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Thursday, December 31, 2009

More About Vokle's Free Web Conferencing Service

Last week I wrote a post about a new web conferencing service called Vokle. Today, I found a video on Building 43 in which Vokle's Chief Marketing Officer, Edward Dekeratry, discusses with Robert Scoble all of the features of Vokle. A key feature of Vokle that I missed in my post last week is Vokle gives you the ability to screen calls and text questions from viewers before they're posted to the general audience.
The video is embedded below.

Month in Review - December's Most Popular Items

It's the last day of the month and, as I do every month, I've compiled a list of the ten most popular items from the past 30 days. Before you jump to the list, I want to say thank you to everyone that has subscribed to the blog, emailed me, Tweeted with me, joined the Facebook fan page, or connected with me in some form this year. I look forward to connecting with more of you in 2010. Happy New Year!

Here are the most popular items from the month of December 2009:
1. 15 TED Talks for Teachers to Watch Before 2010
2. iNudge - Experiment With Sounds
3. What Teachers Need to Know About Creative Commons
4. Five Ways to Build Your Own Educational Games
5. Google Teacher Academy for Administrators
6. 15 Tools to Help Students Get Organized
7. Holiday Edition: Twelve Essentials for Technology Integration
8. Student Conversation Starter
9. 25 More Educational Games and Game Builders
10. Fresh Ideas for Fun Student Projects

If you're new to Free Technology for Teachers, welcome, I'm glad you've found this blog. If you like what you see in the links above, please consider subscribing to the blog via RSS or email.
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The Things We Learned About in 2009

Ten days ago I posted a survey asking you to share what you learned about in 2009 and what you're looking forward to in 2010. In the slideshow below I've highlighted some of your responses. Take a look through the survey and check out the blogs that are linked within the the presentation. Thank you to everyone that contributed your time to the survey.

The 15 Most Popular Posts on Free Tech 4 Teachers

Here are the most popular posts in the history of Free Technology for Teachers.

1. 30+ Alternatives to YouTube
2.
Twelve Essentials for Technology Integration
3. Seven Ways to Find Teachers on Twitter
4. 10 Places to Make and Find Flashcards
5. 35+ Educational Games and Games Resources
6. Ten Grammar Games and Lesson Resources
7. Ten Spelling Games and Lessons
8. 9 Resources for Website Evaluation Lessons
9. Netbook vs. Cheap Notebook Decision
10. Four Free Tools for Creating Screencasts
11. Great Timeline Builders
12. The How-to Series
13. 15 TED Talks for Teachers to Watch Before 2010
14. Six Easy Ways for Students to Create Videos Online
15. 12 Ways for Students to Publish Slideshows Online

Keep Track of Browser Tabs by Coloring Them

If you're a heavy Internet user like me, you probably have a lot of browser tabs open all the time. I have thirteen open as I write this. Tekzilla has a great tip for folks like us, color code your browser tabs. The video below will show you how you can color code your Firefox browser tabs.


Applications for Education
If your students have the habit of open many browser tabs at once, color coding those tabs could help them keep track of what they're reading and working on.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Google SketchUp Education Uses and Tutorials

One of the Google applications that I wish I had had more time to explore at the Google Teacher Academy is Google SketchUp. GTA Lead Learner Ken Shelton offered a short session about using SketchUp in education, but there is so much to learn that a full day might not have been enough time to explore it all. Fortunately, the companion website to Google SketchUp 7 For Dummies has a fantastic set of tutorial videos demonstrating the ins and outs of SketchUp. Select a chapter from the index here to find a video tutorial. Ken Shelton has also put together some tutorial resources and compiled a short list of educational applications for Google SketchUp.

If you need a general overview of Google SketchUp, watch the video below.


Applications for Education
The Google SketchUp for Dummies video tutorials could be great resources for anyone that would like to have students use SketchUp in their classrooms. The tutorial videos could be used to reinforce or supplement the instruction you give in your classroom.

Understanding Search Engines

Many students and adults do not understand how search engines rank results. Some of my students get to high school without understanding the differences between .edu, .gov, and .com web addresses. Students sometimes struggle to refine their search engine results. This video from Springfield College's Babson Library gives a good explanation of how search engines operate and how to refine search engine results.

365 Days in 30 Seconds

This year CNN iReport issued an interesting challenge to amateur video artists, sum-up your year in thirty seconds. The deadline for submissions has passed, but that doesn't mean you can't challenge your students to sum-up their year in a thirty second video. You could challenge students to create a summary of their personal lives or what they learned in school in 2009. Any of these free resources could be used by students to create videos about the year. The video below contains some of the contributions to CNN iReport's 365 Days in 30 Seconds challenge.

Update: The link to video creation tools that I originally posted was incorrect. It is fixed now. Thanks Gia.


Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
The Decade in Review from Newsweek
Year in Review Music Video
Waving Goodbye to 2009

Scitable Adds Content

In April I wrote a short post about Scitable. Since then Scitable has added some content that is worth noting. Scitable's networking options have increased since my original post in April. There are more users and more filters for finding experts and or other students to connect with. Scitable has also added some video animations to help explain difficult concepts. The video below shows the process of translation, in which the information encoded by mRNA is turned into protein.


Applications for Education
Scitable is designed for use by college students, but some of content could be used in some high school settings.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

iCyte - Highlight and Currate Web Research

iCyte is a fantastic browser extension available for Firefox 3 and Internet Explorer 7 and 8. iCyte gives you the ability to highlight and save sections of websites for later reference. When you save an item in iCyte an archive of the website is saved in your iCyte account. To organize your findings, you can create folders within your iCyte account. The short video embedded below demonstrates the basics of using iCyte.

Creating a Cyte using Firefox on a Mac from stephen foley on Vimeo.



This video is a longer overview of all of iCyte's features.

iCyte Overview from stephen foley on Vimeo.



Applications for Education
iCyte could be a fantastic tool for students to use to organize their web research.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Wet Mount Helps You Organize Web Research
Lumifi - Enlighten Your Research
Lesson Plans for Teaching Web Search Strategies

Intute - Virtual Trainings on Web Research Strategies

Intute is a free online service designed to help students find and use the best academic web resources. Intute is a product of the collaborative efforts of seven universities in the UK. A couple of the services offered by Intute are a catalog of reviewed websites and a series of virtual trainings to help students develop web research skills.

The virtual trainings offered by Intute are designed to teach students how to locate, evaluate, and utilize the best of the web. Trainings are tailored to meet the needs of students studying a wide range of topics including mathematics, economics, medicine, philosophy, and much more. Intute also offers a virtual training on locating and using images from the Internet.

Applications for Education
Intute's resources are best utilized by high school students and college students who are in need of some guidance in locating resources for their research projects.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Google Wonder Wheel in Action
Refine Google Searches With Cloudlet
Beyond Google - Improve Your Search Results

Teaching US History with Howard Zinn

A People's History of the United Statesis frequently used by US History teachers in my school and in schools around the country because Zinn tells the history of the United States in a story that it is often different from that told in textbooks. A People's History of the United States to give students an alternative perspective on history.

The Zinn Education Project is a website designed to help teachers use A People's History of the United States in their classrooms. The Zinn Education Project provides complete lesson plans for use in elementary school, middle school, and high school settings. In some cases the lesson plans include document excerpts and references to A People's History of the United States. You can search for lesson plans by time period, theme, or by student reading levels.

I learned about the Zinn Education Project earlier this month via Larry Ferlazzo's excellent blog.

Applications for Education
If you teach US History the Zinn Education Project is a great resource to have in your toolkit. It's easy to locate lesson plans that meet your needs and downloading the plans is free once you're registered.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Howard Zinn's A People's History in a Free Digital Format
Watch American Experience Online
American Rhetoric - Famous Speeches from Politics and Entertainment

LoudLit - Listen to Books and Read Along

LoudLit.org is a good place to find free audio recordings of famous works of literature. Many websites do this, but what makes LoudLit unique and useful for teachers is the option of reading the text online while listening to the reading of the text.

Applications for Education
LoudLit is a great resource for teachers of struggling readers. Students can use LoudLit to follow along with the reading of a text. Have students use individual computers to progress at their own pace.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Learn Out Loud
More than 250 Free Audio Books
Lit 2 Go - Audio Stories

Monday, December 28, 2009

NY Times - Picturing the Past 10 Years

Picturing the Past 10 Years is a neat "opinion chart" created by Phillip Niemeyer at The New York Times. Picturing the Past 10 Years is a ten by twelve grid of icons representing key issues and events from each year of the past decade. The grid has columns for each year of the decade and rows for categories such as culture, business, and champion.

Applications for Education
Picturing the Past 10 Years could be a good model for having students create their own "picturing the past" icon charts. Students could create a chart for the last year or the decade. The concept could also be applied to other eras in history.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
The Decade in Review from Newsweek
Year in Review Music Video
Waving Goodbye to 2009

15 Tools To Help Students Get Organized

After the holiday vacation some students will return to school determined to get organized and improve their grades. The following fifteen resources could help those students get a handle on managing their assignment due dates.

Remember the Milk is a free personal organization tool that works online and with mobile phones. Many high school students are carrying cell phones with them so capitalize on that and talk to parents and students about using a cell phone to get organized. Remember the Milk allows students to add assignment due dates to their to-do lists via text, email, or directly on their account homepage. A word of caution, while this services is free, students could incur a lot of charges from text and data communication on their mobile phones so be sure to discuss these options with parents before having students use the text/ data tools.

Macs have made digital sticky notes popular, Postica is trying to make sticky notes even better. Postica is a web-based sticky note service. The collaborative aspect of Postica is that users can share their sticky board with other users to share ideas. Users can send sticky notes to each other and edit each other's sticky notes.

Nexty is a personal planning tool that falls somewhere a basic to-do list creator and a full-fledged project management tool. Nexty offers users the ability to create lists, prioritize lists, and set reminders. Nexty users can create project folders to which they can add to-do lists for completing each project. The settings in Nexty are intuitive and easy to adjust. Getting started with Nexty takes only seconds as you do not have to enter an email address to create an account.

Ta-da List is a simple to-do list creation tool built by 37 Signals. Ta-da List allows to you to create a to-do list in 30 seconds. Just sign-up and start building lists. Your lists will be hosted at a unique url assigned just to you. Direct your browser to that url to check items off of your lists or to create a new list.

By App is a simple task management tool that assigns users their own unique subdomain. Through By App you can create a list of tasks for yourself and organize the list by semantic day (tomorrow, next week) or by date. If your priorities shift, you can reorganize your list with the simple drag and drop interface.

Track Class offers all of the features that we have come to expect in online student organizers. Through Track Class students can keep a schedule of courses, track assignment dates, write and save notes, and maintain a calendar of events. Inside Track Class students can also save files like essays they've written and slideshow presentations they've created.

Soshiku is a free personal planner designed for high school and college students. Soshiku lets students organize their assignments by course, add assignments, and receive text message and or email reminders before each assignment is due. Students can add assignments to their calendars directly on the Soshiku website or via text message. Registering and getting started with Soshiku is quick and the user interface is very intuitive and easy to learn.

Wipee List is a simple list making and to-do list management tool. Here's how Wipee List functions: sign in, click add an item, then type your "to do" item. If an item has immediate priority you can drag it to a "quick reminders" sticky note. When you complete an item drag it to the trash bin. If you're working on a project with someone you can share your list with a specific url assigned to your list.

Deadline is a very simple, yet potentially powerful personal organizer. One feature that really stands out about Deadline is its very user friendly interface. To use Deadline simply sign up with an email account and start using it. When entering task reminders you can time in a day of the week or date in just about any format and Deadline will recognize what you mean. For example, when I entered a reminder for myself to post grades on January 4, Deadline will recognize that as next Monday. Or if I write "post grades on Monday," Deadline will recognize that as January 4.

IzzyToDo is one of simplest and easiest tools for building an online to-do list. IzzyToDo allows you to make multiple lists for multiple objectives. Once you've registered create a "target" or objective and begin adding "items" that you need to do to reach your target. You can try IzzyToDo before registering by using the demo on the homepage.

43 Things is an interesting way to track goals and achievements. 43 Things is not a personal organizer, it's a goal tracker. The service is simple, users enter a list of things that they want to accomplish and other users can "cheer" them on until the goal is reached.

Stixy.com is a organization and collaboration web tool. Stixy, as the name implies, allows you to write notes and stick them to a clipboard. Stixy allows you to share you notes with others and have them respond to your notes. The Stixy clipboard has three other great features, the ability to stick and share documents, stick and share photographs, and create and share a "to do" list on the clipboard and on a calendar.

There are a lot of reminder services and sticky note services available on the Internet. Sticky Screen might be the simplest of them all. Sticky Screen lets you put three short notes on a sticky placed in the center of your screen. Make sticky screen your Internet browser's homepage and your reminders stare you in the face every time you open a window or tab.

Squareleaf is a simple system for creating and managing online sticky notes. To use Squareleaf just register for an account and begin creating notes. Your notes are displayed on an online "whiteboard." On your Squareleaf whiteboard you can arrange your sticky notes in any pattern that you like. The size and color of the sticky notes can also be adjusted.

One last option that shouldn't be overlooked is Google Calendar. Google Calendar allows users to share and collaborate on the creation of a calendar. One way to use Google Calendar is to have students and parents share a calendar. The student can enter his or her assignment due dates and then his or her parents can check the calendar. For teachers there is another option. Teachers can create and publish a calendar that parents can check online for assignment due dates.


Kideos - Educational Videos for Kids

Kideos is a video website designed with kids under ten years old in mind. Videos on Kideos are categorized by age appropriateness as well as by topic. Most of the videos appear to be served via YouTube but are displayed with the Kideos border which removes advertising and YouTube's "related videos" and comments.

Thanks to Eric Sheninger for sharing the link to Kideos on Twitter. Eric always has interesting things to share so I highly recommend following him.

Applications for Education
Kideos uses YouTube to serve-up videos so you might not be able to access the videos in schools that block YouTube. That said, if you can access YouTube in your school, Kideos could be a great resource for elementary school classrooms. You might also consider recommnending Kideos to parents when they ask about educational websites they can use at home with their children.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
30+ Alternatives to YouTube
Most Teachers Have or Will Download YouTube Videos
Vidque - Create a Library of Educational Videos

20 Things That Happen in a Minute

20 Things That Happen in 1 Minute is a graphic that illustrates twenty common things that occur every minute in the United States and around the world. The graphic reminded me of a video, If the World Were a Village of 100, that I've seen a few times. That video is embedded below.


Here is a similar video that is geared toward a younger audience.

Applications for Education
These graphics and videos could be used to combine social studies and mathematics into one lesson. Students could use the video and or looking at the graphic as a model for creating their own diagrams about data sets. Students could create graphics about data sets that apply to the population of their state or country.

Squareleaf - Your Online Sticky Note System

Squareleaf is a simple system for creating and managing online sticky notes. To use Squareleaf just register for an account and begin creating notes. Your notes are displayed on an online "whiteboard." On your Squareleaf whiteboard you can arrange your sticky notes in any pattern that you like. The size and color of the sticky notes can also be adjusted.

Applications for Education
Squareleaf doesn't offer any fancy text alerts or Twitter reminders, but what it does do is offer students a very simple way to write reminders to themselves. Squareleaf could also be a good way for students to diagram stories they're planning to write or to organize the parts of project they need to complete.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Sticky Screen - Your To-do List Homepage
Organize and Collaborate With Stixy
Scriblink - Your Online Collaborative Whiteboard

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Week in Review - Most Popular Items

I hope that all of the teachers reading this week-in-review are enjoying a relaxing holiday break from school. Judging by the traffic on the blog this week many of us are still very active online during our vacations.

Here are the seven most popular items of the last week:
1. 15 TED Talks for Teachers to Watch Before 2010
2. What Teachers Need to Know About Creative Commons
3. Google Apps Training Webinars
4. Connect Safely - Videos on Safe Social Network Use
5. Holiday Edition: Twelve Essentials for Technology Integration
6. My Seven Edublogging Secrets
7. Waving Goodbye to 2009

The list above is based on item clicks and views. If you ever miss the week in review post, you can always check out the Post Rank widget embedded in the right column of the blog. Post Rank displays the most popular blog entries at any given time. You can also search the most popular posts within the Post Rank widget.

If you're new to Free Technology for Teachers, welcome, I'm glad you've found this blog. If you like what you see in the links above, please consider subscribing to the blog via RSS or email.
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Learn About Mount Everest

Tonight on Discovery the third season of Everest: Beyond the Limit begins. The series chronicles the efforts of amateur mountain climbers attempting to climb Mount Everest. The climbers are accompanied by professional guides and Sherpas. The entire climb is coordinated by Russell Brice.

To accompany Everest: Beyond the Limit, Discovery has developed a number of interesting and educational web resources. On the Everest: Beyond the Limit website you will find interactive Sherpa-cams, puzzles, games, and climbers' blogs. The Sherpa-cams give you perspective of what a climber sees has he or she ascends Mount Everest.

Applications for Education
Everest: Beyond the Limit could be a good way for students to learn about the effects of oxygen deprivation on the body. The videos and games could be useful for students to learn about survival in extreme environments. Finally, you never know when a series like Everest: Beyond the Limit might inspire a student who doesn't enjoy typical sporting activities to become physically active.

While Everest: Beyond the Limit shows what it is like to climb Mount Everest today, this book, Snow in the Kingdom: My Storm Years on Everestis one of the best about climbing Mount Everest before it became possible for amateurs to buy their way onto an expedition.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Farther Than the Eye Can See
360 Degree View From the Peak of Mount Everest
Climbing Kilimanjaro

Battle of Trenton Prisoners & Images of Revolution

On Thursday I ran a post about a great site called History Animated which features animations of Revolutionary War battles including the Battle of Trenton. On Friday, the National Archives daily feed served up a document that would make a good resource to use as a follow-up to viewing the Battle of Trenton animated. Return of Prisoners Taken at Trenton documents the transfer of prisoners captured at the Battle of Trenton.

Pictures of the Revolutionary War is a compilation of images about the Revolutionary War. The images in the collection chronicle the stirrings of rebellion in the pre-revolution years, the war from both American and British perspectives, and events following the Revolutionary War.

Applications for Education
The great thing about images is that they are accessible to most students regardless of their reading ability. Pictures of the Revolutionary War could be used in elementary school or middle school to have students develop ideas about the images say about the Revolutionary War. You could have students analyze images from the American and British perspectives and discuss what each artist was trying to say about the war.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Holiday Edition: 10 Places to Make and Find Flashcards

Believe it or not, I'm actually taking a couple of days off from going online. I know that not everyone celebrates the same holidays that I do so I am reposting some of the most popular posts of the last two years. This is one of them.

Flashcards are one of the simplest and most common ways to study for a test. Free Technology for Teachers has featured numerous flashcard resources in the past. Here are ten good places to create and find flashcards online.

1. Cramberry allows users to share flashcards with other users. After creating your flashcards you can contribute to a public gallery of flashcards. If you don't have time to make flashcards of your own, you can search for and study flashcards in the public gallery. To use the flashcards you will need to create a Cramberry account. For your students that have iPhones (none of my students have one) Cramberry now has an iPhone app called Flash-Me.

2. Flashcards created using Funnel Brain can include a "third side" to a flashcard. A side that contains the explanation for the answer to a question. In addition to text Funnel Brain flashcards can include videos, audio, and pictures. Under your videos and images you can type your question, answer, or explanation. Just as with many other flashcard services Funnel Brain flashcards can be shared with other users.

3. Ediscio is a little different from a lot of flashcard creation tools because Ediscio lets you build sets of flashcards individually or with the help of other Ediscio users. The other distinguishing feature of Ediscio is that flashcards can include images. (Ediscio is also featured in Twelve Essentials for Technology Integration).

4. Cobocards, like other flashcard services, allows you to create customized sets of flashcards. One of the key differences between Cobocards and other flashcard services is that Cobocards provides you with pdf copies of your flashcards that you can print to study offline. Of course, you can study also study your flashcards online.

5. Flashcard DB is one of the most well-designed free flashcard programs that I've seen on the web. Flashcard DB, like most flashcard programs, allows you to browse existing sets of flashcards or create your own custom set of flashcards. What makes Flashcard DB different from its competitors is the study methods that can be used with the flashcards. Flashcard DB allows students to study using the Leitner System or the Graded Space Repetition Method.

6. On Quizlet you can make your own flashcards or study from publicly shared sets of flashcards. Quizlet offers you the ability to study your cards in five different ways including playing a couple of games with your cards. When creating your flashcards you can enter information for each card individually or import information from a text document to be used in your card set. If you don't have the time to create your set of flashcards, browse the publicly shared flashcards.

7. Study Stack is one of the better review game creation tools that I've tried. Study Stack allows teachers and students to create flashcards, crossword puzzles, matching games, word searches, and other classic study games for any subject area. You can create a game using any type of numerical or text data. Once you're data is in your account, you can use that data to create multiple games.

8. On Muchobeets students can create their own customized "stack" of flashcards. For students preparing for a general exam like the SAT, Muchobeets has a good collection of publicly shared vocabulary flashcards. The Muchobeets service is very easy to use. If you want to make your own flashcards simply register with your email address and get started using the very intuitive flashcard creation template. No registration is required if you want to use the publicly shared stacks of flashcards.

9. Knowtes is a great resource for finding or making all kinds of flashcards. The Knowtes library is full of ready to use decks of flashcards covering subjects appropriate from Kindergarten through college. The option to download a library of flashcards is the best feature of the Knowtes program. Students who have laptops can download flashcards and use them to study without having to find an Internet connection. For example, in the district where I teach every middle school student is given a laptop, but many students do not have Internet access at home. Being able to download study tools is very useful for those students.

10.
Flashcard Flash is a handy little search engine designed for one purpose, helping you find sets of flashcards. Flashcard Flash was built using Google Custom Search. Flashcard Flash searches six different flashcard services including Flashcard DB, Quizlet, and Study Stack all of which I've previously reviewed and found to be excellent services.

Holiday Edition: Least Restrictive Environment for Educators

Believe it or not, I'm actually taking a couple of days off from going online. I know that not everyone celebrates the same holidays that I do so I am reposting some of the most popular posts of the last two years. This is one of them.

I usually don't write much about the philosophy and politics of school leadership because it doesn't really fit with the purpose of this blog. But Dr. Scott McLeod put out a call for all edubloggers to post their thoughts about school leadership today. This post is my contribution to Leadership Day 2009.

In my work with special education students over the last six years, I have consistently heard from special education teachers and administrators the refrain of "creating a least restrictive environment for students." The idea being that in a least restrictive environment students have the most opportunities to experience new things, explore their creativity, and grow personally and academically. I completely agree with these ideas.

The irony I see in school leadership with regards to technology in the classroom is that often, by imposing strict internet filters, school leaders don't create a least restrictive environment for their faculty. Some of the most restrictive environments that I've heard of include the blocking of wiki services, gmail, and Google image search (which recently added Creative Commons search). By restricting access to the internet, including such innocuous things as Yahoo mail, schools limit the ability of teachers to use their creativity in lesson planning.

I understand that schools are worried about lawsuits arising from student access to the internet. At the same time if school leaders are filtering the internet out of fear or misunderstanding of the law they are not helping their teachers prepare students for life after high school. (Please note that I did not say "prepare students for the 21st century." We're a decade into the 21st century we should stop saying "21st century skills" and just say "skills" or "skills for academic and professional success.") To address these fears and misunderstandings, Wes Fryer and others created Unmasking the Digital Truth. If you're a school administrator or a teacher who works in a district that doesn't create a least restrictive internet environment, please visit Unmasking the Digital Truth.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Holiday Edition: Twelve Essentials for Technology Integration

Believe it or not, I'm actually taking a couple of days off from going online. I know that not everyone celebrates the same holidays that I do so I am reposting some of the most popular posts of the last two years. This is one of them.


The guide is embedded below.


RSS readers may need to click through to view the guide.
It is by no means comprehensive, but it is a good starting place for those teachers who need advice on taking their first steps toward integrating technology into their classrooms. I welcome any and all feedback. If you like it and know a teacher or teachers who would benefit from it, please feel free to print it and distribute it.

Holiday Edition: Seven Ways to Find Teachers on Twitter

Believe it or not, I'm actually taking a couple of days off from going online. I know that not everyone celebrates the same holidays that I do so I am reposting some of the most popular posts of the last two years. This is one of them, but it does have a "holiday bonus at the end."

As I've mentioned numerous times in the past (this marks the 35th time I've written about Twitter), not a day goes by that I don't learn something from my network of Twitter contacts. My network now includes 5300+ followers and I'm also following 4300+ Twitter users. As the size of my network increases so too my learning opportunities increase. Having a Twitter network is a great way to learn about new resources for teaching. A Twitter network is also a great place to exchange ideas about teaching. If you're not familiar with how Twitter works, this short video from Common Craft offers a great explanation. If you're a Twitter user looking to expand your network the following are seven ways to find other teachers on Twitter.

1. Twitter 4 Teachers wiki. The Twitter 4 Teachers PB Wiki was started by ed tech specialist Gina Hartman. This wiki is organized content teaching area so that visitors can connect with Twitter users who teach the same subject(s).

2. Educators on Twitter is a Google Docs Spreadsheet started by Liz B. Davis. The list is constantly growing as new additions are added almost daily.

3. Twitter for Teachers is a wiki started by Rodd Lucier with the purpose of educating teachers about the use of Twitter as an educational tool and as a professional development tool. You may want to check out who the contributors to the wiki are and follow them. Rodd has also produced a great video demonstrating how to use Twitter, Delicious, and Google Reader to find more Twitter users of interest to you.

4. Jane Hart, founder of the Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies, has compiled a list of nearly 800 educators on Twitter. Each entry is accompanied by a short summary about the Twitter user.

5. Twitter search. Located at the bottom of the Twitter page is a search link. Try searching for key words commonly used in educational technology. Then follow the Twitter users who are writing messages containing those key terms.

6. Look at who others follow and who others send "@" messages to. One of the ways that I've built up my network is to look at who the "popular" people follow and follow them. If someone you currently follow sends an "@" reply that appears in your Twitter stream, check out who that "@" message was sent to. Chances are good that the recipient of that message is also interested in the same topics you're interested in.

7. Start engaging conversations. There are a couple of ways to do this, you start a conversation around a resource that you've discovered. Another way to start a conversation is to pose a question or problem that you would like help solving. People are generally willing to offer feedback. If someone sends you an "@" message try to acknowledge it (you may not always be able to do this because of time lapse) people seem to appreciate acknowledgement.

One last place to start finding other teachers on Twitter is to check out my blog post 10 Teachers to Follow on Twitter.

If you have additional suggestions about ways to connect with other teachers on Twitter or you would like to promote your own Twitter account, please leave a comment.

Update:
Shortly after this post went live Twitter changed their UI just a bit. The search box is now at the top of the screen and you can now see "trends" based on the most popular words and tags of the moment.

Update #2:
Two weeks after writing this blog post, We Follow was launched. We Follow makes it very easy to find other teachers and educators on Twitter. You can read more about We Follow here.

Update #3 for December 25 readers:
Twitter lists are a great way to make find other teachers. Check out some of my lists to see the people that I interact with most often. Lists, as I noted here, make it possible to follow a lot of people and learn more efficiently.

Merry Christmas!

Just a quick note to say Merry Christmas to all of you who are celebrating Christmas today. I hope you all have a great time with your loved ones today. And if by chance you are reading this blog today, I have posted a couple of "classic" posts from the last two years for you to enjoy.

The Twelve Days of Christmas performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Battles of Trenton and Princeton Animated

233 years ago George Washington led his men across the Delaware River to a decisive victory against Hessian soldiers in Trenton, New Jersey. That victory followed by a victory at the Battle of Princeton is generally credited for boosting the morale of Washington's men and encouraging re-enlistments. Without those victories the Revolutionary War may have ended differently.

History Animated has produced animations of the Battles of Trenton and Princeton. The animations show the movements of the armies during the Revolutionary War.

Applications for Education
History Animated is a fantastic resource for teachers of US History. The animations will make great supplements to classroom instruction. The animations are a significant improvement over drawing or pointing to places on a map.

Here are some related resources that may be of interest to you:
Timelines.com - Multimedia Timelines, Wiki-style
Historic Maps in K-12 Classrooms
A Brief History of US Border Expansion 1763-Present

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Holiday Edition: How to Build a PLN

Believe it or not, I'm actually taking a couple of days off from going online. I know that not everyone celebrates the same holidays that I do so I am reposting some of the most popular posts of the last two years. This is one of them.

I occasionally get questions or emails from people seeking advice about building a PLN (personal learning network) and recently I was asked if I could create a presentation on the topic. Embedded below is the first draft of a slide presentation about building a PLN. I welcome any and all suggestions for improvement.



Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Seven Ways to Find Teachers on Twitter
My 21 Must-read RSS Feeds
10 Teachers to Follow on Twitter

2009 In Review - The Reader Edition

On Monday I posted a survey asking you what you what you learned about in 2009 and what you're looking forward to in 2010. Seventy people have replied to the survey so far. (If you haven't responded, you still can respond here). I've summarized some of the results below, you can also view all of the results here.

Favorite new ed-tech resources of 2009:
A few people mentioned other people including myself and Larry Ferlazzo.
The following web resources were mentioned by many people:
Prezi, VoiceThread, Google Apps, Twitter (and Twitter Clients), Glogster, Ning (and Ning Apps), PB Works, and Delicious.

Lessons Learned and Looking Forward:
Most of the responses in these categories focused not on the technology so much as the people (students and colleagues). Check out all of the responses here.

Scriblink - Your Online Collaborative Whiteboard

Scriblink is essentially a whiteboard with an integrated instant messaging system. Scriblink users can draw, type, or edit images on a whiteboard. Users have the option of sharing their whiteboard with others and allowing other users to collaborate on the whiteboard. Scriblink does not require you to set up an account or register in order to use the whiteboard. Simply enter the email address of the person you want to collaborate with and they can join in on the fun. Every whiteboard created on Scriblink is assigned a url which you can use to share your whiteboard.

Applications for Education
Scriblink is an easy way to share notes, outlines, and drawings with students. Invite students to collaborate on an online whiteboard to work through difficult math problems or brainstorm on the completion of a graphic organizer.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Scribblar - Simple, Effective, Creative Collaboration
Postica - Collaborative Sticky Notes

The History of Christmas

History.com has a series of videos, fact sheets, and quizzes about the history of Christmas. The videos cover many aspects of the history of Christmas, but the overall intent of videos is to explain why Christmas is celebrated as it is today. In addition to videos about Christmas, History.com has videos about the histories of Hanukkah and New Year's Eve.

Check out Larry Ferlazzo's list find more materials on the histories of Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Virtual Dinosaur Dig

The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History has three great interactive activities about dinosaurs. There is a virtual tour in which students can tour the museum and see close-ups of exhibits. The interactive timeline provides students with an overview of the Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and Cenozoic eras. The most fun of the interactive activities is the virtual dinosaur dig. In the virtual dinosaur dig students use a variety of archeologists' tools to unearth fossils and then assemble those fossils.



Applications for Education
The Smithsonian's virtual dinosaur dig could be a fun way for elementary school and middle school students to learn about archeology. The other interactive resources from the Smithsonian are also informative although not quite as engaging and the dinosaur dig.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Download a Dinosaur
Fun Dinosaur Games and Lesson Plans
Dinosaur Trivia Game

Pennsylvania Civil War 150 Interactive Soldier

I've mentioned Teaching the Civil War with Technology a couple of times in the past because it is an excellent blog that every US History teacher should follow. Recently through Teaching the Civil War with Technology I learned about the Pennsylvania Civil War 150 website. On Pennsylvania Civil War 150 you can find interactive timelines, interactive maps, artifact displays, and a neat interactive soldier display. Through the interactive soldier students can see how a cannon was loaded and fired, examine the intricacies of a Union uniform, and watch soldiers act out common field commands such as "charge bayonets."

On a related note, make sure you check out Civil War Sallie which is the companion site to Teaching the Civil War with Technology. Civil War Sallie won the 2009 Edublog Award for best student blog.

Applications for Education
The interactive soldier on Pennsylvania Civil War 150 could be a great way to bring a study of the US Civil War to life. If you really wanted to get your students physically, actively engaged in a lesson you could have them study how the soldiers act out field commands then have the students try to act out field commands themselves.

Here are some related resources that may be of interest to you:
Three Good WWI Resources from the BBC
American President - An Online Reference
The Science and Technology of WWII

NORAD Tracks Santa on Google Earth

Those of you who have young children that still believe in Santa may be interested in this. NORAD and Google have again partnered to track Santa's travels on Christmas Eve. Beginning at 2am EST on December 24, if you visit NORADSanta.org you will be able to track Santa's travels in Google Earth. Read more about this on the Google LatLong Blog. The video about last year's travels is embedded below.

Screenpresso Looks Promising for Screen Captures

Screenpresso is a new screen capture program for Windows. Screenpresso has all of the features such as image resizing, annotation options, and format variety that you would expect from a screen capture program. Screenpresso also features like Twitter integration which are not always found in screen capture programs. The most unique option in Screenpresso is the ability to stitch together multiple screen captures. Stitching allows you to include scrolling in your screen captures. The scrolling option could be very useful for showing people how to work through a large page that doesn't fit into a typical screen capture. For example all of the front page of Free Technology for Teachers doesn't fit into a typical screen capture. Using Screenpresso you could create a screen capture of the entire front page.

Applications for Education
Screen captures, particularly annotated screen captures, can be very useful for giving directions to students and colleagues about how to use a piece of software or how to navigate a website. Using Screenpresso you can make annotated screen captures then post them to Twitter, email them, or post them on your blog or wiki.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Four Free Tools for Creating Screencasts
A Very Simple Way to Make Screen Captures
Screenr - A Simple Tool for Creating Screencasts

My Seven Edublogging Secrets

I'm often asked, via email and or in-person, questions about how I find the time to blog and questions about building a blog audience. While I am by no means a "pro blogger" or a "social media expert," I do have some tips that can help new(er) education bloggers. The following tips apply to those people who would like to expand the size of their blog's audience. If you're not interested in this topic, skip this post and I promise the next one will be back to "regularly scheduled programming."

1. Identify a niche for your blog and write for that niche. You might be thinking that "education" is a niche, but it's not. A niche is something like "K-12 School Leadership" or "Technology in the Elementary School Classroom." Identifying a niche does two things for you. A niche helps visitors quickly identify what your blog is about. A niche also helps you identify topics for your writing.

2. Post consistently. You don't have to post five things a day to build an audience. In fact, you don't even have to post everyday, but you do need to post consistently. Chris Guillebeau has built a huge audience by posting three times a week on a regular schedule. In addition to posting on a regular schedule, post with a consistent voice (see #1 above).

3. Link to other bloggers. If you read a post on someone else's blog that inspired the post you're currently writing, link to that person. If you're quoting someone, make sure you link to that person. And if you use someone else's slideshow, video, or audio make sure you link to that person (I forgot to do this once and was very embarrassed). Linking to others is not only the right thing to do, it can also be the way to get on another blogger's radar for the right reasons (I'll talk about the wrong reasons later). If you link to another blogger, he or she may see your post even if they're not a regular reader of your blog. Down the road that blogger may link back to you.

4. Write original material. It's fine to quote other people and or to post other people's presentations, but in doing so make sure you're adding value to that work (also make sure you link to them, see #3). Adding value can be writing a commentary about a video and how that video influenced your thinking. Adding value could also be a critical commentary designed to spark conversation. Simply copying and pasting another person's blog posts without adding value, even if you link to that person, is not only bad etiquette, it can be a violation of copyright.

5. Network. Get on Twitter or Plurk or FriendFeed and contribute to conversations there. (Read this post for ideas about finding other teachers on Twitter). If you're making good, insightful, or helpful contributions to conversations, people will be more inclined to check out your blog. Don't be afraid to self-promote, but do so sparingly. (As Chris Brogan says, don't be that guy).

6. Remember, it's not about you, it's about your readers. People come to your blog for a reason. That reason may be to further their learning, to be inspired, or to be entertained. Whatever the reason, they're coming with an expectation and you need to try to meet that expectation.

7. Don't stress-out over fluctuations in statistics. Watching the statistics of your blog can be stressful if you worry about every fluctuation. The statistics do give you some nice feedback about things like the type of post that appeal to your readers, but don't obsess over daily fluctuations. Instead look at weekly or monthly statistics to see if your audience is growing. Think of it this way; the more readers you have, the more people you will have stop reading.

As I said at the beginning, I'm not a "pro blogger" or "social media expert" so take my advice with a grain of salt. If you're interested in what the "experts" have to say I recommend Pro Blogger, Chris Brogan, and Gary Vaynerchuk.

Do you have your own advice for new bloggers? If so, please leave a comment.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Vocabulix - Learn Spanish, German, and English

Vocabulix provides numerous free tools for learning Spanish, German, or English. On Vocabulix can be used to create quizzes or take quizzes online. Vocabulix provides dozens of drills and activities designed to help students learn Spanish, German, or English. The verb conjugation chart can be used on the Vocabulix website. The verb conjugator code is freely available for use in third party blogs, wikis, or websites. As most new language learning websites do, Vocabulix has a social networking option that helps match native speakers with learners.

Applications for Education
Vocabulix is a great tool for independent study or practice of a foreign language. The activities are short and sweet and give students instant feedback. The pre-made Vocabulix exercises are flexible enough for use with a wide range of students from beginners to advanced language learners. Students can select the type of response, multiple choice or written response, the level of difficulty, and choice of having or not having visual clues.
The verb conjugator widget is a nice tool to include on your class blog, wiki, or website to support student learning outside of the classroom.


Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
CAPL - Images for Language Lessons
Study Spanish - Free Lessons With Progress Tracking
Story Place - Digital Stories in English and Spanish