Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Five Tools for Staying On Task

It's school vacation week here in Maine. I have a long list of things that I want to accomplish on this blog and on Practical Ed Tech. To get that list done and still have time for fun things like riding bikes with my kids, I have to be focused when I'm online and resist the temptation to open Twitter or Facebook for "just a minute." To do that I'm using a combination of the Stay Focusd Chrome extension and a Pomodoro timer. 

Productivity Tools I'm Currently Using

StayFocusd is a Chrome extension that I've used for years whenever I feel like I'm falling into the bad habit of chasing rabbit holes on the internet. StayFocusd lets me specify the sites that I want to block from myself or limit my time spent viewing them. After specifying the sites and the amount of time I'll allow myself on them, a countdown timer appears whenever I view those sites. The timer resets every 24 hours. 

Pomofocus is a task timer that is based on the Pomodoro method of getting things done. On Pomofocus I create a list of tasks then start the timer. Each task is allotted 25 minutes (you can adjust that). After 25 minutes there is a five minute break timer that automatically appears. After the break the next task timer appears. 


Other Productivity Tools

Dayboard is a free Chrome extension that opens your daily to-do list every time you open a new tab in Chrome. When you open a new tab for the first time Dayboard will appear and ask you to enter your to-do list for the day. After creating your to-do list for the rest of the day whenever you open a new tab you will see your list. You can place a checkmark next to items as you complete them.

FlashTabs is a free Chrome extension that will display flashcards whenever you open a new Chrome tab. The thing that I like about FlashTabs is that it is easy to create your own flashcards to have displayed in your new tabs.

Google Keep can be an excellent to-do list and reminder tool. You can color code notes, make lists, and share notes. Google Keep reminders can be set to pop-up on your desktop or mobile device. My video embedded below illustrate the features of Google Keep reminders.

Monday, April 19, 2021

48 Videos and a Poster About Critical Thinking and Logical Fallacies

Last week TED-Ed released a new video lesson titled This Tool Will Help You Improve Your Critical Thinking. As I wrote last week, I almost immediately used the lesson in one of my computer science classes. Writing that blog post and using that lesson inspired me to take a look back through my archives for other lessons and resources for teaching and learning about critical thinking. Here's my updated list of resources about critical thinking and logical fallacies. 

The Guide to Common Fallacies is a series of videos produced by the PBS Ideas channel. Each video covers a different common fallacy. Included in the series are lessons about Strawman, Ad Hominem, Black and White, Authority fallacies.


Your Logical Fallacy Is is a website that provides short explanations and examples of twenty-four common logical fallacies. Visitors to the site can click through the gallery to read the examples. Your Logical Fallacy Is also provides free PDF poster files that you can download and print.

Wireless Philosophy offers 35 videos that explain various logical fallacies and how they are employed by authors and public speakers.


5 Tips to Improve Your Critical Thinking is a TED-Ed lesson. The introduction to the lesson is a bit long for my liking but once you get past that the tips are solid. The lesson presents critical thinking as a process of five steps. The last step is the one that students will probably struggle to implement, "explore other points of view."



Why People Fall for Misinformation is another TED-Ed lesson about critical thinking. The video does a good job of helping viewers understand the role of simplistic, narratives in spreading misinformation. The video also provides a good explanation of the differences between misinformation and disinformation.


Ever wonder why rational people sometimes make irrational decisions? If so, watch The Psychology of Irrational Decisions. The video explains the role of loss aversion in the formation of decisions that people wouldn't normally make. The video also provides a good explanation of the conjunction fallacy, sometimes referred to as the "gambler's fallacy." 



This Tool Will Help You Improve Your Critical Thinking is a TED-Ed lesson that provides viewers with an introduction to the Socratic method. The video has two main purposes. The first is to explain what the Socratic method is. The second is to explain a bit of Socrates' place in history.



This post originally appeared on FreeTech4Teachers.com. If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission. Sites that steal my (Richard Byrne's) work include CloudComputin, Today Headline, and 711Web.

Braingenie is Shutting Down - Transition to CK-12

Braingenie is a service that the CK-12 Foundation has offered for free for many years. It provided online practice activities addressing concepts in math and science for elementary school, middle school, and high school students. Unfortunately, CK-12 is ending the Braingenie service. However, there is some good news. Many of the practice activities and services offered by Braingenie are now being rolled into CK-12's core offerings. 

The Braingenie practice activities are now part of the adaptive practice activities offered for free through CK-12. Teachers can create classroom accounts on CK-12 to give their students access to the adaptive practice activities for math and science. Teachers can then use CK-12's reporting tool to see what their students have done and the areas in which their students might need some more help.

Teachers can share CK-12 activities with their students through Google Classroom, Schoology, Clever, Kiddom, Classlink, and Canvas. Teachers can also create online classrooms directly within CK-12 without using one of the aforementioned learning management systems. 

More information about the transition from Braingenie to CK-12 can found here.  

CK-12 Concept Maps

One of CK-12's underrated features is their interactive concept maps. CK-12 concepts maps are webs of related math and science terms. Clicking on the "details" tab below a term in the web will lead students to definitions and explanations, to interactive concept simulations, and to interactive review exercises. To find a concept map on CK-12 simply go to the CK-12 Concept Map page and enter a science or mathematics topic into the search box. You will then see a color-coded web of terms. Terms appearing in green will lead students to science resources. Terms appearing in blue will lead students to mathematics resources.

CK-12 Concept Maps could be a good resource for teachers who are looking for ideas when developing lessons that incorporate mathematics and science around one topic. For example, the inertia concept map provided me with resources that could be used to teach Newton's first law as well as resources that could be used to teach the calculation of acceleration.

This post originally appeared on FreeTech4Teachers.com. If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission. Sites that steal my (Richard Byrne's) work include CloudComputin and 711Web.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

A Handful of Resources for Learning About the Start of the American Revolution

Tomorrow is Patriots' Day here in Maine, in Massachusetts, and in a handful of other states. It's a day to mark the anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the first battles of the American Revolutionary War. As a good New Englander with an appreciation of history, every year at this time I like to share a handful of resources for teaching and learning about the American Revolution. 

Images of the Revolutionary War is a compilation of images about the Revolutionary War. The images in the collection chronicle the stirrings of rebellion in the pre-revolution years, the war from both American and British perspectives, and events following the Revolutionary War.

Minute Man National Historical Park offers detailed lesson plans that can be in conjunction with a visit to the park and lesson plans that can be used independent of a visit to the park. Take a look at the Legacy of Conflict lesson plan designed for 5th grade students (link opens a PDF) to get a sense of the type of detailed resources that the park offers.

Creating Google Earth tours of Revolutionary War battle sites is an activity that I did for many years with my U.S. History students. Students would create multimedia placemarks for each battle in sequence. The placemarks contained information about the outcome and significance of each battle. Here's a video on how to make a tour with with the browser-based version of Google Earth.



Video Lessons
Keith Hughes has a popular video in which he explains the American Revolution for middle school and high school students.



Crash Course has an extensive series on U.S. History. Included in that series is Taxes & Smuggling - Prelude to Revolution.



Mr. Betts has a YouTube channel on which he posts cartoons and song parodies to teach U.S. History lessons. Here's one he did about the Battles of Lexington and Concord.



For Red Sox Fans!
This is usually the day that the Boston Marathon is held and Red Sox play a morning game. Neither is happening this year. For my fellow Red Sox fans here's a famous clip from the 2007 Patriots' Day game.

This post originally appeared on FreeTech4Teachers.com. If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission. Sites that steal my (Richard Byrne's) work include CloudComputin and 711Web.

A Handful of Alternatives to Google Expeditions

As I mentioned on Friday, Google is shutting down Tour Creator at the end of June. They're also shutting down Google Expeditions at the end of June. For some teachers that is the bigger loss. And while I haven't yet found any alternatives that have the same capability as Expeditions for teachers to guide students through a virtual tour, I do have some alternatives to Expeditions for just viewing virtual tours. Here's my short, but growing list of alternatives to Google Expeditions. 

Google Arts & Culture
The Google Arts & Culture app includes many of the experiences that are present in Google Expeditions. The one thing that you can't do is guide students on tours. Google has introduced a new teacher center for Google Arts & Culture. In this video I provide an overview of how to use the Google Arts & Culture teacher center. The video includes directions for sharing specific portions of an Arts & Culture experience with your students. 


Sites in VR
Sites in VR is a free app that features immersive imagery of notable landmarks around the world. The imagery can be viewed in VR headsets or without them. Unfortunately, there is not any audio accompanying the views in Sites in VR. 

National Geographic
National Geographic's YouTube channel has more than 50 videos that are designed to be watched in virtual reality. In fact, you can find lots of YouTube videos that are intended for viewing in VR by simply refining your search to 360 or 180 VR in YouTube's search filters. See my screenshot below for more information about that. 


City Walks
City Walks is a neat website where you can go for a virtual walk in more than a dozen cities around the world. You can experience the cities with or without sound. You can go for virtual walks in the daytime or at night. At the start of each walk you'll see some quick facts about the city that might help you understand a little more about what you're seeing during the walk. City Walks is essentially a really nice display of street-level YouTube videos with some additional menu options overlaid on them. That's not meant as a knock on the site as it is a nice site. That does mean that there isn't any interactivity built into virtual walks like you might experience in a virtual reality experience. The video sources for City Walks are clearly labeled in the lower-right corner of each screen. 

Story Spheres
Story Spheres is a tool that I included in Friday's list of alternatives to Tour Creator. In addition to using it to make your immersive VR stories, you can use to browse a gallery of stories made by other Story Spheres users. Just click the explore tab on Story Spheres to start browsing through the stories. There is a search function on the gallery as well. 

This post originally appeared on FreeTech4Teachers.com. If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission. Sites that steal my (Richard Byrne's) work include CloudComputin, Today Headline, and 711Web.