Friday, February 27, 2009

How My Students Used Today

I've written about a number of times in the past (here, here, and here) and I continue to find new ways to take advantage of all that has to offer. For those readers not familiar with, the basic purpose of is to provide a simple file, private sharing system. gives users the ability to create a page of documents, links, and audio files in a matter of seconds.

Today, I gave one of my classes an assignment about the transcontinental railroad, the settlement of the western United States, and the role that "the old west" played in forming the identity of America. The assignment required students to find 19th century images of the West that they thought symbolized characteristics and stereotypes of the West. After finding the images, the students had to write a short justification for the selection of each image. I could have had the students print each image they found, but our school only has black and white laser printers so the quality of image prints is not good. Here's where entered the picture; I had each student (there is only four in this class) create a page on which they added links to the images they found. Along with each image link the students had to write a short note justifying the selection of each image.

The students enjoyed creating these digital portfolios and they now have something that they can continue to add to for the rest of the year. Using to have students create digital portfolios for this assignment also cuts down on the pile of physical papers that I have to sort through and keep track of over the weekend.

Call Graph - Record Skype Calls for Free

If you have ever participated in a Skype conversation between classrooms and wished that you could have a recording of it for later use, Call Graph may be of interest to you. Once Call Graph is installed you can record up to 1GB of Skype conversation for free. The video embedded below provides a brief overview of Call Graph.

Applications for Education
Call Graph could be a good piece of software for teachers trying to connect classrooms and make podcasts of those conversations.

All My Faves - Great Websites for Kids

All My Faves is a catalog of websites covering a variety of topics. The Kids section of All My Faves features websites that are kid-friendly and in most cases designed for kids. In addition to the Kids section there is a Games section that includes intellectual/ trivia games.

Applications for Education
All My Faves is similar in design and purpose to Alltop. The Kids and Games sections of All My Faves are handy places to find independent learning activities for kids.

The Travels of Odysseus in Google Earth

During the one year that I taught a literature course for 9th graders, I had to teach The Odyssey. Some of the students loved it, others hated it, and others were indifferent toward the book. One of the elements of The Odyssey that some of my students struggled with was grasping a sense of the geographic setting of the story. Had it been available at the time, I would have had those students explore the travels of Odysseus in this Google Earth file.

Applications for Education
This is a great example of how literature teachers can use Google Earth to help students gain an understanding of the geographic context of the books they're reading.
For more examples of how Google Earth can be used in literature courses check out Google Lit Trips.

7 Resources for Creating Cartoons and Comics

There is no shortage online of tools for creating cartoons and comic strips. Every week it seems that I find at least one new comic creation tool. I've tried many of them and written about a few of them in the past. Today, I compiled a list of seven good cartoon and comic strip creation tools that students can access.

1. Pixton is a comic creation tool that has been passed around the education blog-o-sphere quite a bit lately. Pixton has a drag and drop interface which allows anyone regardless of artistic ability to create comics. Recently Pixton introduced Pixton for Schools which allows teachers to create private rooms in which only their students can create and share comics. To learn more about Pixton, watch this short video.

2. Artisan Cam is more than just a comic creator, it is a comprehensive collection of online art activities. On Artisan Cam students can use the Super Action Comic Maker to build a six frame comic. The Super Action Comic Maker has a drag and drop interface which students use to select a background and character for their comics.

On Artisan Cam students can also try their hand at virtual sculpting, jewelry design, and card making.

The next five comic creation tools have previously been written about on Free Technology for Teachers.

3. PikiKids provides a variety of layouts to which students can upload images then edit the images or add text bubbles and titles. The comics that students create can be embedded into a blog or website as well as be shared via email. You can read more of my original post about PikiKids here.

4. Comiqs provides users with the choice of using pre-made images from the drag and drop menu or creating original doodles to use in their comic strips. Comiqs presents your finished product in a slideshow format rather than a traditional comic strip format. Read more about Comiqs including a note about the Comiqs terms of service here.

5. Be Funky is a fun, easy-to-use tool for turning digital photos into digital comics. Be Funky can be used for simple one frame images or be used to create an entire strip of cartoonized images with inserted text. You can learn more about Be Funky and watch a video introduction to Be Funky here.

6. Make Beliefs provides students with a pre-drawn characters and dialogue boxes which they can insert into each box of their comic strip. One of the most impressive features of Make Beliefs is that it allows students to create dialogues in seven different languages. Click here for more information about Make Beliefs.

7. Art Pad and Sketch Pad aren't designed specifically for cartooning, but they certainly can be used to create comics. I used Sketch Pad to create my cartoon Every Teacher Should Have a Blog. Art Pad and Sketch Pad are designed for free hand doodling and drawing. Art Pad offers a few more options than Sketch Pad, specifically Art Pad allows you to selectively erase parts of a drawing while Sketch Pad's only erase option erases the entire drawing. You can read more about Art Pad and Sketch Pad here.