Friday, December 17, 2021

Nine Interactive Maps Depicting the History of the United States

American Panorama is a great resource from the University of Richmond that I first reviewed six years ago. Since then it has expanded from four interactive maps to nine interactive maps of United States history. 

American Panorama aims to be an atlas of United States History. Currently, American Panorama features nine interactive maps representing elements and eras of American history. The maps offered on American Panorama include:

  • Overland Trails 1840-1860
  • Forced Migration of Enslaved People 1810-1860
  • Canals 1820-1860
  • Foreign-Born Population 1850-2010
  • The Executive Abroad 1905-2016
  • Electing the House of Representatives 1840-2016
  • Renewing Inequality: Family Displacements Through Urban Renewal 1950-1966
  • Mapping Inequality: Redlining in New Deal America 1935-1940
  • Photogrammar 1935-1943

The Overland Trails map depicts the routes of the Oregon, California, and Mormon Trails. Click along the trails on the map to reveal first person accounts of life on the trail.

The Canals map shows the working canals in the northeastern United States in the 19th Century. Click on a canal on the map to learn about the years that it operated, the points it connected, and the typical freight transported through the canal.

The Forced Migration of Enslaved People map is another map that includes first person accounts of life in the 19th Century. Select a decade on the timeline below the map to reveal a list of first person accounts of life as a slave forced to move in the 19th Century.

Mapping Inequality: Redlining in New Deal America is a map based on descriptions of neighborhoods written by the Home Owners' Loan Corporation between 1935 and 1940. The descriptions were used in determining the "desirability" of neighborhoods and the risk of lending money to purchase homes in those neighborhoods. Reading the, at times incredibily racist, descriptions of the neighborhoods makes it all too clear how some people were kept from buying homes. 

The Foreign-Born Population map shows depicts the origins of immigrants to the United States from 1850 through 2010. Select date from the timeline then click on the map to reveal where people in that area came from. Alternatively, you can enter the name of a county in the United States to jump directly to the immigration data for that county.

The Executive Abroad is a map of places that U.S. Presidents and Secretaries of State have visited since 1905. You can browse the map by location or by names of Presidents and Secretaries of State. 

Renewing Inequality: Family Displacements Through Urban Renewal is a map, cartogram, and chart depicting the cities in which urban renewal programs of the 1950's and 1960's forced people from their homes and neighborhoods. Clicking on the map reveals information about the impact of urban renewal programs within the neighborhoods of cities. 

Electing the House of Representatives is an interactive map and timeline of election results from 1840 through 2016. The map displays each Congressional district, who won it, and which party they represented. The map also indicates the "strength" of the victory and whether or not the representation switched from one political party to another. 

Photogrammar is a mapped collection of photographs taken by the Office of War Information and the Farm Security Administration between 1935 and 1944. The collection can be browsed according to theme, county, and city. Select an image on the map to learn more about where and when it was taken. 

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Six Reasons to Try Tract for Remote & Hybrid Learning

Disclosure: Tract is an advertiser on

As we head into winter (in the northern hemisphere) there may be more opportunities to try new approaches to online and hybrid learning. One of those new approaches to try is using Tract. Tract is a service that I wish I had access to last year when my school was switching between in-person, online, and hybrid instruction on what felt like a weekly basis.

What is Tract?
I’ve written about Tract a handful of times this fall. If you didn’t see one of those posts, here’s a quick summary of what Tract is.

Tract is a new service that launched this past summer. It offers fun lessons for elementary school, middle school, high school students taught by high school and college students. The lessons and corresponding activities cover a wide array of fun and interesting topics. On Tract you will find lessons about photography, gaming, cooking, music, sports, and much more. Students can earn digital and physical prizes for completing the lessons and their corresponding activities.

As the preceding paragraph implies, high school students can contribute to Tract by creating their own video lessons for others to learn from. Lessons can be created for just about any topic that students are interested in teaching to others (provided it’s school-appropriate).

Take a look at this video for a teacher and student perspective of how Tract works.

Benefits for Students
There are numerous potential benefits for students using Tract as part of their remote and hybrid learning experiences. Perhaps the biggest benefit is getting to pursue the topics that interest them. Within Tract students can pursue learning paths of their choosing (you get to see their choices in your teacher dashboard). Tract learning paths cover a huge array of topics ranging from fun things like musical animals to serious things like investing in different sectors of the stock market to lots of interesting things between those extremes. In short, there is not a shortage of fun and interesting things for students to learn through Tract’s student-created learning paths.

Tract doesn’t limit students to just watching and completing learning paths. Students are also encouraged to participate in producing their own learning paths. In November I outlined that process in this blog post. By creating videos and challenges for learning paths of their own design, students are able to showcase their knowledge of favorite topics and share their knowledge with classmates and the world at large. For many students creating a learning path about a topic of personal interest will be a welcome deviation from creating projects about a prescribed topic. In other words, students get to be the expert and share their expertise with a “real world” audience.

Students can create Tract learning paths about a favorite topic at home and or in your classroom. When they create the learning path content at home, students are able to incorporate props they likely already have. For example, a student creating a learning path about bicycle maintenance can use his or her own bicycle as a prop in a video. A student creating a learning path about cat grooming, can use pictures or videos of his or her own cat. The benefit here is that students can really add some of their own personalization to the content they create.

Benefits for Teachers
As I mentioned at the start of this blog post, I wish that I had access to Tract last year when my school was frequently switching between in-person, online, and hybrid classes. Creating Tract learning paths about topics related to computer science (all of my students chose to be in the class) would have been a great activity for hybrid learning. Students could create content for their learning paths on their own then check-in with me for feedback on what they were developing. Again, see this blog post for directions on the student creation process. Developing learning paths during hybrid instruction days would be a great way to smoothly transition from in-person days to hybrid days to fully online days.

Another benefit of having students create a Tract learning path is that you get to see how they organize their thoughts about a topic or process. The process of reviewing students’ learning paths provides some insight into what a student thinks is the most important part of a chosen topic and what they think is the best way to explain that topic.

Finally, even if students only use Tract to view the lessons and do the challenges created by other students, there is still a great benefit for you. That benefit is getting to see what your students are truly interested in beyond what they have to do for your class.

Give it a try before the end of the year!
Sign-up for Tract using the code BYRNE before the end of the year to enjoy free access to all of Tract’s features for you and your students.

How to Create a Simple Website With Adobe Express

For that last five or so years Adobe Spark has been one of my top recommendations for creating simple, focused websites. This week Adobe rebranded Adobe Spark as Adobe Creative Cloud Express or Adobe Express for short. It still offers all of the same great tools for making videos, building simple websites, and creating graphics. And a few other handy tools have been added to the suite (I'll outline those in a separate post). 

To keep in line with the branding change of Adobe Spark to Adobe Express, I created this updated tutorial on how to create a simple website by using Adobe Express

Applications for Education
Creating a simple website with Adobe Express could be a good way for students to create digital displays of their photography, video productions, slideshows, or writing. Making one-page websites with Adobe Express is also a good way to publicize a school event like an upcoming theatre production or fundraiser event.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

All About Cats and Dogs - A SciShow Kids Compilation

SciShow Kids has produced a lot of fun and educational videos over the last six years. I've featured some of those videos in blog posts. Some of my favorite are the videos about animals including those about cats and dogs. In their latest release, SciShow Kids combined some of their previous videos to create one long video full of interesting facts about cats and dogs

Some of the many things viewers can learn by watching Cats and Dogs include:

  • How well cats can hear. 
  • The origins of cat domestication. 
  • The relationship of dogs and wolves. 
  • Why dogs wiggle their nostrils independently. 
  • What defines a big cat.
  • The role of microbes in a dog's coat. 
  • Why animals have tails. 

Applications for Education
This video could be a great one to show to elementary school students as part of a lesson about animals and their adaptations. Before showing the video to my students I'd probably ask them to list any of the fun facts that they already know about pet dogs and pet cats. Then after they watch the video have them list some of the new fun pet facts they learned.

How to Create Videos With Adobe Express

Earlier this week Adobe Spark was renamed Adobe Express. It still offers all of the great creation tools that made it one of my go-to video creation tools for the last half-decade. A couple of helpful updates were also included when Adobe Spark was relaunched as Adobe Express. Those updates include a new icon library, updated integrated image search, and more font and color scheme choices. 

Since Adobe Spark was renamed Adobe Express I created a new video to reflect the new name and updated video creation features. You can watch the video right here

In the video I demonstrate:

  • How to use the icon and image search.
  • How to rearrange frame sequences. 
  • How to add collaborators to your project. 
  • How to edit colors and fonts.

Thanks to Tony Vincent for the Tweet about Adobe's rebranding of Adobe Spark to Adobe Express.