Monday, May 24, 2021

Running Free Rivers

River Runner is a neat website that shows you how a drop of water travels from anywhere in the United States to the Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, or the Gulf of Mexico. To use River Runner simply go to the site and click on any location in the United States. As soon as you click on the map, River Runner will generate and play an animation of the path that a drop of water would travel from that location to get to the ocean. You can stop the animation, rewind it, and fast forward it if you like. The animation is based on data collected from the USGS. The code for the site can be found here on GitHub

Applications for Education
When I was in elementary school my fourth grade teacher, Mr. Gessay, had us draw the path that water would take from our school to Long Island Sound. I'm pretty sure that related to our field trip to Rocky Neck State Park later in the year. River Runner does essentially the same thing for students. Today, I'd have students do the same thing then use River Runner to check the accuracy of the paths they draw on their maps. 

Using the River Runner site reminded me of the World Wildlife Fund's Free Rivers appWWF Free Rivers is a free augmented reality app produced by the World Wildlife Foundation. The app uses augmented reality to present a story about rivers. WWF Free Rivers tells students stories about the implications of changes in weather patterns, damming rivers, and pollution on river ecosystems. Students interact with these stories by moving their iPads and or by pinching and zooming on elements in the stories. Unlike some other AR apps the animations within WWF Free Rivers can be experienced by students from a variety of angles. A great example of this is found early in the app when students can see what a dam does to a river. During that experience students can see the dam from above, from below, and from the sides.

H/T to Maps Mania for the River Runner site.

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 and WayBetterSite. Featured image captured by Richard Byrne.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

ICYMI - Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions & Share Cool Stuff - Episode 37

Earlier this week Rushton Hurley and I hosted the 37th episode of Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff. It was our last episode of this school year. We'll be back at the start of the next school year. In the meantime, if you missed this week's episode or any other episode, you can watch it right here

Highlights of this week's episode: 

  • A cool tool for hosting online brainstorming sessions. 
  • A neat art project. 
  • Ideas for recording and adding audio to slides. 
  • Alternatives to Google Calendar. 
  • Unusual things that can be patented. 
The episode is embedded below. 

All of the episode recordings are also available on Rushton's YouTube channel.

Maps, Certificates, and Brainstorms - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where it is going to be a warm and sunny day. Most importantly, the worst of the black fly (gnats) swarms have passed. And the most exciting news in our house is that we're going to see my mother for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic reached New England. I hope that you have something equally exciting planned for your weekend. 

This week I co-hosted the last episode of this year's Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff series. We'll return at the start of the next school year. We're going on hiatus as Rushton has a busy summer planned and I do as well. I'll be hosting the Practical Ed Tech Virtual Summer Camp and working on some other projects. I also have this idea for a possible late-July/ early August PD experience. 

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. - A New Way to Quickly Make an Animated Map
2. Two Ways to Automatically Generate Certificates for Students
3. Fling the Teacher! - A Fun Review Game
4. Brainstormer - A Collaborative Brainstorming and Voting Tool
5. Three Good Ways to Make Online Word Games
6. Combine Canva and TeacherMade to Create Online Activities
7. How to Find Public Google Docs, Slides, Forms, Sheets, and Drawings

On-demand Professional Development
Other Places to Follow Me:
  • The Practical Ed Tech Newsletter comes out every Sunday evening/ Monday morning. It features my favorite tip of the week and the week's most popular posts from Free Technology for Teachers.
  • My YouTube channel has more than 35,000 subscribers watching my short tutorial videos on a wide array of educational technology tools. 
  • I've been Tweeting as @rmbyrne for fourteen years. 
  • The Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page features new and old posts from this blog throughout the week. 
  • And if you're curious about my life outside of education, you can follow me on Instagram or Strava.
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 captured by Richard Byrne.

Friday, May 21, 2021

I Have an Idea for a Different Summer PD Experience

As you probably know, I'm hosting the Practical Ed Tech Virtual Summer Camp again this year. From 2013 through 2019 I held it as an in-person event here in Maine. The kind of long-range planning that it takes to host an in-person event just wasn't possible this year because of all of the variables related to COVID-19. For example, I typically have to reserve meeting space with a $2500 deposit in late January for a July event. As I looked at COVID-19 cases in Maine and beyond I couldn't make that gamble back in January. That said, it's now late May, COVID-19 cases are down, vaccination rates are up, and Maine has eased travel restrictions. That brought me to an idea for a very small, new format, in-person professional development experience. 

At this point it's just an idea!

I need to emphasize that at this point it's just an idea. I'm trying to gauge interest and gather feedback. 

Here's the idea...

I'm looking for about ten teachers, principals, or instructional coaches who are interested in coming together for three things. Those things are learning new together, sharing  with/ teaching each other, and getting outside for some fun in the sun. We'd spend part of day learning and sharing then spend part of the day doing small group activities like biking, hiking, or paddling. In my mind, the ideal length is three days. 

Limiting factors...

The obvious limiting factor is the status of COVID-19 cases, CDC guidelines, and the government of Maine's guidelines related to COVID-19. Those are all very fluid factors which could mean that at any given moment the state could put in place new travel restrictions or other restricts that stop this idea in its tracks. For that reason, I wouldn't want people to come from beyond comfortable driving distance. 

Are you vaccinated? I am, as is my family. That said, I still plan to wear a mask indoors and wherever social distancing isn't possible for quite a while. 

Cost and dates: as this is a new approach I'm only planning to cover costs. I have leads on two excellent facilities for small meeting spaces during the week in late July and early August. Both are in Bethel, Maine. 

Are you interested?

Again, I must emphasize that this is just an idea at this point. If you're interested in more information about this idea, please fill out the short form on this page. Or send me an email at richard (at) with a subject line of Summer PD Idea. I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Catchy Words - A Fun Augmented Reality App for Spelling Practice

My daughters recently became very interested in a PBS Kids show called Word World. In each episode of the show the characters build a new word. As I was watching Word World with them this morning I was reminded of a fun augmented reality app called Catchy Words AR.

Catchy Words AR is an augmented reality app that provides a fun and active way for students to practice their spelling skills. The app is available for iPad/ iPhone and it is available in an Android version. The app works the same way in both versions. 

In Catchy Words AR students will see letters "floating" on the screen. Students have to catch the letters by moving their tablets or phones. The movement often requires students to get up and move out of their seats. When they catch a letter students then have to bring it back to place it into one of a sequence of floating boxes. The object is to spell a word by catching the letters and putting them into the boxes. Take a look at my screenshot below to see how a completed word appears on a phone or tablet screen (please excuse my messy desk in the background). 

Applications for Education

Catchy Words AR can be a fun way for some students to practice their spelling skills while getting up and out of their seats. The app doesn't require any kind of registration or login which makes it good for classrooms in which students share iPads. The shortcoming of Catchy Words AR is that you can't assign a word list to your students nor can you see which words they've spelled unless you look at their tablets or phones while they're using the app.

More augmented reality and virtual reality apps and their classroom applications will be featured as part of the Practical Ed Tech Virtual Summer Camp. Get an early bird discount when you register in the next ten days.

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 and TodayHeadline. Feature screenshot captured by Richard Byrne.