Thursday, March 5, 2009

Shutterborg - Very Simple Word Processor

Shutterborg is the simplest web based word processing program that I've tried. Shutterborg does word processing and nothing more. As you'll see in the screen shot below the user interface is very clean and simple.

Applications for Education
Shutterborg is a simple tool, good for introducing young students to web based word processing. The user interface couldn't be more clean and straight-forward.

There are a couple of drawbacks to Shutterborg that might prevent it from being widely adopted. Unlike most web based word processors, Shutterborg does not allow for collaboration between users. To save work created in Shutterborg it has to be exported to your local computer as a pdf, Word, or html file.

Seven Ways to Find Teachers on Twitter

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 3000+ followers and I'm also following 2900+ Twitter users. As the size of my network increases so to do 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.

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.

Connecting Classrooms Through Voice Thread

I've written about Voice Thread quite a bit in the past as a tool for connecting classrooms and for involving parents and grandparents in student projects. Voice Thread is a great tool for hosting online conversations about pictures and or documents. Voice Thread can be used to connect classrooms around the world to create a global conversation.

Recently, Colette Cassinelli added a new element to her VoiceThread for Education wiki designed to help teachers find other teachers who would like to connect their classrooms. If you haven't checked out Colette's wiki, I encourage you to do so. The VoiceThread for Education wiki has many excellent ideas for and examples of using VoiceThread in education. There is something for everyone in the VoiceThread for Education wiki, even mathematics teachers.

On Board the Titanic - Virtual Field Trip

On Board the Titanic is a virtual field trip produced by Discovery. To take the field trip students select one of five characters to be as they set sail on the Titanic. When selecting a character the students do not know who they are or if they will survive until the night of the sinking. Students will spend four or five virtual days learning about the ship and their character. Only on the night of April 15, 1912 do they learn who they are and if they will survive.

Applications for Education
On Board the Titanic is a good resource for elementary and middle school students learning about the Titanic. On Board the Titanic could be used as part of a larger lesson on early 20th century history. After taking the virtual field trip an extension activity could be to have students invent a character and write their own story about the Titanic.

Two Ways to Watch National Geographic Online

As we all know, National Geographic has some of the world's best documentary films. Most of these documentaries are available for purchase on DVD. However, in these tough economic times school budgets may not allow for the purchase of all the films that you would like. If you're in this situation, there are two ways that you can view National Geographic videos online.

The National Geographic Channel's video page has hundreds of videos that you can browse through, watch, and embed into your own blog or website. Good news for readers outside of the US, most of these videos are available for viewing outside of the US. To view the videos outside of the US click the "outside the US?" link in the upper right had corner of the video page. The only drawback to the National Geographic Channel's video page is that it doesn't have a good search feature so you have to browse through a lot of videos to find what you want. Some of the videos are full-length documentaries and others are just short snippets of video.

Snag Films has become one of my favorite places to find full-length documentary films. Snag Films has a National Geographic section offering more than 60 full-length documentaries for free viewing. All of these videos can be watched on the Snag Films website or "snagged" and embedded into your blog or website.