Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A Few Resources for Learning About Taxes

Today is the deadline to file and pay your income taxes here in the United States. This is a good time to share some resources for helping students understand the history and purpose of income taxes. And good luck to everyone who is scrambling to file their tax returns today. (This is the first time in years that I'm not scrambling to file on time).

To explain the origins of income taxes in the United States, CBS News hosted author Kenneth Davis. Davis is the author of the popular "Don't Know Much" series of history books.

CNN's Explain It To Me video about the "Buffett Rule" explains why sometimes the super rich don't pay as high a percentage of their income in taxes as the rest of us.

To see how tax revenue is distributed is What We Pay For. What We Pay For uses publicly available tax data to show you how your tax money is appropriated. On the left side of the screen you will see the total revenue and appropriations for the entire United States. On the right side of the screen you can enter your filing status and pre-tax earnings for the year to see the approximate amount you will pay toward US budget items. You can enter your pre-tax earnings as an annual figure, monthly figure, weekly, daily, or hourly wage.

The IRS website, Understanding Taxes, is a good source of lesson plans and individual learning materials about taxes and budgets. In the teacher section of the site you will find lesson plans like this one (opens as pdf) designed to teach students about services for which tax revenue is used.

Finally, for a retro lesson on taxes take a look at the School House Rock Tax Man Music Video.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

TenMarks Offers a Free Summer Math Program for Families

 For the second year in a row TenMarks is making their family math program free for the summer months.

The TenMarks summer program begins with students taking an assessment. After taking the assessment  an individualized program that adapts to his or her specific needs is created for the student. Each student’s summer curriculum is designed to review concepts from the past year, and get introduced to concepts for the year ahead. TenMarks offers real-time feedback to students and their parents. The feedback measures a student's progress toward a standard or goal. Based upon a student's responses to questions the program automatically adjusts to provide more or less of a type of question.

Tenmarks Animation from Nikki Oetinger on Vimeo.

How to Add Page Tabs to Blogger Blogs

This afternoon I received the following email from a reader who needed help with his Blogger blog.

I am using I created 7 different pages and published them, however, they are not showing up on my home page. They only way to see them is if I click on the preview option. Any suggestions?

The short answer to this reader's question is to make the pages show up you need to go into the layout menu. Then select "add a gadget." The gadget you want to add is called "pages." The pages gadget will let you select the pages that will appear on your blog. I demonstrate this process in the following video.

You can find screenshots of this process and many more Blogger functions in my 90 page guide to using Blogger in school.

Applications for Education
The page tabs that I usually add to a classroom blog are a page for a full size calendar, a page for classroom expectations, and a page of resources for parents. I also include a tab that links to the school and or district website.

Why My Blog Posts and YouTube Videos Don't Have Comments

Over the last couple of months I've had a handful of people ask me why my Practical Ed Tech videos have commenting disabled. This afternoon someone asked me the same about my blog posts here.

I have comments disabled on my videos because the vast majority of YouTube comments don't add anything of value to the Internet. There are 100 things in my day that are better uses of my time than moderating comments from Internet trolls.

I disabled comments on about two years ago. I disabled the comments because I was spending a ton of time moderating comments that weren't genuine. The few genuine comments were usually "how to" questions or questions seeking alternative tools. I found that I was better at answering those questions in email than I was in post comments where the good stuff often got lost in the shuffle. If my blog posts were of a more conversational nature, I would turn on commenting.

The FreeTech4Teachers Facebook page allows comments and I try to answer questions there. I also reply to questions on Twitter (generally during the day and early evening, Eastern Time). You can always email me at richardbyrne (at) And if you're interested in what's going on my personal life, my Instagram account is full of pictures of my dogs, planes, woods, and other random things.

How to Manage Chrome Extensions

In response to yesterday's post about the StayFocusd Chrome extension I received an email from someone who wanted to know how to disable and or remove the extension. The easiest way to explain that process is to show it. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to disable, delete, and re-arrange Chrome extensions.

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