Thursday, April 7, 2022

A Few Good Resources for Learning How Blockchain Works

For the last year or so whenever I watch a sporting event on television there are advertisements for cryptocurrency exchanges. It has even pervaded niche sports like professional cycling (here's one story about a particularly dodgy instance in cycling). Last year one of my students even set out to try to mine Bitcoin. Another of my students dabbled in creating NFTs. The point is, cryptocurrencies and NFTs are now mainstream. And both of those are based on the concept of blockchain. 

Blockchain is what makes cryptocurrencies and NFTs possible. If that seems clear as mud, you should watch Common Craft's video titled Blockchain Explained by Common Craft. The video does a great job of using a concept that we're all familiar with, ownership of physical property, to explain the Blockchain concept.

After watching Common Craft's video about blockchain, watch this video from Financial Post to learn how the blockchain concept is applied to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

Interactive Blockchain Demo and are interactive websites on which you can see how cryptocurrency transactions take place. 

An Open Course About Blockchain and Money
Once you understand the basics of blockchain you might want to learn more about cryptocurrencies. Blockchain and Money is an open course from MIT. The course was originally taught in the fall of 2018, but all of the materials and lectures are still available for free. All twenty-three lectures in the course can be viewed in this YouTube playlist. It is a graduate course so I don't expect that high school students would be able to understand all of it, but an interested high school student could still glean some good lessons from it. 

My Updated Guide to Finding Media for Classroom Projects

Two Sundays ago my Practical Ed Tech Newsletter was all about finding pictures, videos, and sounds for classroom projects. As a part of that newsletter I included my updated guide to finding media for classroom projects. 

In my guide to finding media for classroom projects I provide overviews of my favorite places for students and teachers to find image, video, and audio files that can be downloaded and re-used for free without violating copyright. If you'd like a copy of my guide to finding media for classroom projects, you can find it here as a PDF

Why Does It Matter?

If you're wondering to yourself, "if it's for my classroom, can't I use any pictures I want?" The answer is no. Just take a look at what happened in one school district that tried to use that argument. 

More About Copyright in the Classroom

Here's the recording of a webinar about copyright and Creative Commons that I hosted last spring. 

Here's the recording of a webinar about copyright in the classroom that Beth Holland and I hosted a few years ago. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Five Helpful WriteReader Features for Teachers and Students

Disclosure: WriteReader is currently an advertiser on

WriteReader is a great platform for online creative writing projects. It has many features that make it great for elementary school use. Some of those features include how students access it, the library of artwork, and audio support for students. 

In this new video I demonstrate how to use WriteReader for creative writing assignments. Along the way I highlight my five favorite features of WriteReader. In the video you'll see me:

  • Add students to my free WriteReader account. 
  • Demonstrate how students join WriteReader without an email address. 
  • Browse through the huge image library. 
  • Record audio in WriteReader. 
  • Create a template in WriteReader.
  • Demonstrate how students can create books in WriteReader. 
  • Demonstrate how to give students constructive feedback on their writing. 

Social Studies Teachers! One Month Left to Apply for an Awesome Fellowship

I shared this news back in January, but that feels like so long ago now that some tulips are starting to poke out of the ground in my yard. This summer C-SPAN Classroom is hosting their annual teacher fellowship program in a virtual format

C-SPAN's Summer Fellowship program is now open for applications. Those who are accepted into the program will spend a few weeks working remotely with C-SPAN's education team. Participants receive a $1,000 stipend for their participation in the program. More details about the summer fellowship program are available here. Applications are due by May 6, 2022.

Every summer C-SPAN Classroom also hosts a conference for social studies teachers. A friend of mine participated in it a few years ago and he said it was an amazing experience. C-SPAN hasn't announced dates for this year's summer conference, but it does appear that it will be virtual. Check this page later this spring for dates and information about C-SPAN Classroom's summer conference. 

The Math and Science of Baseball

Tomorrow is the opening day of the 2022 Major League Baseball season. I'm excited to watch the Red Sox beat the Yankees tomorrow afternoon! If you have students who are as excited as I am about the start of the baseball season, try to capitalize on that enthusiasm with one of the following educational resources.

The Baseball Hall of Fame (which I'll be visiting this summer) offers fifteen free lesson plans that are aligned with the Common Core Standards for Math and English Language Arts. There are lessons for math, social studies, science, the arts, and character education.

Exploratorium's the Science of Baseball has some nice resources that can help students understand how a bit of science and mathematics is involved in every baseball game. The Science of Baseball includes video and audio clips of baseball players and scientists explaining how the weather affects the flight of the ball, the physics of various pitches, and reaction times to thrown and batted baseballs.

The Physics of Baseball is a PBS Learning Media lesson for students in high school. Learn about motion, energy, aerodynamics, and vibration.

Perfect Pitch is a nice little game produced by the Kennedy Center's Arts Edge. Perfect Pitch uses the backdrop of a baseball diamond to teach students about the instruments in an orchestra through a baseball game setting. The game introduces students to four eras of orchestral music and the instruments used in each. Students can create their own small orchestras and virtually play each instrument to hear how it sounds. After building an orchestra students then test their knowledge in short quizzes about the instruments and their sounds.

And if you're looking for an explanation of the fundamental rules of baseball, this video provides a fairly concise explanation.