Saturday, July 3, 2021

Checklists, Chatbots, and Badges - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where a steady drizzle is providing a little reprieve from the drought conditions we've been experiencing for the last few weeks. I'm happy to have the rain even if it makes bike riding a little less fun than in sunny conditions. Speaking of bike riding, this week was the first week I really felt like I was on summer break. I logged a few good bikes this week. I hope that you're also enjoying a nice summer break. 

This week I didn't host any new webinars, but I did publish a handful of new videos on my YouTube channel. I also spent some time tweaking materials for the upcoming July session of the Practical Ed Tech Virtual Summer Camp. There is still some time to register for the July and August sessions. 

These were my most popular posts of the week:
1. 15 Updates Coming to Google Workspace for Education
2. How to Create Interactive Checklists in Google Docs
3. How to Password-protect an Edublogs Blog
4. Create Your Own Chatbot for Surveys and Quiz Practice
5. What Strava Taught Me About Using Digital Badges in School
6. Two Cool New Presentation Creation Options in Canva
7. How to Create Your Own Online Board Game

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Other Places to Follow Me:
  • The Practical Ed Tech Newsletter comes out every Sunday evening/ Monday morning. It features my favorite tip of the week and the week's most popular posts from Free Technology for Teachers.
  • My YouTube channel has more than 36,000 subscribers watching my short tutorial videos on a wide array of educational technology tools. 
  • I've been Tweeting as @rmbyrne for fourteen years. 
  • The Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page features new and old posts from this blog throughout the week. 
  • And if you're curious about my life outside of education, you can follow me on Instagram or Strava.
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 WayBetterSite. Featured image captured by Richard Byrne.

Two Great Ways to Quickly Create Animations

A couple of weeks ago in my weekly newsletter I explained why I value having students create simple animations. The short version of the explanation is that I agree with the premise of Dan Roam's Back of the Napkin. The premise is that if you really understand a complex topic you can explain it in a series of simple sketches. Turning those sketches into an animation is a good way to illustrate a concept from start to finish. 

For a few years now I've been using Brush Ninja to create simple animations. Here's something I wrote about using Brush Ninja a few years ago in an eighth grade class. This video provides a demonstration of how to use Brush Ninja which is free and doesn't require registration. 

Brush Ninja is still a great tool for creating animations. Recently, I started experimenting with the features of Wick Editor for making animations. One of the things that I like about it is that you can add sound effects to your animations. Additionally, you also have the option download your animations as GIF or MP4 files. In this short video I demonstrate how to use Wick Editor to create an animation.

This post originally appeared on If seen elsewhere it has been used without permission.

Four Short Lessons About American Independence Day

American Independence Day, the Fourth of July, is tomorrow. I realize that most of you reading this aren't in school right now, but I thought I'd share a few video lessons about the Declaration of Independence the celebration of Independence Day. Bookmark these for your lessons when school resumes in the fall.

History offers the following excerpt from the America: The Story of Us series. The clip is commentary from talking heads like Tom Brokaw and Aaron Sorkin. It could prompt some thought and discussion amongst your students.

TED-Ed has a lesson titled What You Might Not Know About the Declaration of Independence. It's a lesson that provides overview of the key points in creation of the Declaration of Independence along with a short discussion prompt at the end. The lesson is probably best suited to middle school students.

In History of the 4th of July John Green offers a short overview of the history of Independence Day and the ways in which Americans have celebrated the holiday since 1776. As he always does, Green includes plenty of sarcastic comments throughout the video so if your students have trouble recognizing sarcasm then this won't be an appropriate video for them.

Keith Hughes doesn't seem to be producing new videos on his YouTube channel any more, but if you go back in his archives you'll find this gem from 2012. In the upbeat and concise style that made Keith's YouTube channel popular he provides an overview of the Declaration of Independence.