Friday, May 21, 2021

I Have an Idea for a Different Summer PD Experience

As you probably know, I'm hosting the Practical Ed Tech Virtual Summer Camp again this year. From 2013 through 2019 I held it as an in-person event here in Maine. The kind of long-range planning that it takes to host an in-person event just wasn't possible this year because of all of the variables related to COVID-19. For example, I typically have to reserve meeting space with a $2500 deposit in late January for a July event. As I looked at COVID-19 cases in Maine and beyond I couldn't make that gamble back in January. That said, it's now late May, COVID-19 cases are down, vaccination rates are up, and Maine has eased travel restrictions. That brought me to an idea for a very small, new format, in-person professional development experience. 

At this point it's just an idea!

I need to emphasize that at this point it's just an idea. I'm trying to gauge interest and gather feedback. 

Here's the idea...

I'm looking for about ten teachers, principals, or instructional coaches who are interested in coming together for three things. Those things are learning new together, sharing  with/ teaching each other, and getting outside for some fun in the sun. We'd spend part of day learning and sharing then spend part of the day doing small group activities like biking, hiking, or paddling. In my mind, the ideal length is three days. 

Limiting factors...

The obvious limiting factor is the status of COVID-19 cases, CDC guidelines, and the government of Maine's guidelines related to COVID-19. Those are all very fluid factors which could mean that at any given moment the state could put in place new travel restrictions or other restricts that stop this idea in its tracks. For that reason, I wouldn't want people to come from beyond comfortable driving distance. 

Are you vaccinated? I am, as is my family. That said, I still plan to wear a mask indoors and wherever social distancing isn't possible for quite a while. 

Cost and dates: as this is a new approach I'm only planning to cover costs. I have leads on two excellent facilities for small meeting spaces during the week in late July and early August. Both are in Bethel, Maine. 

Are you interested?

Again, I must emphasize that this is just an idea at this point. If you're interested in more information about this idea, please fill out the short form on this page. Or send me an email at richard (at) with a subject line of Summer PD Idea. I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Catchy Words - A Fun Augmented Reality App for Spelling Practice

My daughters recently became very interested in a PBS Kids show called Word World. In each episode of the show the characters build a new word. As I was watching Word World with them this morning I was reminded of a fun augmented reality app called Catchy Words AR.

Catchy Words AR is an augmented reality app that provides a fun and active way for students to practice their spelling skills. The app is available for iPad/ iPhone and it is available in an Android version. The app works the same way in both versions. 

In Catchy Words AR students will see letters "floating" on the screen. Students have to catch the letters by moving their tablets or phones. The movement often requires students to get up and move out of their seats. When they catch a letter students then have to bring it back to place it into one of a sequence of floating boxes. The object is to spell a word by catching the letters and putting them into the boxes. Take a look at my screenshot below to see how a completed word appears on a phone or tablet screen (please excuse my messy desk in the background). 

Applications for Education

Catchy Words AR can be a fun way for some students to practice their spelling skills while getting up and out of their seats. The app doesn't require any kind of registration or login which makes it good for classrooms in which students share iPads. The shortcoming of Catchy Words AR is that you can't assign a word list to your students nor can you see which words they've spelled unless you look at their tablets or phones while they're using the app.

More augmented reality and virtual reality apps and their classroom applications will be featured as part of the Practical Ed Tech Virtual Summer Camp. Get an early bird discount when you register in the next ten days.

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 and TodayHeadline. Feature screenshot captured by Richard Byrne.