Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Blockchain - From the Basics to Advanced - A Free Course

Turn on CNBC or any business/ financial news channel today and you're likely to hear about Bitcoin. Blockchain is the technology behind Bitcoin and all cryptocurrencies. If you're not familiar with how blockchain works or you're looking for a simple explanation to share with your students, Common Craft has you covered. Blockchain Explained by Common Craft makes a great analogy between keeping a ledger of tangible assets to keeping a ledger of digital assets. The presentation of that analogy makes it easy to understand how blockchain works. 

Once you understand the basics of blockchain you might want to learn more about cryptocurrencies. Blockchain and Money is an open course from MIT. The course was originally taught in the fall of 2018, but all of the materials and lectures are still available for free. All twenty-three lectures in the course can be viewed in this YouTube playlist. It is a graduate course so I don't expect that high school students would be able to understand all of it, but an interested high school student could still glean some good lessons from it. 

H/T to Open Culture

Disclosure: I have a long-standing in-kind relationship with Common Craft. 

Code Your Own Retro View-Master

CodePen is one of my favorite sites for helping students learn how web apps are constructed. In fact, I like it so much that I'll be featuring it in one of next week's Practical Ed Tech Virtual Summer Camp webinars. 

The concept of CodePen is that people can share the web apps that they develop and others can copy and modify those projects. The neat thing about it from a teaching and learning perspective is that you can see the how the CSS, HTML, and JavaScript work together. Edits made to the code are almost instantly carried-out for you to see. 

Earlier this week I received an email from CodePen that highlighted a few projects from the public project gallery. One of those projects that jumped out to me was the Visualizer 3000 project. The Visualizer 3000 lets you create an image gallery that is displayed in the form of a View-Master. A new image from your gallery is displayed each time you click on the handle on the side of the View-Master. 


Applications for Education
As I mentioned above, CodePen's format provides a great way for students to see how CSS, HTML, and JavaScript work together to form a web application. The Visualizer 3000 project could be a fun one for students to tinker with to change the color scheme, add pictures of their own, or change the number of pictures that rotate through the gallery.

Here's a video overview of how CodePen works.



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

A Few Short Lessons About the Longest Day of the Year

It is going to be warm and sunny here in Maine today. That temperature will make it feel like summer a few days before the summer solstice. Many refer to the summer solstice as the "longest day of the year" when they really mean "longest period of daylight in a day." But that's beside the point of this post which is to share a few resources that can help kids understand what the summer solstice is.

SciShow Kids offers a nice video that can help K-3 students understand why the length of daylight changes throughout the year.


Reasons for the Seasons is a TED-Ed lesson appropriate for upper elementary and middle school students. The lesson explains the relationship between the shape of the Earth's orbit around the Sun, the Earth's tilt on its axis, and how those affect the amount of sunlight on different areas of the Earth.


And for a little perspective on winter vs. summer solstice here's a great side-by-side time-lapse of the winter and summer solstices in Manchester, England.


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 WayBetterSite. Featured image captured by Richard Byrne.

Roadside America in a Story Map

The Library of Congress houses the John Margolies Roadside America Photograph Archive. That archive contains nearly 12,000 photographs of interesting roadside attractions all over the United States and eastern Canada. The collection includes pictures of things like gas stations shaped like a dinosaur, windmills that serve as ice cream stands, funky miniature golf courses, and lots of neon signs for motels and restaurants. 

Recently, the Library of Congress published an ESRI Story Map of photographs in the John Margolies Roadside America Photograph Archive. The map is titled Roadside America. You can view the images on an interactive map or simply scroll through some curated collections of images from the collection. I found it fun to click on the markers on the map to discover some roadside attractions in my home state as well as others around the country. But before you head out on the road to look for them I should point out that many of the photographs are of things that are no longer out on the roadside. 


As you click through the Roadside America map you will be able to click-through to the LOC pages that host the images. There you can download the images in various sizes. The images are free for re-use. Image record and citation information is available on each page on which the images are hosted.

Applications for Education
Roadside America provides a nice way for students to discover some pieces of Americana past and present. I'd use the map as a way to spark students' curiosity to conduct a little research about some of these interesting roadside attractions. I might also use the map as a model for having students create their own roadside attractions maps of places in their home states that they may have seen and or taken pictures of.

H/T to Maps Mania

Featured image credit: Margolies, John, photographer. Harold's Auto Center, horizontal view, Sinclair gas station, Route 19, Spring Hill, Florida. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, www.loc.gov/item/2017702118/

Monday, June 14, 2021

The Excitement of Augmented Reality - The Joy of a Four Year Old

This past weekend we took our daughters to Living Shores Aquarium in Glen, New Hampshire. We all enjoyed learning about marine life and watching the otters play. My youngest daughter especially loved the touch tank in which little fish nibbled on her hand. My oldest daughter didn't like the touch tank as much as her sister, but she did find something she really enjoyed. That thing was a coloring station where she could color sea animals then see her drawings come to life on screen through the use of augmented reality. She ended up making seven drawings which filled the screen with seahorses, turtles, and fish that she colored. Each time her drawing came to life on the screen she jumped for joy! 

The technology that was in use at the aquarium was very similar to that found in QuiverVision. The concept of QuiverVision is that kids complete coloring sheets that become augmented reality objects when they are scanned with the QuiverVision iOS or Android app. 

Applications for Education
QuiverVision has been around for five or six years at this point. In fact, I mentioned it in this 2019 article about five directions for augmented reality in education. I was never particularly enthusiastic about it because at the end of the day it is still just a fancy coloring activity. That changed when I saw how excited my four year old daughter got about seeing her coloring pages come to life. It got her excited to learn more about marine animals. That excitement to learn more about something new is perhaps the best reason to try something like QuiverVision with students. 

Thanks to my awesome partner, Jess, for the pictures in this post.