Saturday, February 8, 2020

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good morning from cold and dreary Maine. It seems like forever since we've seen the sun. To add insult to injury what was supposed to be snow turned out to be two days of sleet. I hope that wherever you are this weekend, the weather is a bit cheerier than it is here.

This week I announced that I'm going to host a free webinar on this coming Monday afternoon. The webinar is designed for tech coaches, instructional coaches, principals, and anyone who is in charge of encouraging teachers to use technology in new and meaningful ways in their classrooms. There is still time to register here. And speaking of registering, there is one week left to get the super-early discount on the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp registration.

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. PayGrade - A Classroom Economy Simulation You Can Use All Year
2. Two Ways to Make Progress Trackers With Google Sheets
3. Designing & Sending Certificates With Google Slides and Forms
4. Three Interesting Ways to Use Google Slides Besides Making Presentations
5. A Great Set of Videos for Teaching Networking and Computer Hardware Concepts
6. Short Lessons on Colds and Flu
7. Free Webinar - Three Steps to Encourage Technology Integration

I'll come to your school in 2020! 
Send me an email at richardbyrne (at) to learn more about how we can work together. This year I'm offering an opportunity to bring me to your school for free! Ask me for details.

Thank You for Your Support!
Other Places to Follow My Work
Besides and the daily email digest, there are other ways to keep up with what I'm publishing. 
  • Practical Ed Tech Newsletter - This comes out once per week (Sunday night/ Monday morning) and includes my tip of the week and a summary of the week's most popular posts from
  • My YouTube Channel - More than 16,000 are subscribed to my YouTube channel for my regular series of tutorial videos including more than 300 Google tools tutorials. 
  • The Practical Ed Tech Podcast is where I answer questions from readers, share news and notes, and occasionally talk to interesting people in education. 
  • Facebook - The Facebook page has nearly 450,000 followers. 
  • Twitter - I've been Tweeting away for the last twelve years at
  • Instagram - this is mostly pictures of my kids, my dogs, my bikes, my skis, and fly fishing.

Do Politics Make Us Irrational? - A TED-Ed Lesson

As the 2020 Presidential primaries and caucuses roll on more there is no avoiding political advertising unless you shut off your television, your radio, and never go on YouTube. Politics stir up all kinds of feelings in us. People who are otherwise very even-keeled sometimes get very passionate and perhaps irrational when it comes to politics. That's the topic of the latest TED-Ed lesson.

Do Politics Make Us Irrational? explains the results of 2013 study about how politics can affect other parts of our decision making processes. Watch all the way through the lesson and you'll learn that it might not be just politics but any other deeply held allegiance that can cause us to make decisions that might be a little bit irrational. The lesson is made relatable to students through the us of an analogy between politics and sports. Watch the lesson as embedded below and find some good discussion questions here.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Four Tips for Facilitating Classroom Arduino Projects

This year I have been doing a lot of Arduino projects with students in my Intro to Computer Science Principles course. Some of the projects have gone quite well and some not so well. I've talked about these in a couple of podcast episodes, but I haven't written anything about Arduino until now. If you're thinking about trying an Arduino project or you have tried one and it didn't go as well as you would have liked, here are four tips that I have to share based on my experience this year.

1. Start small and build slowly!
The first group of students that I had do Arduino projects got really excited. That excitement motivated them to start Googling for ideas for bigger projects than what I had anticipated. That's not a bad thing at all and I wanted to capitalize on their excitement so I let them run with it. Problems started to arise when they got into those bigger/advanced projects without having done all of the basic/beginner exercises first. They were missing some key concepts and had to go back before they could go forward. In the end, it all worked out okay but we took a very round about route to "okay."

The group of students that I have doing Arduino projects right now are going through each of the basic/ beginner projects that are built into the Arduino IDE and are available online right here. Because we're getting the basics covered early, I think that my current group will be able to complete advanced projects much more quickly than my first group did.

2. Make Printouts!
Unless you have an abundance of computers or monitors to the point that every student can have two to use, use printouts. My students seem to forget which windows they need open and toggling between the IDE and the sample code or directions on the same screen seems to cause more confusion than it does speed or clarity. I printed tutorials and sample code for my current students and it has gone quite well.

3. Work in pairs. 
Not only does working in pairs cut down on the amount of material that you need to purchase, it also introduces students to the concept of pair programming. Another benefit is that you have half as many hands going up when students do get stuck on a problem with their projects.

4. Assign cabinets or bins. 
Nothing will slow students' Arduino project progress like having to rebuild every at the beginning of every class. I'm fortunate to have a lot of cabinet space in my classroom so I can give pair of students their own shelf for their project materials. If I didn't have those cabinets I'd use shoe boxes or something similar for students to keep all of their project materials in. And I have students tape small, easily lost pieces like resistors that aren't currently in use to pieces of paper or to plastic boxes in their assigned cabinets. (I started the year with a bunch of pre-packaged Arduino kits, but over the course of the year the pieces got mixed around as needed).

Want to learn more about using Arduino in your classroom or makerspace? Come to the Practical Ed Virtual Tech Summer Camp

ClassDojo Adds an Events Feature

This week ClassDojo introduced a new feature that, according to Twitter responses, seems to be exciting for many teachers who use ClassDojo. The new feature is called Events and it lets teachers post event notices for parents to see in the ClassDojo app and website. ClassDojo even handles sending automated reminders of the events that teachers have created.

The types of things that teachers can post as ClassDojo Events include field trips, classroom parties, conferences, or due dates for returning important paperwork. Once an event is scheduled parents can see it in the ClassDojo app and website and receive reminders in the same place. If parents have push notifications turned on, they're more likely to see the reminders.

Applications for Education
ClassDojo Events has the potential to be a great tool for keeping parents informed about important and interesting things that are happening in your classroom. This feature is another sign of ClassDojo's commitment to evolving beyond its early days as a behavior reporting tool.

10 Things You Can Learn at the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp

Snow and sleet is falling here in Maine, I'm on the second day of a brutal chest cold, and 25% of my students were absent earlier this week. In other words, it's the perfect time to think about summer and all of the good things that come with summer. One of those good things that I'm looking forward to is hosting the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp.

Tickets went on sale last week. There are still some discounted super-early registration tickets available. If you're thinking about coming this year (this is the seventh time I've hosted it), here is a list of ten things you can learn and then use in your classroom.

Ten Things You Can Learn at the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp

1. How to create fun and engaging search lessons.

2. How to implement some workflow hacks to free up time to take care of yourself throughout the school year.

3. How to make and use virtual reality and augmented reality experiences in your classroom.

4. How to blend technology into outdoor lessons.

5. How create engaging video projects with your students.

6. How to produce podcasts with students.

7. How to design and publish simple mobile apps.

8. How to use technology to craft meaningful formative assessments (we'll go beyond Kahoot and Gimkit).

9. How to create a plan to make the most of the technology you have in your school.

10. How Arduino electronics and programming work and how you can use it in your classroom. You'll get your own kit to take home!

Only seven days left to get the lowest price I've ever offered for the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp!

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