New Map-based History Lessons from DocsTeach

DocsTeach is one of my go-to resources for history teachers. I like it so much that I feature it in my Teaching History With Technology course. DocsTeach provides thousands of primary sources that teachers can use to build online and in-person history lessons for middle school and high school students. Additionally, DocsTeach hosts hundreds of pre-made activities based on primary sources. This week DocsTeach added more activities that you can use and re-use. 

The latest activities added to DocsTeach are based on maps. I've always been intrigued by historical maps so I was quickly drawn into lookin at these new DocsTeach lessons. The new map-based lessons are:

There are also new maps in the DocsTeach collection that have not yet had lessons built around them. You can view and download those maps to create your own activities. The new maps are CIA maps of the world and the 2010 U.S. Census maps. 

This post originally appeared on If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission. Sites that steal my (Richard Byrne's) work include CloudComputin, TodayHeadline, and 711Web.

Sherlock Bones - A Virtual Owl Pellet Dissection Activity

One of the great things about living where I do is that a walk in the woods is always just a few steps away. One of my favorite things about walking in the woods is finding all kinds of neat, natural things including dropped moose and deer antlers. While those are rare finds, I do regularly come across owl pellets on my walks. 

An old SciShow Kids video (embedded below) explains what an owl pellet is and what can be learned by dissecting an owl pellet.

Unfortunately, most students don't get the experience of walking in the woods and finding owl pellets. You can order owl pellets from a science lab supply company or you could have your students virtually dissect an owl pellet. Kid Wings is a website all about birds. The site includes a virtual owl pellet dissection activity called Sherlock Bones. In the virtual owl pellet dissection students pick apart an owl pellet, examine the bones inside it, then match those bones to the skeleton outline they've been provided. 

This post originally appeared on If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission. Sites that steal my (Richard Byrne's) work include CloudComputin, TodayHeadline, and 711Web.

Three Tips to Get More Out of Webinars

Back in 2007 or 2008 I watched a professional development webinar for the first time. I can't remember exactly what the webinar was about (it was something about Second Life), but I do remember thinking that I didn't get "it." After that I watched bunch of free webinars about all kinds of things because that's what I thought I should do to be a modern teacher staying current in his practice. Finally, in late 2011 I paid to join a webinar and something weird happened, I got a lot more out of the experience. Since then almost every webinar I've attended, both free and paid, has been a good learning experience. Here's what I figured out about learning from webinars.

1. Participate in live webinars, don't just watch them.
Every webinar platform has some kind of chat or Q&A feature. Use it! Use it to ask the presenter questions. An experienced webinar presenter will be able to handle questions in real-time. Don't be afraid to ask clarifying questions. Even when I'm attending webinars about things with which I'm already familiar, I make an effort to think of questions to ask. This forces me to tune-in and listen with more focus than if I was just listening in the hopes that something said by the presenter will jump out at me.

2. Close Facebook and take notes.
If I cannot attend the live version of a webinar, I still find great value in recorded webinars. When I watch recorded webinar I focus on it the same way I would during a live session. That means closing Facebook and taking notes in my notebook. In that notebook I write the questions that I want to send to the presenter via email.

3. Act on webinar ideas quickly.
When I participate in a webinar my participation isn’t over until I actually act on what I was just taught. Just like in a traditional classroom setting, it’s important to try for yourself what was just demonstrated for you. Do this as quickly as you can.

If you're ready to try these tips, register for a session of the Practical Ed Tech Virtual Summer Camp

How to See What's Hidden Behind a TinyURL

Last week I wrote a blog post about how to see what's hidden behind a Bitly shortened URL without actually clicking on the link. The trick is to add "+" to the end of the Bitly URL to see what's behind it without clicking on it. A few people emailed me to ask if the that worked with other URL shortening services. The answer is it works with TinyURLs

I've tried the "+" trick with a bunch of other URL shortening tools and TinyURL is the only one besides Bitly that I've found it to work with. 

What's the trick?
The trick is to add a "+" to the end of any TinyURL address in order to land on a safe TinyURL page that reveals what the original link was that got shortened. You can then decide if you want to click through to the destination or not.

If you want to try this with a TinyURL, will lead you to the page for the Practical Ed Tech Virtual Summer Camp, but adding a “+” at the end of that TinyURL will take you to the page where you can see the original link without clicking on it.

Here's a video overview of how to see what's behind a TinyURL without actually clicking on the link.

Applications for Education
As I wrote last week, building good digital citizenship and cyber safety skills is something that all of us should be helping our students do. Showing them little tips like this one to avoid clicking on suspicious links is one of the ways that we can help our students build their digital citizenship and cyber safety skills.

This post originally appeared on If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission. Sites that regularly steal my (Richard Byrne's) work include CloudComputin, TodayHeadline, and 711Web.

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