Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Games for Students to Play to Improve Their Typing Skills

A few days ago I published a short video about an interesting way to improve your typing skills while reading classic literature. That video prompted one reader to send me an email this morning to ask if I had suggestions for typing practice sites for elementary school students. The following are the things that I recommended to her. 

TypeTastic is a site that offers more than 700 free typing games for students of all ages. 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. 

Flippity offers a free Google Sheets template for designing your own online typing activities for your students to play. To do this you simply make a copy of the template provided by Flippity then fill in the words and or phrases you want to have appear in your activities. Flippity hosts the activity and provides unique URLs for your activities to share with your students. In this video I provide a demonstration of how the template works. (Please note that the beginning of the video references a Google Sheets add-on that is no longer available. Instead, simply get the template here on 

ABCya offers games designed to help elementary school students sharpen their skills in a many areas. Included in ABCya's catalog of games is a fun typing game called Cup Stacking. In this game students have to type the letters that they see on the cups that appear on their screens. When they type the correct letters the cups stack up into a pyramid. Once the pyramid is built students have to type the letters again to deconstruct the pyramid. The object of the game is to build up and take down the pyramids as quickly as possible.

Typing Rocket is another typing game developed by ABCya. Typing Rocket is a sixty second game in which students make fireworks explode by typing the letters that appear on the rockets in the games. In the sixty second span of the game students try to correctly type as many letters as they possibly can. The rockets speed up as the game progresses.

Fun Science Lessons for Students and Parents to do This Summer

Today is the first day of June and even though it was only 44F when I woke up this morning, summer is on my mind. I'm sure it's on the minds of many of you, your students, and their parents as well. If you have students whose parents are asking for some things they can do to keep their kids engaged in learning this summer, Discovery Education and 3M have you covered. 

Discovery Education and 3M host the Young Scientist Lab in which you will find science experiments that students can complete at home with the help of their parents (older students may be able to do them on their own). The Young Scientist Lab includes a section for students. In that section are fourteen videos providing directions for science experiments as well as a set of ten online simulation activities

The parent section of the Young Scientist Lab contains nineteen PDFs that provide directions for at-home science activities for K-8 students. That collection is divided into five activities for grade K-2, six activities for grades 3-5, and eight activities for grades 6-8. There are also five online simulations available in the parent section of the Young Scientist Lab. 

Applications for Education
The at-home activities featured in the Young Scientist Lab are exactly the kind of thing that I would include in a letter, email, or classroom blog post for parents who want ideas for ways to keep their kids interested in learning throughout the summer break. In fact, I plan to try this kitchen chemistry activity (link opens a PDF) with my daughters when their school is on break at the end this month.

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Menus, Backgrounds, and Videos - The Month in Review

The month of May has come to a close. I can tell by the traffic patterns on my blog that many of you have started summer vacation. And the rest are ready for vacation. I hope that everyone has something fun to do this summer (or winter for my southern hemisphere friends). One of the fun things we're excited about at our house is our garden boxes and all of the veggies that hopefully spring from them in the coming months. 

At the end of every month I take a look in my Google Analytics account to see what the most popular posts of the last month were. The list in posted below. Take a look and see if there is something interesting that you missed during the month of May.

These were the most popular posts of the month:
1. Add Dropdown Menus Into Sentences In Google Docs
2. Quick and Easy Ways to Remove Image Backgrounds
3. New Google Docs Features You Might Have Missed
4. Videos for Teaching and Learning About Memorial Day
5. An Interactive Map of the Roman Empire
6. New Google Docs Templates for Project Management
7. Three Tools for Quickly & Easily Creating End-of-Year Slideshow Videos
8. A Cool Lesson for a Hot Spring Day - How the Popsicle Was Invented
9. Broadcast Google Slides Directly to Your Students' Computers
10. TARA - A Planning Tool for New and Veteran Teachers

Webinars for Your School
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.

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 41,000 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.

How to Quickly Remove and Replace Image Backgrounds

At the start of the month I featured four tools for removing image backgrounds. To end this month I have one more cool tool to share with you. That tool is called Strip Background. It does exactly what the name implies and a little more. 

Strip Background lets you quickly remove the background from any image that you own. Simply upload your image and let Strip Background do the rest. If the background isn't removed exactly as you hoped, there are some touch-up tools that you can use to finish the job. Once the background is removed you can download your new image. Strip Background also lets you replace the background of your original image with a new background color or new background image. All of these features are available for free and without any registration required. Watch my short demo video to see how Strip Background works. 

Applications for Education
Removing the background from an image is a good way to protect your privacy and that of people who might unintentionally be in the background of your pictures. Remove image backgrounds is also a good way to get a stand-alone image of yourself to then place in front of a different background. For example, I could take a picture of myself at my local ski mountain then replace the background so that I look like I'm climbing Mount Everest. In the past I've had students do this to create short travel narratives in which they place themselves into their stories.

As I mentioned in the video above, Strip Background was created by the same developers who made Toony Tool. Toony Tool is a great cartoon creation tool that I featured in this blog post.

Monday, May 30, 2022

What is Lightning? - Another Question from My Daughter

On Saturday we had the first thunderstorm of the summer at our house. I made it back from a bike ride just as the thunder and lightning started to crack overhead. The storm prompted my five-year-old to ask, "what is lightning?" We tried to give my daughter a short explanation that lighting is electricity traveling between clouds or between clouds and the ground. That, of course, led to the questions of "how does electricity get in the clouds?" Both were good questions that prompted me to turn to a couple of my old, reliable YouTube channels for answers to questions like these. 

The first place that I turn to for elementary school level explanations to questions related to earth science is SciShow Kids. There I found What Causes Thunder and Lightning? The video begins by explaining that the shock you feel when touching a doorknob after walking across a carpet is caused by static electricity. From there the lesson moves into explaining how static electricity works in a similar manner in clouds. I didn't actually show this video to my daughter, but it did give me a great idea for better answering her questions about what lightning is and how electricity gets in the clouds. 

The other place that I usually turn to for topics like this is National Geographic's 101 series. That was where I found Thunderstorms 101. This video is a bit more advanced than the SciShow Kids video but still appropriate for upper elementary school or middle school. The video explains different types of thunderstorms and the conditions that create them.

Applications for Education
If you teach elementary school and or have kids around the same age as mine, both of these videos could help you explain lightning and thunder to them. And if you have slightly older students, you might consider using these videos in a self-paced lesson in which students have to answer questions before playing each section of the video. Here are a few tools for doing that. 

(By the way, my four-year-old napped through the entire thunderstorm on Saturday).

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