Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Teaching Google Search - Seminar Tomorrow!

Last week in a post about lesson plans for teaching web search strategies I mentioned a seminar that Google is offering this week. Tomorrow at 8pm EST, 5pm PST, Google is hosting a webinar about teaching web search strategies in the classroom. You can get all of the details and register here.

You can find lesson plans, including slide presentations, about teaching web search strategies on the Google for Educators page.

Free Science Books Online

Science Books Online is a directory of free ebooks for all areas of science. The books range from small PDF pamphlets to full-length texts made available in electronic form for free. Most of the materials have to be downloaded in order to be viewed but there are some materials that you can view directly within your browser.

Applications for Education
Science Books Online and similar ebook directories can provide excellent supplemental materials for your curriculum at no cost. In some cases you may even be able to find ebooks that can replace your textbooks and save your school thousands of dollars.

Ten Spelling Games and Lessons

1. Spelling Wizard from lets students, parents, and teachers create their own word search and word scramble games to play online. Each game can have up to ten words. To use Spelling Wizard simply enter ten words into the list field then select word search or word scramble. Spelling Wizard is probably best suited for students in Kindergarten through second grade. Scholastic also offers a free tool for creating online spelling flashcards.

2. Read Write Think has an online activity for young (K-2) students based on four childrens' books. Read Write Think's Word Wizard asks students to select one of four books that they have read or have had read to them. After selecting a book the Word Wizard creates a simple online spelling exercise based on the words in the book chosen by the child.

3. Spell Bee was developed at Brandeis University with funding from the National Science Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Spell Bee allows students to play spelling games in a head-to-head format. Spell Bee allows teachers to create accounts for students so that teachers can track student progress.

4. MSNBC has an interactive spelling bee based on the words from the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee. There are three games to play and the words get progressively more difficult the longer you play. The words are read to students who then type the word into the spelling box. Just like in a real spelling bee, students can get the definition and or hear it used in a sentence. The difficulty of the words in the game make it best suited for middle school and high school students.

5. Spelling Bee The Game is an online spelling bee similar in style to the MSNBC game mentioned above. After selecting an avatar (game persona), students hear words read to them and have to type the correct spelling in the fields provided. If a student spells a word correctly, they move on to the next level. If a student does not spell a word correctly, they are given an easier word to try. If students need help spelling a word, they can hear the definition read as well as hear the word used in a sentence.

6. Kids Spell provides eight free games that help students learn to spell more than 6,000 words. Kids Spell is a part of the Kids Know It Network. The Kids Know It Network provides educational games for all content areas taught in grades K-6.

7. Spin and Spell has been featured on a number of blogs over the last year. Spin and Spell asks students to select a picture and then spell the name of the item. Alternatively, students can have word select for them and then identify the correct corresponding image.

8. offers sixteen free spelling games. Most of the games seem to be designed with grades 3, 4, and 5 in mind.

9. Spelling City is a resource that Jim Moulton shared in his Best of Web 2008 presentation at the ACTEM conference in October. Spelling City not only offers games, it also offers the capability for students to type a word and hear it pronounced.

10. Catch the Spelling offers more than two dozen categories of spelling games. Each game has the same format; as words fall from the top of the screen, players have to "catch" the appropriate letters in the correct sequence to spell the word displayed at the top of the game. Players "catch" letters by moving a cursor at the bottom of the page. In some ways it reminded me of a cross between Tetris and Frogger.

PostLearn - A Global Job Board for Educators

As anyone that has looked for an employer or an employee in the education sector will tell you, the Monster-type job boards are not the best places to look. Now there's a better place to look. The new PostLearn Educational Job Board is a job board designed specifically for the education community. PostLearn is free for educators to use in their quest for their next job in education. Job seekers can set-up email alerts to be notified of new postings that meet their criteria.

Schools looking to fill job openings can use PostLearn's simple posting service. The posting process is made simple so that even those who aren't tech-savvy can post job openings. To make job posting even easier, if you mention Free Technology for Teachers, PostLearn will accept the first ten job postings via email at joe(at)

PostLearn launches today on a number of reputable education blogs. You will see the widgets displayed in the side columns of these blogs. PostLearn chose to launch this way rather than "spam" people through Twitter or email because they believe that the best candidates and employers in today's education job market are reading these blogs.

PostLearn was developed by Joseph Thibault. Some of you may be familiar with Joe through his work helping teachers develop Moodle courses.

Disclosure: I am an affiliate of PostLearn. I do not receive compensation for referring job-seekers, however I do receive compensation for referring job postings.

Kids' Online Search Habits

Last week Read Write Web ran an article about Norton's survey of kids' online search habits. The survey created a list of the 100 terms most commonly searched by kids. What is interesting about this list is that it revealed that many times kids will search for a term rather than enter the url. For example, instead of typing into the url bar, kids are searching for youtube. The same is true in the cases of Gmail, Facebook, and Google (which makes me wonder if they were "Googling" Google).

The RWW article and the Norton list both make me wonder what kids are being taught about how to use the Internet or if they're being taught at all in some cases. Does your school district have a program in place to teach students the difference between the url bar and the search bar? Who does that teaching, is it the responsibility of the general classroom teacher or is there someone whose job it is to just teach computer and internet use? Which way is most effective?

This is the method used by Norton to generate the survey results.
"Between February 2009 and July 2009, Symantec tracked a total of 3.5 million searches that were submitted by users of their OnlineFamily.Norton service. The list of search terms was ranked from those submitted most frequently to those submitted the least. In order to be included in the list of kids’ top search terms, a search term had to have been submitted at least 50 times by registered users of OnlineFamily.Norton."

Image credit: Flickr user Old Shoe Woman