Monday, September 12, 2022

Try Using Vocabulary Lists to Help Your Students Conduct Better Searches

This is an excerpt from this week's Practical Ed Tech Newsletter

I'm in the process of updating my Search Strategies Students Need to Know online course. In the process of doing so I revisited a good article that I read a few years ago. That article is Characterizing the Influence of Domain Expertise on Web Search Behavior (link opens PDF) written by White, Dumais, and Teevan at Microsoft Research. They found that domain experts (domain referring to subject matter) conducted searches with more branchiness than non-experts.
Branchiness is defined as "the number of re-visits to previous pages in the session that were then followed by a forward motion to a previously unvisited page in the session."
Furthermore, the search sessions of domain experts consistently include more pages, more queries, and more overall time.

The findings of White, Dumais, and Teevan were consistent with findings of previous researchers on the topic including Ingrid Hsieh-Yee who is cited by White, Dumais, and Teevan. In 1993 Ingrid Hsieh-Yee found that students used more of their own search terms and less of external suggestions when researching topics for which they had prior expert knowledge.

What's this mean for teachers and students?
It would be unfair to expect students to be "experts" before conducting a web search. However, it might be worth having students develop a bit more prior knowledge of a topic before turning them loose to search the web for information about that topic. This might be done through reading materials provided by the teacher. It might also be done through mastering some vocabulary terms before embarking on a search. Increased prior knowledge could lead students to have more branchiness in their search habits.

Good Places to Find Constitution Day Lesson Plans

This coming Saturday is Constitution Day in the United States. If you find yourself in need of some lesson ideas for Constitution Day, C-SPAN, DocsTeach, and TED-Ed all offer either lesson plans or resources for building your own Constitution Day lesson plans.

Constitution Day Lesson Plans from C-SPAN Classroom
C-SPAN Classroom offers free lesson plans and Bell Ringers (discussion prompts) that were either designed for Constitution Day or can be used to meet the requirements of Constitution Day. All of the lesson plans incorporate short video clips addressing topics like enumerated and implied powers of Congress, interpretation of the Constitution, and checks and balances. You can find all of the lesson plans and additional resources in this Google Doc.

DocsTeach is a National Archives website that all middle school and high school U.S. History teachers should have in their bookmarks. DocsTeach lets you build online activities based upon curated collections of primary source documents. DocsTeach also provides some pre-made activities that you can give to your students. DocsTeach has twenty pre-made Constitution Day activities that you can use today. An additional 166 documents and artifacts about the Constitution can be found through a quick search on DocsTeach.

TED-Ed Lessons
TED-Ed offers a bunch of lessons that are appropriate for Constitution Day. Those lessons are linked below.

The Making of the American Constitution.

Why is the US Constitution So Hard to Amend?

Why Wasn't the Bill of Rights Originally Included in the US Constitution?

How is Power Divided in the US Government?

A 3-Minute Guide to the Bill of Rights

How do Executive Orders Work?

What You Might Not Know About the Declaration of Independence

Sunday, September 11, 2022

A Short Overview of the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine - And How I Use It

The Internet Archive can be a great place to find all kinds of old videos, audio recordings (there's a huge collection of Grateful Dead show recordings), pictures, and books. The Internet Archive also offers a tool called the Wayback Machine that you can use to see what a website looked like on a previous date. 

In this new video I provide a short demonstration of how to use the Wayback Machine

Applications for Education
I've used the Wayback Machine to show students how breaking news was reported for significant events. Depending upon the site that you choose, you may find that the Wayback Machine has multiple snapshots of that site for the same day or week. Looking through those snapshots can be a good way to see how much the reporting of a story changed throughout a day or week. 

I've also used the Wayback Machine to show students how the marketing of some products has changed over time and how much the value of products has changed in their lifetimes. For example, have students take a look at this snapshot of from 2000 to see what a computer cost and the specifications of it for that price compared to today. 

Two Tips to Make Chrome Run a Little Faster

There was a time when Google Chrome was the new kid on the block and promised faster browsing and faster page load time. That hasn't been the case for many years now. In fact, now when I hear colleagues, students, or others complain about their computers or Chromebooks running slowly the first thing I do is check their Chrome settings. 

There are two little Chrome settings that can make it run faster on your Windows computer or on your Chrome book. Those settings are found under "system" in the "advanced" menu. Those settings are:

  • Continue running background apps when Google Chrome is closed.
  • Use hardware acceleration when available.
The speed with which Chrome runs should improve if you turn off the two options listed above. In the video below I demonstrate how to find those settings. 

Saturday, September 10, 2022

Flashcards, Games, and Phys Ed - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where it is going to be a beautiful early fall day. By the time that most of you read this I'll be racing my bike on some of the prettiest dirt roads in all of New England. I don't harbor any illusions of winning the Northwoods Gravel Grind today, I just hope to have fun and go a little faster than the last time I pedaled over those roads. Bonus! There's a fun Grateful Dead cover band playing at the end. I hope you have something equally fun on tap for your weekend. 

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. A Great Alternative to Quizlet
2. A Free STEM Toolkit for Librarians
3. Quizalize Games - Turn Any Quiz Into an Epic Game
4. vs. Blackbird Code - Which One Should You Use?
5. Fun With Soda Pop - A Nice Weekend Science Experiment
6. Great Resources for Family Phys Ed Week
7. Free Webinar and 5 Posters to Help Students Learn to Read Like a Historian

I'll Come You!
If you'd like me to come to your school or conference, please send me an email at richardbyrne (at) or fill out the form on this page

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!

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. 
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This post originally appeared on If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission. Featured image captured by Richard Byrne.

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