Tuesday, February 4, 2020

What's the Difference Between a Caucus and a Primary

When I turned on the news this morning I was greeted with the news that the results of the Iowa caucuses would be delayed. That made me realize that I haven't posted any resources that can be used to help students understand how a president is chosen in the United States.

The first step in choosing a president is the party primaries and caucuses. Some people think they are the same thing, but they're not. USA Today has a video that clearly explains the differences between the two processes.



Your students, like mine did last week, might ask you why Iowa is always the site of the first caucus. Here's a good video from 2016 that explains why Iowa goes first.

PayGrade - A Classroom Economy Simulation You Can Use All Year

PayGrade is a great program that at its core teaches students money management lessons, but can be used for much more than that. In fact, even though I'm teaching computer science this year I plan to try using PayGrade in one of my classes.

To get started on PayGrade you set up a classroom in which you'll manage your students' accounts. You can manually add students to your classroom by entering their names and assigning them passwords. Alternatively, you can give your students a join code to register themselves to participate in your PayGrade classroom. In either case, students don't need to have an email address to use PayGrade. They simply need to remember their usernames and passwords which you can reset if they forget.

Once you have your students in your PayGrade account you can assign jobs for them to do in your classroom. Students are paid in virtual currency for completing their assigned jobs. PayGrade offers a list of default jobs that you can assign to students or you can create your own jobs for students to complete. Some of the default jobs you'll find listed in PayGrade are secretary, conservationist, and technology assistant. A secretary does things like post the date and special events on the classroom board every day. The conservationist is responsible for things like making sure only recyclables are in the classroom's recycling bin. A technology assistant makes sure that things like iPads in a cart are all plugged in. You can assign those jobs to students as written or make up your own descriptions and rates of pay.

Students in your PayGrade classroom earn virtual currency for doing their assigned jobs. The rate of pay is something that you can determine. That's not the only way that students can earn their virtual currency. You can also give them bonus pay for things like a good report from a substitute teacher, helping a classmate with a difficult task, or any other action that you deem worthy of a bonus payment. You can also deduct currency from their accounts for things like not following directions or failing to complete an assigned task.

Budgeting & Entrepreneurship
You choose the frequency at which students get paid in your PayGrade classroom. That frequency can be daily, weekly, bi-weekly, or even monthly. I'm planning to pay my students weekly because I think it's a sweet spot between having to do daily paychecks and not letting students feel like I've forgotten about their work.

The weekly payout intervals encourages students to budget their paychecks. Where does budgeting come into this? PayGrade lets you set-up a billing system in which students have to use their paychecks to pay for things like pencils, desk space, or their shares of the electric bill. Again, you can decide what the bills will be. You might even decide that you want to simulate payroll taxes and have a percentage of paychecks withheld when you run payroll in PayGrade. Whatever students have leftover after taking care of their expenses is money they can save to spend on things they want like prizes that you've established.

Just like a real banking environment, students can write checks and transfer funds in their PayGrade accounts. They can also earn interest on money that they save in their PayGrade accounts.


The budding entrepreneurs in your classroom may want to figure out how to earn more money. They might ask to do more jobs. But I heard of one case where a student started hiring other students to work for him. Another case involved a student who built up a little savings and then started making loans at an interest rate exceeded that of what his teacher had established in the PayGrade classroom.

Run the Simulation as Long as You Like
The thing about PayGrade that impresses me the most is its flexibility. You can use it for a week or two to teach personal finance concepts, use it all year long as a classroom behavior management tool, or do something variation in between those extremes. I'm planning to try it with my ninth grade students. I'll use it for a month and then report back here on FreeTech4Teachers.com

Disclosure: PayGrade is an advertiser on this blog. 

Monday, February 3, 2020

The 2020 Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp Registration is Open

Every summer except one since 2013 I've hosted the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp here in Maine. Last year I moved it to a new location within the state and it was the best location yet! That’s why I’m excited to announce that this year we’re going to be back at the Bethel Inn Resort for two days of hands-on learning on July 13th and 14th.

New Topics and Events for 2020!
This year some new things will be added to the agenda. This year will include a section about programming simple electronics using Arduino. To that end, every participant will get an Arduino starter kit this year. And in response to many suggestions, I’m adding more time to explore podcasting this year. Of course, as in the past, the pace of the two days will reflect the needs and interests of those in attendance.

Evening Social!
One of the things that I’ve always wanted to do is to host a social gathering in the evening for those who want to continue the conversations that started during the day or just get to know other passionate educators. This year there will be an optional evening social ($25) at Steam Mill Brewing just walking distance from the resort. Tickets will be available for this optional activity in a couple of weeks.

Register Early and Save $75!
Just like in the past, registration will be capped at 25. There is a limited number of super-early registration tickets. Register online by February 14th and you’ll get the lowest price I’ve ever offered for the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp (registration must be completed online to get the super-early discount price).


Group Discounts, POs, and other FAQs
I do offer a group discount for three or more people coming from the same school district. The discount can’t be applied to the super-early ticket pricing but can be applied to the other registration tickets. Send an email to richard(at)byrne.media for details.

Need to use a purchase order? No problem. Just send me an email to get that process started.

Have more questions? This page covers everything you need to know about traveling to Bethel, Maine, things for kids and spouses to do in the area, and more.

Word Webs - Quickly Create Webs of Related Words

Word Webs is a free site that generates connected webs based on the words you enter and select. Generate a web simply head to the site and enter a word. A web of six related words will be generated on the screen. Click on any of those six words to have another connected web created.

Word Webs also has a random word option. Select "random" from the drop-down menu at the top of the page and web will be created for a randomly chosen word. You can then click on the words in that web to generate more connected word webs.

Applications for Education
Word Webs could be a handy tool to use to generate some story starters. It might also be useful to help students come up with some different words to try in their Google or Bing searches.

Inflation Calculator - Show Students Changes in the Value of Money

When I was a kid a 3 Musketeers bar cost 30 cents at my favorite shop, North End Pharmacy. The last time that I saw one in a gas station it cost $1.39. That's ridiculous! What happened? Inflation, happened.

I like to use that candy bar example whenever I begin to explain inflation to kids. t's a product they're familiar with and usually have a good sense of its current value. If you want to come up with other examples or have students explore the impact of inflation on their own, take a look at the new Inflation Calculator created by Involve.me.

The Inflation Calculator lets you enter a dollar amount then select two years to see the change in the value of the original dollar amount over time. Watch this short video to see how it works.


H/T to Product Hunt