Friday, May 7, 2021

Google Arts & Culture + Apple Classroom

Google is ending support for Google Expeditions on June 30th. A few weeks ago I shared a short list of alternatives to Google Expeditions. In that blog post I mentioned that one of features of Expeditions that I'll miss most is the ability to remotely guide or pace students through a virtual reality experience. 

I still haven't found something that works in the exact same way as the guide mode in Google Expeditions. That said, teachers who have iPads in their classrooms can guide students through scenes in the Google Arts & Culture app through the use of Apple's Classroom app

Applications for Education
The downside to using Google Arts & Culture on an iPad instead of on a phone is that the VR experience isn't immersive like it is if you're using a VR viewer. The upside is that as a teacher you can provide more assistance to young students as they use the app.

This post originally appeared on 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.

Knowt Now Offers Public Galleries of Notes, Flashcards, and Quizzes

Knowt is a neat service that I've featured a few times over the last couple of years. It's a service that will automatically generate flashcards and quizzes from any document that you import into it. The latest update to Knowt provides registered teachers and students with a public gallery of notes, quizzes, and flashcards. 

Now when you sign into a free Knowt account you have the option to browse for notes, flashcards, and quizzes according to subject area. There is also a gallery of notes, quizzes, and flashcards based on popular textbooks. All of the notes, quizzes, and flashcards found through the public galleries in Knowt can be copied directly into your account where you can modify them as you like. 

Here's Knowt's promo video for their new galleries of notes, quizzes, and flashcards. And here's my overview of how to use Knowt to create your own notes, quizzes, and flashcards by importing a document into your account. 

Applications for Education
The new Knowt galleries of notes, flashcards, and practice quizzes are appearing at a good time for students who are preparing for final exams. Teachers who have Knowt accounts can go through the galleries and pick collections of notes and flashcards to share with their students.

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

The Question I'm Asked the Most

I get lots of questions sent to me every week. There is one that I get asked more frequently than any other. That is, "what are you using to make your videos." Usually, people ask that because they want to know how I'm highlighting my mouse pointer in my videos or how I'm creating the moving oval cut-out of my webcam.  

Screencast-o-matic is the tool that I use to create nearly all of the videos that appear on my YouTube channelScreencast-o-matic is available in a browser-based version and in a desktop "deluxe" version. I use the desktop version unless I'm using my Chromebook. 

The deluxe version of Screencast-o-matic is the paid version that costs $1.65/month. With that version comes the option to crop and resize the webcam view that you can overlay on your screencast. One of those cropping options is to use an oval. That's what I do. Screencast-o-matic also provides the option to have a highlighted circle follow your mouse pointer on your screen. When I'm making longer videos I'll also utilize the clip merging tools, transition tools, and text overlay tools that are available in Screencast-o-matic.

Overviews of Screencast-o-matic
Last year March I published a complete video overview of Screencast-o-matic. You can see that video here.

A Comparison of Other Screencasting Tools
Last fall I created a chart and wrote a detailed comparison of free screencasting tools. In my ranking of free options, Screencastify came out on top. That chart and ranking can be seen here.

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

Thursday, May 6, 2021

CodePen - See How Web Apps Come Together

CodePen is a code editing environment in which students can see how HTML, CSS, and JavaScript work together to form web applications. As you can see in the screenshot that I've included below, the screen is divided into four parts. There's a column for HTML, a column for CSS, and a column for JavaScript. Below that there is a preview panel that displays what the application looks like and how it functions. 

The best aspect of CodePen is that it is a real-time editor. That means you can change any aspect of the HTML, CSS, or JS and immediately see the effects of those changes in the preview panel. This is a great way to see what happens when a variable is changed in an application. If the change didn't work as anticipated, a quick "CTRL+Z" on your keyboard reverts it back to the previous state. The same is true when you edit an aspect of the HTML or CSS. 

You can register for a free CodePen account using an email address, a GitHub account, Twitter account, or a Facebook account. (I signed up using my school-issued Gmail address and my students did the same). The first time that you sign into your CodePen account you'll be taken through a very short tutorial that leads into making your first project. The first project is a simple "Hello World" project that has some basic HTML, CSS, and JS elements that you can quickly edit. 

CodePen does have a gallery of publicly shared projects that you can copy and modify. In fact, the screen image above is of a project that I found and shared with my students so that they could get some fun practice with CodePen. You can access the same project right here

Applications for Education
My Computer Science Principles class is now at the point that they're ready to break out of scripted activities or projects and work on making functioning applications of their own. During the year they've had experience writing HTML, CSS, and JavaScript (most recently they ripped through the lessons in Blackbird Code). So this morning I had them jump into CodePen, specifically this LOLCat Clock, to experiment and see what they could modify and make. Without exception all of my students liked using CodePen and one was even effusive in praising how quick it was to see changes implemented. 

Next week my students will spend some more time using CodePen to tinker with existing projects before I send them off to brainstorm and develop web apps of their own.

CodePen Free and Paid Plans
CodePen offers free and paid plans. My students and I have only used the free plan so far. The paid plan offers additional features that could be helpful to me in the future. Those features include Professor Mode and Collab Mode. Professor Mode would let me remotely watch my students' progress in real-time. Collab Mode would let me and my students collaborate on projects in real-time much like working in Google Docs. You can read more about CodePen's paid plans for educators right here

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

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Strange Borders - A Geography Lesson

Yesterday afternoon I read an interesting article titled Belgian Farmer Accidentally Moves French Border. The whole story is almost exactly what the title says. A farmer moved a stone that was in his way when plowing a field. It just happened that the stone he moved is a marker for the border between two small towns in Belgium and France. The border itself is not in dispute and the border is a relatively normal one between two friendly neighbors. Still, reading the story reminded me of a couple of videos that I've bookmarked about irregular country borders. 

Countries Inside Countries (Bizarre Borders, Part 1) was produced by CGP Grey seven years ago to illustrate where some of the landlocked countries of the world are and how they became landlocked. The video also highlights countries that have only one neighbor. 

Canada & The United States (Bizarre Borders, Part 2) explains why border between the United States and Canada might look like a long straight line in many places, but is not a straight line. The video also delves into some border quirks and disputes. The Google Earth file used in video is available to download here on CGP Grey's website.

Tom Scott has also produced a couple of interesting videos about interesting borders between countries. In The Most Complex Borders in Europe: Why Do We Have Nations? he explains the complicated border between Baarle-Nassau in the Netherlands and Baarle-Hertog in Belgium. 

In The US-Canada Border Splits This Road Down the Middle he visits the border between Stanstead, Quebec, Canada and Derby Line, Vermont, United States where the border really does split a road or, depending upon who you ask, the road splits the border. In the video he explains what you can and can't do on the road as well as how border enforcement has increased in the last couple of decades. (Speaking as someone who has lived relatively close to the US-Canada border for all of my adult life and has crossed the border countless times, border crossings today are much more regulated today than they were the first time I crossed in the late 90's).

Applications for Education
The article I mentioned above along with the videos could make for a good starting place to introduce lessons on international boundaries, border enforcement, and negotiations between countries. I'd probably put the videos about US-Canada borders into EDpuzzle to add comprehension questions to the videos for my students to answer while they watch the videos. Here's an overview of how to use EDpuzzle.

Google Earth offers lots of great tools that students can use to explore quirky borders and neat features of geography. My self-paced Crash Course in Google Earth & Maps shows you how to use those tools and more.

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