Saturday, August 28, 2021

Exploring Newspapers Through Maps

When I included current events as a regular part of my social studies classes I would always show a map of where a story takes place. The following websites can provide students with a geographic connection to current and historical news stories.

Newspaper Map is a neat tool for locating and reading newspapers from locations all around the world. Newspaper Map claims to have geolocated 10,000 newspapers. To find a newspaper you can browse the map then click on a placemark to open the link within to read a newspaper. You can also locate newspapers by using the search boxes to locate a newspaper by title or location. Along with links to the newspapers, Newspapers Map provides links to translate the newspapers you find on the map.

The U.S. News Map is a great resource produced by Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia. The U.S. New Map is an archive of American newspapers printed between 1836 and 1964. You can search the archive by entering a keyword or phrase. The results of your search will be displayed on an interactive map. Click on any of the markers on the map and you'll be shown a list of newspaper articles related to your search term. Click on a listed article to read it on the Library of Congress' Chronicling America website.

Applications for Education
Newspaper Map is a good tool for students to use to discover interesting news stories that might not be featured on global sites like CNN or BBC News.  

Comics, Docs, and Posters - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where we're getting ready for a weekend of fun. We're planning to go for a little hike and do a little fishing. I hope that you have something fun planned for your weekend as well. 

This week I hosted a couple of professional development webinars for schools. If you're interested in having me conduct a webinar for your school, please send me a note (richard at byrne.media)  and we'll chat about how we can work together. You can also take a look at my on-demand professional development courses right here

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Five Google Docs Activities Besides Just Writing Essays
2. Five Things To Make With Google Slides Besides Standard Presentations
3. How I Created "Vintage" Travel Posters With Canva
4. Five Ideas for Using Comics in Social Studies Lessons
5. How to Create Interactive Charts and Diagrams in Google Slides
6. Fifteen Tools for Creating Mind Maps and Flowcharts
7. Seven Tools for Teaching Programming

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 37,000 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. 
  • If you're curious about my life outside of education, you can follow me on Instagram or Strava.
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.

Friday, August 27, 2021

A Few Good Places to Find Ideas for Icebreakers

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about using Google Drawings as part of an icebreaker activity. But if you're looking for something a little quicker and easier to do to get your new students talking, take a look a the following resources. 

If you've run through all of your common icebreaker questions and want some new ones to try, take a look at Icebreakers.ioIcebreakers.io offers lists of icebreaker questions. The questions are arranged in categories for small groups, for introverts, for adults, for work, and for fun. All of the questions can be viewed individually and copied. You can also download the lists of questions in convenient PDFs.

Icebreakers.ws is an online catalog of dozens of fun icebreaker and team builder activities. The activities are categorized by group size and activity type. To find an activity appropriate for your group just select your group's size then use the activity type key to find a game or activity. There is a section specifically for classrooms. 

CybaryMan, Jerry Blumengarten, has a great page of icebreaker activity ideas. It's a list he's currated for years from a wide variety of sources. Give it a look when you need inspiration for a new icebreaker activity. 

7 Tools for Teaching Programming

This is an excerpt from the 2021-22 version of The Practical Ed Tech Handbook. Two weeks ago a copy was sent to everyone who is subscribed to my Practical Ed Tech Newsletter. If you're not subscribed, you can do so here

For some of us of a certain age, Logo was our introduction to computers and programming 30+ years ago. Logo is still accessible today. Dr. Gary Stager has repeatedly said that it is still the best way to introduce students to programming. Logo is the basis for many other sites and apps that teachers can use to help students learn to program. Here are some of the best options for teaching and learning programming.

When the conversation amongst educators turns to programming, Scratch is often the first resource that is mentioned. Scratch allows students to program animations, games, and videos through a visual interface. Students create their programs by dragging together blocks that represent movements and functions on their screens. The blocks snap together to help students see how the "if, then" logic of programming works. Watch the video here to learn more about Scratch. And check out the ScratchEd team’s curriculum for teaching with Scratch

Scratch Jr. is based on the aforementioned online Scratch program. Scratch Jr for iPad and for Android  uses the same drag and drop programming principles used in Scratch. On Scratch Jr students can program multimedia stories and games. To program a story or game on Scratch Jr. students select background settings for each frame of the story. Then in each frame students select the actions that they want their characters to take. Students snap programming pieces together to make characters move and talk in their stories and games.

Snap! is a drag-and-drop programming interface designed to help students learn to program. Snap! uses a visual interface that works in your browser on your laptop as well as on your iPad. To design a program in Snap! drag commands into a sequence in the scripts panel. The commands are represented by labeled jigsaw puzzle pieces that snap together to create a program. You can try to run your program at any time to see how it will be executed. After previewing your program you can go back and add or delete pieces as you see fit. Snap! may remind some people of Scratch. That is because the Snap! developers call their program "an extended re-implementation of Scratch." The potential benefit of Snap! over Scratch is that teachers who have a mix of iPads, Android tablets, and laptops in their classrooms can have all of their students use the same programming interface.

The MIT App Inventor enables students to create and publish their own Android applications. The MIT App Inventor works in your web browser (Chrome is recommended). The only download that is required for App Inventor 2 is the optional emulator. The emulator allows people who don't have Android devices to text their apps on their desktops. If you have an Android device then the emulator is not required and you don't need to worry about installing it. MIT provides excellent support documentation and curriculum for classroom use for new users of App Inventor. A detailed tutorial on how to make an Android app with the MIT App Inventor can be watched here.

Thunkable is a platform for designing, testing, and publishing your own Android apps and iOS apps. Through Thunkable you can create your apps even if you don't know how to write code. That is possible because Thunkable uses a drag-and-drop design framework. That framework, based on the MIT App Inventor, shows you jigsaw-like pieces that have commands labeled on them. Your job is to put the pieces together to make your apps work. Thunkable offers detailed written tutorials and video tutorials.

Daisy the Dinosaur is a free iPad app designed to introduce young students to some programming basics. The app asks students to create commands for Daisy the Dinosaur to carry out. There is a free play mode in which students can make Daisy do whatever they want. But to get started you might want to have students work through the beginner challenges mode. Daisy the Dinosaur asks students to enter commands in the correct sequence in order to make Daisy complete tasks correctly. Daisy the Dinosaur could be used with students as young as Kindergarten age.

Blackbird is a platform that launched in early 2021 to help teachers teach programming to middle school and high school students. Blackbird positions 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.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Five Benefits of Conducting Mind Mapping Activities

On Wednesday morning I published a long list of tools that students can use to create mind maps, concept maps, and flowcharts. What I didn't include in that blog post was a description of the differences between the those three things. I also didn't outline the benefits of mind mapping that students can experience. The purposes of this post are to explain the difference between mind maps and concept maps as well as list some benefits of having students complete mind mapping activities. 

Mind Maps versus Concept Maps
The process of creating a digital mind map begins with one key word or term placed in the center of the screen. Often, the central key word or term is represented by an image or icon. From that central word or term students add lines to connect to other words, terms, or ideas that they associate with the central word or term. Images and icons can be used to represent the associated words and terms. Students may use multiple font and line colors and sizes to indicate relationships or similarities between the words and terms in their mind maps. Finally, other than having a central word or term from which all ideas emanate, a mind map does not need to be arranged in a hierarchical manner nor should it be used as an assessment tool.

While concept maps and mind maps have similarities there are noteworthy differences. First, a concept map often has a hierarchical structure that is used to show the connections and segments of a large concept. Second, when an hierarchical structure is used for a concept map it is possible for there to be incorrect connections created. For example, a student creating a concept map about the seasons of the year would be incorrect to place "leaves change color" as a branch of "winter" instead of as a branch of "autumn." 

Five Benefits of Conducting Mind Mapping Activities
  1. When students create mind maps then share them with their teachers, teachers can gain some insight into how students currently view the connections between the parts of a given topic. 
  2. There are some studies indicating that when students create mind maps from scratch rather than working from a template provided by their teachers, recall and test scores improve. 
  3. Creating mind maps can generate new ideas and lead to ideas for further discussion and or research. 
  4. Using mind maps as part of an instructional strategy can help some students improve their reading comprehension skills.
  5. Creating mind maps can help students see connections between mathematics concepts and "the rest of the world."