Monday, August 8, 2022

Super Courses for Super Kids

A couple of weeks ago I held a webinar about creating your own apps. Afterward, one of the participants, Candy, emailed me to share a neat site that I hadn't previously seen. That site is called Kidzcourse, Super Courses for Super Kids

Kidzcourse offers twelve courses featuring hands-on activities for kids from ages six through thirteen. All of the courses include downloadable materials like templates for making board games, developing storyboards, and making escape room activities. Each course also has video tutorials to help students complete the required tasks. 

Some of the hands-on Kidzcourses that stood out to me were Building an Escape Room, Paper Circuits, Save the Ocean, and Build an App

Applications for Education
Kidzcourses can be done at home with parents. They can also be completed as in-classroom activities. Kidzcourse provides educators with supply lists, learning objectives, and handouts for each course. Some of the courses could be great as group projects that students do at the start of the school year to build some good cooperative learning habits in a fun and educational way.

Blackbird Provides a Great Environment for Teaching Coding

Disclosure: Blackbird is currently an advertiser on

Last week I wrote a lengthy blog post about how Blackbird can be used by anyone to teach coding. That post focused on how you can use Blackbird to teach coding even if you don’t have much or any coding experience and your students are new to coding as well. Today, I’d like to highlight why Blackbird is helpful even if you do have extensive experience teaching coding and or your students have a solid understanding of the basics.

Workshops, Warmups, and Code Review
While Blackbird offers four complete curricula for teaching and learning to code (JavaScript), you don’t have to follow any of those if you don’t want to. In fact, Blackbird has a feature called Workshop where you can create and assign your own projects for students to complete. Additionally, students can use the Workshop to create their own projects from scratch and have you review their code. And if your needs fall somewhere between using a premade curriculum and building your own, Blackbird offers a series of thirty warm-up activities and prompts to give to your students.

The Workshop space in Blackbird can be utilized in a few different ways. First, you can use it to create your own project that you then share with your students so that they can view and modify it. This set of slides and my video at the end of this post detail how you can create a project and share it with your students. Second, you can let your students create their own projects to share with you and or their classmates. They can use a little hand raise icon to indicate that they want you to review and comment on their code. The third way to use the Workshop is to let students explore sample projects provided by Blackbird and then modify those projects. Again, they can ask you to review and comment on their code.

It’s important to note that the Workshop in Blackbird can be accessed at any time. You don’t have to wait until students have completed a curriculum in order for them to use it. You could use it to supplement the Blackbird curriculum that you have chosen to use. For example, let’s say you’re using the Games and Animations curriculum and your students have just completed the lessons about points, lines, and squares. You could extend those lessons by creating a Workshop project in which students have to write a program to draw a cube or two cubes. When they’ve completed the project or they get stuck, they can submit their work for code review by you.

Code Review in Blackbird makes it easy for you to comment on your students’ projects. To do that you simply log into your teacher dashboard and select “Code Review.” You’ll then see a list of students who have submitted work for review. You can then view a student’s work and comment on it. You can also award digital feathers to students who have submitted projects. The feathers are like digital badges for a job well done. You can award feathers for whatever criteria you want to use, but if you’d like some guidance Blackbird provides a simple rubric to follow for awarding feathers (link opens a PDF).

Suggested Personal Projects in Blackbird
Many years ago (almost 20, where did the time go?) I taught a ninth grade language arts class. One of the challenges that I faced then was helping students start creative writing pieces. A colleague lent me a book of story starters to help solve that problem. I had a similar problem in 2019 when I asked students in my Intro to Programming course to design a project from scratch. Blackbird offers a solution to that problem of “I don’t know what to make” when students are asked to create a project from scratch.

Blackbird provides a set of three personal project starters for students. These are projects that students complete in their Workshops in their Blackbird accounts. Like other things made in their Workshops, students submit their work for code review by you. Blackbird includes rubrics for each of the three suggested personal projects.

Announcements, Grades, and Student Summaries
In last week’s post about Blackbird I included a video that demonstrated the basics of creating a class account through Google Classroom. You can also use Clever to create class accounts. A third option is to manually create a classroom in Blackbird. Whichever method you use to create your Blackbird classroom, you have access to the same tools for classroom management.

In your Blackbird classroom you can post announcements and reminders for all students to see. You can create grade reports to see all of your students’ progress in one place. And you can create reports to view an individual student’s progress.

How to Create and Review Workshop Activities
If you’re ready to give Blackbird a try for teaching coding this fall, watch the short video embedded below to see how to create Workshop activities for your students to complete in Blackbird.

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Lessons on Compound Interest, Rent, and Mittens

Last week I got an email from the Council for Economic Education. The email listed the ten most popular resources on their site. Two of them stood out to me and one of them led me to an additional resource that wasn't included in the email. 

The Compound Interest Calculator is the most popular resource on the Council for Economic Education's website. It does exactly what the name states. Students enter age, interest rate, initial investment, and monthly savings to see how much they'll save and earn over time. There are lots of tools like this one on the web. The nice thing about this one is that it's not surrounded by a zillion ads for mortgages and investment brokers. 

Renting a Place to Live is the ninth most popular resource offered by the Council for Economic Education. It is a free lesson plan that is designed to help students understand the process of finding a place to live and the true cost of renting a place to live. The lesson plan includes some handouts for students to use to identify the costs associated with renting. 

A resource not mentioned in the CEE's email was Economics in Children's Literature. I discovered that collection by going down a virtual rabbit hole of related resources after looking at the Renting a Place to Live lesson plan. Economics in Children's Literature is a collection of lesson plans for introducing economics concepts to elementary school students through the use of literature. For example, this lesson plan about scarcity is centered on reading Jan Brett's story, The Mitten (a story my own kids love). 

How to Quickly Broadcast Your Screen to Your Students' Screens

A few months ago I published an overview of DisplayNote Broadcast. It's a tool that you can use to broadcast your screen to your students' laptop or tablet screens. Shortly after I published my initial overview DisplayNote Broadcast added a Google Slides and Classroom integration. The latest update is a Chrome extension that you can use to share your screen with just a couple of clicks

In the short video that is embedded below I demonstrate how to broadcast your screen to your students' screens by using the Display Note Broadcast Chrome extension. 

Applications for Education
DisplayNote Broadcast is the type of tool that is great for getting all of your students to look at the same thing on your computer at the same time. I found this to be particularly useful when giving coding demonstrations to students as they could see things in more detail than just looking up at a projector screen.

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Airplanes, Lesson Plans, and Coding - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where we're hoping the heat and humidity will break today. I write that sentence knowing full well that in a month I'll probably be back to wearing flannel shirts and sweaters. Until then we're going to try to enjoy the last few weeks of summer before school starts. 

This week I held the sixth webinar in my summer webinar series. A big thank you to everyone who has registered for one or all of them. Your support helps me keep the lights on. There is one more webinar in the series. It's Get Organized With Google Classroom, Calendar, and Keep

These were the week's most popular posts:
1.Five Good Resources for Learning About Airplanes and Airlines
2. A Great Place to Find Lesson Plan Ideas
3. Google Classroom Now Has Add-ons - For Some Schools
4. Blackbird Provides an Innovative Way for Anyone to Teach Coding
5. Significant Changes to Screencastify's Free Plan
6. How to Make Whiteboard Videos in Microsoft Flip
7. Elinor's Nature Adventure and Hands-on Learning Activities

50 Tech Tuesday Tips!
50 Tech Tuesday Tips is an eBook that I created with busy tech coaches, tech integrators, and media specialists in mind. In it you'll find 50 ideas and tutorials that you can use as the basis of your own short PD sessions. Get a copy today!

Webinar on Tuesday!
This summer I'm hosting a series of Practical Ed Tech webinars. There is one left in the series. You learn more and register through the link below.
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 42,000 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.

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