Friday, December 24, 2021

Winter, Animals, and Fun - The Week in Review

Good evening from Maine where my daughters are eagerly anticipating Santa's arrival. Tomorrow morning I won't be in the mood to write blog posts or even think about my blog. That's why I'm breaking from my pattern and writing the week-in-review on a Friday evening. 

As I look toward the end of the year I'd like to say a big thank you to all of you who have supported my work throughout this year and year's past (some of you have been with me for more than decade). Whether you've purchased one of my courses or ebooks or you've simply shared my blog posts with your friends and colleagues, your support is appreciated. 

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. A New Way to Add Students to Flipgrid
2. How to Modify & Share Canva Templates
3. Six Reasons to Try Tract for Remote & Hybrid Learning
4. A Platypus in My House! Fun and Learning Through Augmented Reality
5. How to Use Google Keep as a Comment Bank
6. Nine Interactive Maps Depicting the History of the United States
7. 21 Activities and Lessons That Have a Winter Theme

Thank you for your support!
Your registrations in Practical Ed Tech courses (listed below) and purchases of my ebook help me keep Free Technology for Teachers going.

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 39,000 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 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.

Building the Hoover Dam - A New TED-Ed Lesson

Blood, Concrete, and Dynamite is a new TED-Ed lesson that tells the story of the building of the Hoover Dam. The lesson explains why the dam was built, the short-term economic impact of its construction (21,000 people employed by the project), the engineering of the dam, the environmental impact, and the human toll of its construction. While it touches on all of those topics, the emphasis of the lesson is on how many people benefitted from its construction and the people who died during its construction. You can watch the lesson here and find the accompanying lesson questions here

Despite already knowing the history of the construction of the dam, I still found the video entertaining and informative. Overall, it's a good summary of the dam's construction. You would need to look elsewhere to really dive into the engineering of the dam or the environmental impact of the dam. 

Of course, I can't think of the Hoover Dam without also thinking of the famous dam tour scene in National Lampoon's Vegas Vacation and The Highwaymen performing The Highwayman

4,000+ Maps of Military Battles and Campaigns

The Library of Congress housed hundreds of thousands of maps covering a huge array of topics from maps used by fire insurance companies to population density to maps of military battles and campaigns

The LOC's collection of maps of military battles and campaigns contains more than 4,000 maps that are free to view, download, and reuse. The vast majority of the maps are from the 18th and 19th centuries although there are about 600 maps covering World War I and II. 

You can browse through the collection according to date, location, subject, and language (most of the maps are in English or French). Once you've found a map that seems interesting, click on it to view more information about the cartographer and a little backstory on the map. Most of the maps can be downloaded as images and some can be downloaded as PDFs. 

Applications for Education
My first thought when looking through the collection was to download the maps to use as overlays in Google Earth. Doing so can provide students with some geographic context and comparisons for military battles and campaigns that they're learning about in U.S. History classes. Directions for overlaying historic maps onto Google Earth can be found in this video.

If you're interested in learning more about using Google Earth and Google Maps in your classroom, enroll in my self-paced Crash Course in Google Eath & Maps for Social Studies.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Reindeer Facts and a Ride With Them

My daughters are very excited for Santa and his reindeer to visit our house tomorrow night. We'll be leaving out snacks for him and his reindeer. For weeks they've been asking if reindeer are real. Reindeer are real, they're just not capable of flying like Rudolph and his pals (I leave that part out when talking to my daughters).

If they still have questions about reindeer when they're older I might show them this SciShow Kids video about reindeer. 4 Facts to Know About Reindeer explains why reindeer are called caribou in North America. The lesson also teaches students how reindeer have adapted to find food and stay warm in cold weather. The video concludes with an explanation of why reindeer migrate.

Older kids and adults who want to learn a bit more about reindeer should watch this clip from BBC Earth. The video explains how reindeer stay warm in the coldest of conditions.

Another part of the same BBC series about reindeer is this Magical Finland Sleigh Ride.

This blog post originally appeared on If you see it elsewhere, there's a 99.9% chance that it has been used without permission by one of the many splogs that steal my work every day. 

How to Create Videos of Augmented Reality Animals

During my Best of the Web webinar on Tuesday afternoon someone asked me how I made the videos of the augmented reality animals in my house and in my yard. The answer is that I simply used the augmented reality tools that are built into Google's mobile search on Android (also available on iOS). 

To create the videos of augmented reality animals in my house I simply did a Google search for them on my Pixel 5 then chose the "view in your space" option to have the animals rendered in AR. Once the animals were rendered in AR I then just held down the record button that appears on the screen when viewing an AR object via Google mobile search. The video automatically saves to the phone and from there you can share it anywhere including YouTube and Instagram (that's where I shared a video of a hippopotamus in front of my Christmas tree). 

The whole process of making a video with augmented reality videos might sound complicated, but it's not. I demonstrated the whole process in this short video

Applications for Education
I think it could be fun to have students record short videos about animals in augmented reality. Then stitch together a series of the short videos to tell a story about the animals. For example, I can envision creating an entire story about the misadventures of a hippopotamus that gets loose in my neighborhood.  

This blog post originally appeared on If you see it elsewhere, there's a 99.9% chance that it has been used without permission by one of the many splogs that steal my work every day. 

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