Friday, July 9, 2021

Blackbird Code - One of My New Favorites in 2021

I'm taking this week to recharge and get ready for the next session of the Practical Ed Tech Virtual Summer Camp. For the next few days I'm going to highlight some of my favorite new and new-to-me tools so far this year. 

Blackbird is a new platform for teaching programming to middle school and high school students. Blackbird is positioning itself as a platform that fills the gap between using a blocks-based service like Scratch and writing code in an IDE. Blackbird doesn't use blocks or even offer any blocks. Instead, Blackbird provides a series of interactive lessons in which students write JavaScript. 

Blackbird lessons are arranged in progressive units. From the first lesson students are building a game they can customize to their heart's content. When they've finished all of the lessons students can move onto a "workshop" where they can work on independent projects that you can observe from your teacher dashboard in Blackbird. 

There were a few features that stood out to me during my first run-through of Blackbird. First, students can get choose how much guidance they get on each lesson. Second, students' progress is locked in place as they go. Third, from your teacher dashboard you can see how much time your students spend on each activity. 

Students can use just the basic instructions for each lesson or click on the definitions and "deep dives" embedded within the instructions. Those definitions and deep dives give students an explanation of what they're writing and puts the explanation into an applicable context. 

Blackbird units are composed of progressive lesson sequences. When a student completes a lesson with 100% accuracy the code they wrote for that lesson is locked. It's locked because the next lesson will build upon their correctly written code. Locking the previously written code in place prevents students from accidentally changing their existing code and thereby impacting what they're currently working on. 



Applications for Education
While it's helpful to have some prior coding experience, Blackbird can be used by teachers who don't have any prior coding experience. Blackbird provides detailed tutorials and lesson guides for teachers who don't have coding experience. Furthermore, teachers can do the exact same lessons and activities as their students to learn alongside them.

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 711Web. 

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Bibcitation for Chrome - One of My New Favorites in 2021

I'm taking this week to recharge and get ready for the next session of the Practical Ed Tech Virtual Summer Camp. For the next few days I'm going to highlight some of my favorite new and new-to-me tools so far this year. 


Earlier this year Bibcitation launched an update Chrome extension that makes it easy for students to properly cite sources of information. Some of its key features include automatic formatting of citations in dozens of styles, easy transfer of citations to your documents, and one-click addition to your existing Bibcitation bibliographies. Yesterday, I made this short video that demonstrates the key features of Bibcitation's Chrome extension. Take a look and see how easy it is to use Bibcitation. 


Applications for Education
As I wrote earlier in the week, one of the things that I have always liked about Bibcitation is that it provides support for dozens of citation styles in addition to the standard MLA and APA formats. Bibcitation is also easy to edit if students do find a mistake with the formatting. Finally, Bibcitation doesn't require students to register in order to use it. Completed Bibliographies can be downloaded as a document, as a BibTex file, or as HTML.

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.

Forky Mind Mapping - One of My New Favorites in 2021

I'm taking this week to recharge and get ready for the next session of the Practical Ed Tech Virtual Summer Camp. For the next few days I'm going to highlight some of my favorite new and new-to-me tools so far this year. 

I've tried dozens, possibly more than one hundred, mind mapping and flowchart creation tools over the last thirteen+ years of writing this blog. In fact, my first published writing was as a co-author of a chapter about mind mapping in the book What School Leaders Need to Know About Digital Technologies and Social Media. I tell you that to say I've seen a lot of mind mapping tools. Of those, the best ones are usually the simplest ones. Forky is a new mind mapping tool that fits into the category of simple but effective. 

Forky is a free mind mapping tool that focuses on just connecting text boxes. As you'll see in this video, all that you have to do to make a mind map with Forky is to double-click on the screen then start typing in the text box that appears when you double-click. To add a new connected idea just hit the tab key on your keyboard and a new text box appears for you to type in. If you want to create a new text box that isn't connected to a previous one, just double-click somewhere else on your screen. You can make connections between boxes after they're written by simply holding the shift key while clicking on one box then another. 

Forky doesn't include support for inserting images, video, or any other media. It's just for writing a series of connected ideas. You can invite other people to view your Forky mind maps via email. 




Applications for Education

Mind mapping tools like Forky can be helpful to students when they are planning a creative story that has a few storylines in it. Forky's option to invite a collaborator could be used by students to invite their teachers to review their mind maps and provide some feedback.

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Wordtune - One of My New Favorites in 2021

I'm taking this week to recharge and get ready for the next session of the Practical Ed Tech Virtual Summer Camp. For the next few days I'm going to highlight some of my favorite new and new-to-me tools so far this year. 

Wordtune is a Chrome extension that will make suggestions on how to change and or improve the structure of your sentences. It will work in a lot of web applications including Google Docs. Google Docs is probably the application in which most students can benefit from using Wordtune. That's why I made this short video to demonstrate how Wordtune works in Google Docs. 



Applications for Education
Wordtune could be a good Chrome extension for students to use to help them avoid using the same phrases and or sentence structures too often in a document.

On a related note, here's what I look for when testing a new Chrome extension.

Coverr - One of My New Favorites in 2021

I'm taking this week to recharge and get ready for the next session of the Practical Ed Tech Virtual Summer Camp. For the next few days I'm going to highlight some of my favorite new and new-to-me tools so far this year. 

Coverr is a relatively new website that is offering free B-roll video clips that you can download and reuse in your own projects. Most of the videos are silent and are short clips of less than a minute. Downloading them takes just one click. Registration is not required in order to download from Coverr and, according to Coverr's terms of service, attribution is not required although it is appreciated. 

You can search for videos on Coverr by entering simple keywords like "dog" and "cat." The other option for discovering videos on Coverr is to simply browse through the thematic collections of stock video clips. 

Coverr's user interface does have one element that might cause some confusion for students. Coverr appears to generate revenue through Shutter Stock's affiliate program. That's why there is a row of Shutter Stock video clips on the top of every page and another a little lower on each page. It would be fairly easy for someone to overlook the Shutter Stock label and end up clicking on one of the videos that isn't available for free. 

Applications for Education
Pixabay has been my go-to resource for free B-roll video clips for years. Coverr probably isn't going to supplant Pixabay as a my go-to, but it does represent an alternative source for free video clips that teachers and students can use without worrying about copyright infringement.