Thursday, December 30, 2021

Best of 2021 - See What's Behind Bitly and TinyURL Without Clicking

As I do every year, I'm taking this week as a break from publishing new blog posts and will be republishing some of the most popular posts of the year. Here's one from April.

Bitly is a handy URL shortener that I've used for many years. As a registered user I can create custom, shortened URLs that people can actually spell. I use these whenever I need to share a link to a Canva or Google Slides presentation because the default URLs provided by those services are always long and incoherent. 

Unfortunately, not all Bitly users are using them for good reasons. Some people use them to hide nefarious links. Fortunately, there is an easy way to quickly determine what's behind a Bitly URL without actually clicking on the link. The trick is to simply add a "+" to the end of any Bitly URL. When you add the "+" the URL will redirect to Bitly instead of to whatever the original URL was. That will then show you the Bitly page on which the shortened URL is hosted and will show you what the original link was. 

You can try this trick with a URL that I recently shortened. Bit.ly/THWTAPRIL will lead you directly to a copy of the slides that I used in my recent Intro to Teaching History With Technology webinar. Bit.ly/THWTAPRIL+ will lead you to the Bitly page where you can see my original presentation URL and see when I created the shortened URL. 

Watch this short video to see how you can use the "+" trick to find out what's hidden behind a Bitly link. 



If you want to try this with a TinyURL, tinyurl.com/emkns9a8 will lead you to the page for the Practical Ed Tech Virtual Summer Camp, but adding a “+” at the end of that TinyURL will take you to the page where you can see the original link without clicking on it.

Here's a video overview of how to see what's behind a TinyURL without actually clicking on the link.



Applications for Education
Building good digital citizenship and cyber safety skills is something that all of us should be helping our students do. Showing them little tips like this one to avoid clicking on suspicious links is one of the ways that we can help our students build their digital citizenship and cyber safety skills.


This post originally appeared on FreeTech4Teachers.com. If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission.

Best of 2021 - Ziplet Exit Tickets

As I do every year, I'm taking this week as a break from publishing new blog posts and will be republishing some of the most popular posts of the year. Here's one from September. 

Ziplet is a service for gathering feedback from your students in a variety of ways. The simplest way is to create an exit ticket by using one of the dozens of pre-written questions provided by Ziplet. Back in July I published a video about how to use Ziplet. Since then it has been updated to no longer require students to have accounts to respond to exit ticket questions. Now your students can simply enter an exit ticket code that you give to them before they answer the question. 

What Ziplet offers that is somewhat unique is the option to respond directly to individual students even when they are responding to a group survey. The purpose of that feature is to make it easy to ask follow-up questions or to give encouragement to students based on their responses to a question posed to the whole group.

Applications for Education
Ziplet fits in a gap between tools like Kahoot and Google Classroom. For that reason it could be a good tool for engaging students in discussions about assignments, course topics, or the general feeling of the class. Ziplet does offer a Google Classroom integration as well as an Office 365 integration.


Best of 2021 - The Science of Cake!

As I do every year, I'm taking this week as a break from publishing new blog posts and will be republishing some of the most popular posts of the year. Here's one from October. 

If you ask my five-year-old what she wants to be when she grows up she'll say, "a cake maker!" She's been helping decorate cookies and cakes since before her third birthday. She loves it when we let her watch clips of The Great British Baking Show. That's why I was excited to come across an older SciShow Kids episode about baking cakes. 

Baking a Cake With Science is a short video that explains to elementary school students how the ingredients in a cake batter work together to when baked in the oven to rise and become a spongey cake. 



Watching Baking a Cake With Science reminded me of some other food science lessons that I've featured in the past. A quick look through my archives uncovered the following good food science videos.

Reactions has a playlist of seventy-six videos that teach short lessons about the chemistry of food and beverages. Some highlights from that playlist include 3 Egg-cellently Weird Science ExperimentsWhy is Pizza so Good? and Why Does Stinky Cheese Stink?  And who hasn't looked in the refrigerator and wondered Can I Still Eat This? All four of those videos are embedded below.










TED-Ed Lessons About the Science of Food
Caffeine and carbohydrates are just a couple of the topics covered in TED-Ed lessons about the science of food. Here are seven TED-Ed lessons that address elements of the science of food.

How Does Caffeine Keep Us Awake? explains what caffeine is and where it is found. The lesson also explains how the body adapts to regular doses of caffeine and what happens when you stop consuming caffeine.


How Sugar Affects the Brain is a TED-Ed lesson through which students learn why sugary foods and beverages can become addictive and how the human body processes sugar. The video is embedded below.


How Do Carbohydrates Impact Your Health? teaches students the basics of what carbohydrates are, the types of foods that are rich in carbohydrates, and how the human body processes carbohydrates.


What's the Big Deal With Gluten? is a lesson that teaches students what gluten is and where it is found. The lesson also addresses why some people are allergic to gluten and why some people just think they're allergic to gluten.


How the Food You Eat Affects Your Gut is a TED-Ed lesson through which students can learn about the gut microbiome that helps your body maintain its immune system and the best foods to maintain a healthy gut microbiome.


How the Food You Eat Affects Your Brain takes a look at the composition of the human brain and the foods that have an impact on how the brain functions. Like the lesson about gut health, this lesson includes a list of the foods that can have a positive impact on your brain's function.


This last one is a bit of physics lesson. Why is Ketchup so Hard to Pour? uses ketchup to explain why non-Newtonian fluids can transform from solid to liquid so quickly.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Best of 2021 - 27 Videos That Can Help Students Improve Their Writing

As I do every year, I'm taking this week as a break from publishing new blog posts and will be republishing some of the most popular posts of the year. Here's one from March.

The Writer's Workshop is a playlist of twenty-seven TED-Ed video lessons about writing. The The Writer's Workshop contains lessons on basic topics like how to use punctuation and point of view. It also offers videos about more difficult topics like how to make your writing humorous.

A few of the videos from The Writer's Workshop playlist are embedded below.

First, Second, and Third Person


When to Use Apostrophes


How to Make Your Writing Funnier




Applications for Education
TED-Ed's The Writer's Workshop is a good place for students to find some quick lessons on punctuation and grammar. Students who are ready to take their writing to a new level could benefit from the TED-Ed videos on irony, introductions, and building fictional worlds.

Best of 2021 - 700+ Free Typing Games for Kids

As I do every year, I'm taking this week as a break from publishing new blog posts and will be republishing some of the most popular posts of the year. Here's one from September. 

TypeTastic is a site that offers more than 700 free typing games for students of all ages. I first reviewed TypeTastic a few years ago shortly after it was launched and only offered thirteen games. Since then it has obviously added hundreds of more games and many more features. Just like when it launched a few years ago, TypeTastic's games are all optimized to work well on a laptop, desktop, or tablet. Although one might argue that learning to type on a tablet makes it more difficult to develop touch typing skills.

TypeTastic is designed for students to work through units of games. Before each game there is an introduction to a new skill and or a review of a previous skill. Each game within each section contains multiple levels for students to work through. Each game could take students an hour or more to completely master.


TypeTastic is divided into sections for K-2, upper elementary, and middle school/ high school. For K-2 the games start with basic skills like identifying the letters on a keyboard and build up to touch typing skills. The upper elementary games begin with learning and practicing the homerow before progressing through learning to touch type numbers and symbols. The middle school/ high school section has the same progress as the upper elementary section but has a greater emphasis on speed. The games are also a little more complex than the elementary school games.

Applications for Education
TypeTastic offers two free versions. There is an ad-supported version that anyone can access and a basic schools version. The schools version is free for teachers who register with a verified school email address. The schools version removes advertising and gives you an access code that you can share with your students to access the ad-free version of the games. There are also paid plans that give teachers access to reporting on the progress of their students.