Thursday, March 31, 2022

Reading and Games - The Month in Review

Good evening from Maine where the sun has set on the last day of March, 2022. The old saying of "March comes in like a lion and leaves like a lamb" does not really apply to life in Maine. In our case March came in like a lion, briefly acted like a lamb, and now ends like a lion with drizzly and cold weather. I hope that regardless of the weather you had a great month of March. 

A big thank you to everyone who participated in one of my webinars or purchased a copy of 50 Tech Tuesday Tips in March. Your support helps me keep this blog going. I couldn't do it without you. Thank you!

These were the most popular posts in March:
1. Readlee - Know How Your Students Read Online Assignments
2. Five Chrome Settings You Need to Know
3. How to Create Your Own Online Board Game
4. - Educational Games Your Students Will Love to Play
5. Stop Printing the Internet
6. Five Ways to Create Online Drag-and-Drop Activities
7. How to Make Your Own Wordle-style Game
8. New Whiteboard Features in Microsoft Teams and New Excel Formulas
9. My Five Favorite Canva Features
10. Take Your Students on the American Ideals Virtual Field Trip Hosted by Discovery Education

Summer Workshops for Your School!
I'm going back on the road this summer to host professional development workshops in-person! If you'd like to have me come to your school, please get in touch with me soon.

Spring and Summer Webinars
I conduct professional development webinars throughout the year. I'll host a free one-hour webinar for any school or group that purchases ten or more copies of 50 Tech Tuesday Tips.

On-demand Professional DevelopmentOther 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 40,000 subscribers watching my short tutorial videos on a wide array of educational technology tools. 
  • I've been Tweeting as @rmbyrne for fifteen 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 Icons Daily and Daily Dose. Featured image captured by Richard Byrne.

This Could be a Great Opportunity for a History Teacher

The Library of Congress has a program called Innovator in Residence that provides funding for one person to develop innovative tools that incorporate artifacts housed by the Library of Congress. Over the last few years I've featured a couple of tools that were developed through the Innovator in Residence program. Those are Citizen DJ and Newspaper Navigator

Applications are now open for the next Library of Congress Innovator in Residence. Applications are due by May 2, 2022. Before the deadline the Library of Congress is hosting a couple of Zoom meetings to provide more information to potential applicants. You can find the application, links to the Zoom sessions, and more information about the program right here

This could be a great opportunity for a history teacher who is looking to take a year or two out of the classroom to work on a project of their own design. The Innovator in Residence program provides up to $80,000 per year for the innovator to develop and promote their proposed tool. 

How to Create B-roll Media Galleries to Share With Students

In last Sunday's Practical Ed Tech newsletter I wrote about the idea of creating a b-roll media gallery to share with your students. The idea of creating a b-roll media gallery is to compile a collection of image, video, and audio files that your students can use in their multimedia projects. By doing this your students will have a place that they can find media that you've already screened for content and for copyright compliance. 

In this short video I demonstrate two ways to create a b-roll media gallery to share with your students. The first method utilizes Google Drive. The second method utilizes OneDrive. 

Applications for Education
If you're an elementary school teacher, creating a b-roll media gallery is a good way to make sure that your students are able to quickly find appropriate images to use in their projects. At the middle school and high school levels, having a b-roll media gallery can be a good back-up option to have when students say that they "can't find anything" that's appropriate for their project.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Seven Sites and Apps to Help Students Learn Coding and Programming

The other day I was in a Zoom meeting with someone who is relatively new to field of educational technology. I was asked about any "must read" books or sites. The first thing that came to mind was Seymour Papert's Mindstorms. Mentioning Mindstorms then took me down the path of talking about Logo and its importance in the development of using personal computers in the classroom. 

Logo was my introduction to programming back in my elementary school days 30+ years ago. You can still find and use Logo and its many iterations today. There are also many other good sites and apps that can introduce your students to various types of programming and coding. Here's a short list of some of my favorite options today. 

MIT App Inventor
The MIT App Inventor is a free app development tool that I've used with students and teachers for over a decade now. It's a great tool to use to introduce students to some programming concepts while letting develop apps that they can actually use on their phones. While it might seem complicated at first glance, after they have mastered a few basic concepts students can create some amazing applications through the MIT App Inventor. Here's my video overview of how to create your first app with the MIT App Inventor. 

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. You can see a full overview of Blackbird and read my students' impressions of it right here

Daisy the Dinosaur
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.

Scratch & Scratch Jr.
Scratch like the MIT App Inventor has been around for over a decade and is still the first thing that many people mention when talking about introducing students to programming concepts. 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 (link opens a PDF). 

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.

Grasshopper teaches JavaScript coding through a series of easy-to-follow tutorials. It is available to use in your web browser or as an Android app. It starts off with an introduction to the basic vocabulary of coding before moving into the coding lessons. You have to pass the vocabulary quiz before your can jump into the lessons. Each lesson has a tutorial, a practice activity, and a quiz. You have to successfully complete each lesson before progressing to the next one. If you need to stop a lesson, Grasshopper saves your place until you can resume. Grasshopper offers an optional reminder service that will encourage you to practice on a daily schedule.

CodePen is a code editing environment in which students can see how HTML, CSS, and JavaScript work together to form web applications. As you can see in the screenshot that I've included below, the screen is divided into four parts. There's a column for HTML, a column for CSS, and a column for JavaScript.

The best aspect of CodePen is that it is a real-time editor. That means you can change any aspect of the HTML, CSS, or JS and immediately see the effects of those changes in the preview panel. This is a great way to see what happens when a variable is changed in an application. If the change didn't work as anticipated, a quick "CTRL+Z" on your keyboard reverts it back to the previous state. The same is true when you edit an aspect of the HTML or CSS.  

CodePen does have a gallery of publicly shared projects that you can copy and modify. Those public projects make it easy for students to get started using CodePen as I demonstrate in this short tutorial video

How to Use Google Slides in Canva

This is an update to a blog post that I published a couple of weeks ago about the same topic. In that blog post I outlined how to use PowerPoint and Google Slides in Canva. I've since learned a couple of things that warrant publishing an update. 

First, a lot of Google Slides users ignored my previous blog post on this topic because I led with "PowerPoint."  Second, the feature to import slides into Canva is still a beta feature. Being a beta feature it might not be available in all accounts, yet. It also has a file size limitation of 50MB. All that said, here's my new video about how to use Google Slides in Canva

Applications for Education
Canva is one of my favorite tools for creating short video lessons with your existing slides. The process is less clunky than using a screen recording tool to capture your slides as you explain the key points on them. If you're a Google Slides, PowerPoint, or Keynote user who has ignored Canva's recording tool because you didn't want to have to recreate your slides, the method that I demonstrated in the video above is for you.

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