Thursday, April 2, 2020

The Arduino Design Project I'm Doing With Students Who Don't Have Materials at Home

Like a lot of other schools, mine closed without much more than a few hours notice. We went home on a Friday afternoon and Sunday evening we were told that we were not going back. My 9th grade computer science principles students were really starting to hit their stride with the various Arduino projects they were working on. Of course, I hadn't sent any materials home with my students.

For a couple of weeks I gave my students some lessons via EDpuzzle to keep the basic concepts fresh in their minds. When it became clear that we weren't going to be returning to our school I started to think of other ways to keep my students interested and challenge them a little bit. (Note, this is an elective course and most of my students would be working on these types of things even if we didn't offer a course about it).

What I'm doing this week and next week to try to keep my students interested and challenged is to give them a list of parts available then find or design a project that utilizes those components. They then have to write the code and directions for assembly. After they submit their project ideas and code I'm assembling the project in a Google Meet in front of them (I have a ton of materials in my home office). Below this paragraph you'll see the directions and parts list that I gave to my students this week.

1. Find or design an Arduino project that uses some or all of the parts listed below. The project can only use the parts that are listed below. Your project must be more complex than the basic blinking programs that we did in class before school was closed. Yes, you can consult the Arduino Project Hub as well as YouTube or any other website you find that has Arduino project ideas.

2. In a Google Document write out the steps for assembling the project. At the end of the document include the code that needs to be used in order for the project to run correctly.

Parts Available:

  • 2 Arduino Unos
  • 2 Breadboards
  • 1 Potentiometer
  • 1 5V Relay
  • 1 IR Receiver
  • 1 Remote
  • 5 Buttons
  • 2 Buzzers
  • 1 Ultrasonic Sensor
  • 1 Stepper Driver Motor
  • 1 Power Supply Module
  • 1 Servo Motor
  • 1 Temperature and Humidity Sensor Module
  • 1 Tilt Switch
  • 2 NPN Transistors
  • As many jumper wires as needed (up to 100)
  • As many resistors as needed (up to 50)
  • 1 LCD Display Module
  • 1 Diode Rectifier
  • As many single color LEDs as needed (up to 100)
  • 2 RGB LEDs
  • 2 USB cables to connect Arduino to computer.

Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions & Share Cool Stuff - Free Webinar Tomorrow

Last Friday Rushton Hurley from Next Vista for Learning and I hosted a free webinar that we not-so-creatively titled Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff. By popular demand we're going to do it again tomorrow at 1pm ET/ 10am PT. You can register for tomorrow's free webinar right here. Feel free to submit questions in advance by sending me an email at richardbyrne (at)

The replay of last week's episode of Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff is available to watch here. Some of the resources we shared are listed here.

Rushton has also been hosting a series of free webinars with Susan Stewart. That series is called Activities Across Grade Levels. Information about those webinars including archived episodes are available here on Next Vista. The latest episode was called Activities Across Grade Levels: The Power of Voice.

Now You Can Use Flipgrid to Make Screencast Videos

On Wednesday afternoon Flipgrid announced the launch of a new recording feature for teachers and students. You can now create screencast videos within Flipgrid. The feature is kind of hidden so I made a screencast video to show you where Flipgrid's screen recording tool is found and how it works.

As I demonstrate in the following video you can combine screencast videos with regular webcam video clips in Flipgrid. You can also combine screencast videos with whiteboard videos in Flipgrid. And you can combine all three video types into one video in Flipgrid. Best of all, you don't have to install any browser extensions or download anything in order to use Flipgrid's screen recording tool! Watch my video to see how this is done.

Applications for Education
As soon as I saw this feature I thought of an old colleague of mine who used to have her students create screencast videos to explain how various pieces of software on their laptops worked. She used to have to then organize those videos in a Google Drive folder. Now that same thing can be done in Flipgrid. The other nice thing about Flipgrid's new screen recording function is that you don't have to install any browser extensions or download any software.

To learn more about how to use Flipgrid, take a look at my playlist of sixteen Flipgrid tutorial videos.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Use Read Receipts to Make Sure Students Know They Have Google Classroom Assignments

Last week I published a post in which I explained that you can use read receipts in your G Suite for Education email to make sure that students have at least seen your messages even if they don't reply to your messages. I do that when I email students to remind them that they have new assignments posted in Google Classroom. That way even if they have ignored the notification in the Google Classroom app or in the automated Google Classroom notification email, I can be sure of whether or not they know they have a new assignment. In the following video I demonstrate the method that I use to make sure students know they have new Google Classroom assignments.

This method isn't entirely foolproof because if a student opens his or her email, I won't get a read receipt. That said, I think it's worth the extra minute it takes me to do this to make sure that more of my students recognize when a new assignment or announcement is posted in Google Classroom.

On a related note, you can speed up this process by using contact groups.

Schedule Individual Online Office Hours Meetings via Google Classroom

A lot of us are hosting online office hours for our students these days. Based on what I've seen from my colleagues as well as folks posting on social media, a lot of people are scheduling an hour of time and just hanging out in a Google Meet or Zoom meeting waiting for students to drop-in to ask questions. There's nothing inherently wrong with doing that unless you have students who want to ask questions that shouldn't be discussed in front of other students. You may also find that when you schedule students for specific, individual meetings they are more likely to appear. That's been the case for me with two of my students.

One way to schedule individual online meetings with students is to use a combination of Google Calendar, Google Classroom, and Zoom. In the video that is embedded below I demonstrate how that works. In short, you create recurring meetings in Zoom then insert the links to those meetings into the details for appointment slots in Google Calendar. Then when students sign-up for a meeting through your Google Calendar appointment page they will have the link and the meeting time available in their own Google Calendars.