Saturday, November 5, 2022

Documents, Maps, and Clocks - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where it is unusually warm for November. There have been many years in the past when I have been skiing by this point in the fall. Today, we're going to the beach! We won't swim because the water is quite cold despite the warm air temperature. Instead, we'll have fun exploring and looking for beach treasures. But before doing that we have more leaves to rake which is a different kind of fun. I hope that whatever the weather is wherever you are in the world that you have a fun and relaxing weekend!

This week the inaugural class of Animated Explanations began. I've been amazed at how many people signed-up for the class and the kind feedback that I've received so far. I'm looking forward to seeing how the second week goes. If it continues to go well, I might run it again later in the school year. 

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. A New Primary Source Crowd-sourcing Project from the Library of Congress
2. How to Make Multimedia Maps on Padlet
3. How to Create a Digital Map Collection in Wakelet
4. The End of Daylight Saving Time is Near...for this year
5. How to Import PDFs Into Book Creator Projects
6. Why We Procrastinate and Tips to Stop Doing It
7. The Difference Between Stocks and Bonds

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!

Workshops and eBooks
If you'd like to have me speak at your school or conference, please send me an email at richardbyrne (at) or fill out the form on this page. Book me for this school year and I'll include copies of my eBook for all of the teachers in your school. 

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 43,000 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 Strava.
This post originally appeared on If you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission. Featured image captured by Richard Byrne.

Friday, November 4, 2022

How Focusable Helps Me Stop Procrastinating

On Thursday morning I wrote about a new TED-Ed lesson that explains why we procrastinate. The lesson also offers some suggestions for breaking the procrastination habit. One of those suggestions is to journal about how you feel when faced with a task that you would rather avoid. To that end, I suggested trying Focusable

I've been using Focusable since September. I use it whenever there is a project or even just a list of little tasks that for one reason or another I have trouble getting started on. It's a simple program that works remarkably well. 

The premise of Focusable is that you can do anything for five minutes. Based on that idea Focusable gives you a brief breathing exercise to do then a five minute timer appears. Your goal is to work for five minutes on that thing you've been avoiding. Once you've worked for five minutes Focusable plays a little chime and prompts you to record a little video journal of how you felt while working. Then the process repeats, but the second time you work for ten minutes. Then the process repeats again for twenty minutes. 

Watch my updated video that is embedded below to see how Focusable works. 

Applications for Education
As a teacher you can create a group for your students to join in Focusable. They then use Focusable to create progressions to help them develop the habits of focusing for blocks of time and reflecting as they go. When students are in your group, you can reply to their reflections with short videos of your own to encourage them and give them feedback. Again, the only people who see those videos are you and the student. Jump to the 6:53 mark in this video to see the student perspective of Focusable.

Get Ready for The Great Thanksgiving Listen 2022

During Tuesday night's episode of Two EdTech Guys Take Questions the topic of audio recording came up. That prompted me to go on a little bit of a tangent (as I'm prone to doing) about The Great Thanksgiving Listen hosted by StoryCorps. 

The Great Thanksgiving Listen hosted by StoryCorps is back for the eigth year in a row. This annual event is intended to get people to record audio stories with family and friends. The Great Thanksgiving Listen was originally developed to get high school students to record the stories of their parents, grandparents, and other older family members. It has expanded over the years to be open to anyone who wants to participate.

StoryCorps has always provided materials to help students and teachers get involved in The Great Thanksgiving Listen. Some of those resources include a video overview of how to use the StoryCorps Connect platform to remotely record stories. If students can record in-person, the StoryCorps mobile app is a good recording tool to use. Resources for teachers include lesson plans, handouts, and even letters and a permission slip that you can send home to help explain the project to parents.

Applications for Education 
I love Thanksgiving and I love oral histories. I would have my students participate in The Great Thanksgiving Listen as a way to have them gather local history stories in the context of personal stories. Before The Great Thanksgiving Listen came along I did this kind of project with a social studies class by having them use VoiceThread to record their parents' and grandparents' stories about going to our local county fair.

This video provides little tip about recording that makes post-production a little easier. It's one you'll want to teach to your students before they record for The Great Thanksgiving Listen. 

Thursday, November 3, 2022

Why We Procrastinate and Tips to Stop Doing It

I meant to write about this a few days ago. TED-Ed recently published a new lesson that tackles an issue that most of us have dealt with at one time or another. That issue is procrastination. 

Why You Procrastinate Even When It Feels Bad is a TED-Ed lesson that explains why people procrastinate. It does a great job of explaining the biggest psychological cause of procrastination. That cause being the fight-or-flight response in our brains to tasks that we perceive as difficult or otherwise stress-inducing. The lesson explains why we procrastinate when faced with a task that actually isn't that difficult once we get started. 

The end of Why You Procrastinate Even When It Feels Bad includes a couple of tips for breaking procrastination habits. Those tips include breaking tasks into smaller pieces and journaling about the feelings associated with a task that are causing you to avoid it. That's essentially what Focusable helps you do. I've been using Focusable since September and it has helped me avoid procrastinating on some difficult tasks. Read this blog post to learn more about how Focusable can help you avoid procrastination. 

Applications for Education
Helping students identify what it is about an assignment that's causing them to avoid it could go a long way toward helping the get started on the process of completing it. This TED-Ed lesson can help them understand why they're avoiding academic assignments. A tool like Focusable can help students get started on those assignments they perceive as difficult and help them journal their thoughts about it.

ICYMI - Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions

A couple of nights ago Rushton Hurley and I resumed our Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions series. We were joined by a handful of fine folks and even more people were registered to join us. If you missed our live broadcast, you can now watch the recording and find all of the associated links right here on Next Vista for Learning. The recording is also available to view here on Rushton's YouTube channel and as embedded below. 

Make believe bonus points for anyone who recognizes the shirt I'm wearing and knows the year it's from. Email me if you know or if you want to know. 

We'll be hosting the next episode of this series on December 6th. Watch this page for updated registration information. Until then feel free to email me or Rushton with your questions.