Wednesday, November 26, 2008

It's Time to Play Again - The Toy Guy Part II

On Monday, I posted part of my interview with The Toy Guy, Christopher Byrne. In that interview Chris and I talked about the importance of play and the role of educational toys in the learning process. Chris emphasized two categories of toys that he says are important for learning; reading/ literacy toys and creativity toys. When talking about toys that promote literacy Chris emphasized that as fun as toys can be, they do not take the place of parents reading to their children.

The second half of the conversation I had with Chris revolved around the notion that kids learn best when they can control the learning experience. As Chris said, "when kids can control the learning, they stay engaged." On that note The Toy Guy recommends a couple of toys that give kids creative control of learning. Chris gives his endorsement to "anything from Crayola, from the basic crayons on up." On Crayola item in particular that those interested in buying educational toys should check out is the Crayola TaDoodles Scribble and Sing Art Station. Another toy company that The Toy Guy says produces toys with educational value is Mega Toys. Mega Toys produces the Easy Writer drawing board.

That wraps the conversation that I had with The Toy Guy about educational toys for this holiday season. Chris did tell me about an educational organization called America Scores for which he serves on the board of director. It is a great program that combines soccer and poetry in a fun after-school environment.

No post on Free Technology for Teachers is complete without the mention of something that is available for free. Therefore, I must remind you that Time To Play Magazine holds a daily drawing for free toys which you can enter here.

Disclaimer: In addition to being a recognized expert in the toy industry The Toy Guy, Christopher Byrne, is my uncle.

A Music Video for Computer Geeks by Computer Geeks

Tech Crunch posted this video earlier today and although I found it weirdly addictive to watch, I couldn't think of a reason to post it on here. Watch the video and if you make it through to the end then read how I think it might possibly be used in a classroom.

Applications for Education
This might be a stretch, but here's how this weird music video might be used in a computer class. You could play the video for the class and have them try to identify the computer terms used in the music video.

Evri Helps You Make Connections

Evri is a new search engine that offers a service that has great potential for helping students conduct research. What Evri does, besides serving as a search engine, is show you the topics that are connected to your search term. For example when if you search for information about George Washington, Evri provides results on one side of the page while on the other side of the page showing you a web of names and topics related to George Washington. See the screen shot below to see how Evri displays connections.

Applications for Education
Evri could be a handy resource for students that are stumped on where to look next for ideas and information. I'm thinking that Evri could be useful for those times when you assign research papers but don't want to end up with twenty papers on the same topic. In that case, have students explore Evri to find some related ideas for research papers.

How a Tornado is Formed

This one is for the science teachers. USA Today has a slide presentation explaining how tornadoes are formed and what to do if you find yourself in the path of a tornado. The slide show is controlled by the viewer who moves a slider at the bottom of the screen to explore the formation of a tornado. Thanks to Open Culture for the link.

If you're looking for a great video about tornadoes, check out Tornado Intercept from National Geographic. You can watch the entire video for free on Snag Films.

If you have never used Snag Films before, check out my review of the service to see why I like it so much.

Zuna Vision - Put Images in Video Backgrounds

Zuna Vision is the vision of some very smart folks at Stanford University. Using Zuna Vision anyone can insert an image into the background of an existing video. For example if I wanted to put a picture of my face on side of a building in a video, I could do that with Zuna Vision. The video below explains Zuna Vision.

Zuna Vision is still in the beta phase of development so it doesn't work perfectly yet, but it's a great concept. I tried it out by putting an image of a goldfish into a video clip of the NBC show The Office. The image didn't appear exactly where I wanted it to, but it's in there. Check out my video here.

Applications for Education
Zuna Vision is a great 100% free video editing service that students will find fun to use. One way that students might use Zuna Vision is to create historical video mash-ups. They could do this by taking a video of a speech given by an important figure of the 20th century and inserting an image of themselves next to the speaker. You could then have students create a story about what they were whispering in the speaker's ear.

Free Spelling Software Offer for Educators

Spell Quizzer is a program for Windows users looking for a spelling tutorial for their students. Spell Quizzer is a pretty straight-forward program that offers a couple of nice features. To use Spell Quizzer users create a custom spelling list by speaking into a microphone. Then Spell Quizzer plays each word back. When Spell Quizzer plays back each word, users type in the word. If a mistake is made while spelling a word, Spell Quizzer shows the errors. Click here to see some video demonstrations of Spell Quizzer in action.

Spell Quizzer normally charges $29.95 to download the software. However, I was contacted by the creator of Spell Quizzer who is willing to give away a free license to educators who contact him here. To get your free license you need to have an email with a .edu extension or other academic email (for example my school district is that can be verified. Please mention Free Technology for Teachers when applying for your free license of Spell Quizzer.

I do not have any affiliation with Spell Quizzer, I am just passing along an opportunity to get a piece of software for free. As you know, I typically do not link to anything that is not free.

Update: I was mistaken in saying that users had to download the software, this is not a download. Also I should have stated that generally after the first 30 days, users have to pay to use the service.