Wednesday, November 17, 2010

GooEdit - Image Editing With Google Chrome

GooEdit is a free image editing tool that operates as a Google Chrome extension. GooEdit allows you to edit images without having to leave your browser. You can add outlines, flip images, resize images, and do other basic image editing tasks in GooEdit. If you need a simple image editing tool for your students, give GooEdit a try. Learn more about GooEdit in the episode of TekZilla embedded below.

Edit Google Docs on a Field Trip

Google made a couple of noteworthy announcements today (here and here) regarding Google Docs. The most noteworthy of the two announcements is that new version of the Google Docs editor (the version launched last spring) now supports editing from Android and iOS powered devices including the iPad. To edit from your mobile device just go to then while viewing the document you want to edit press the "edit" button to switch to the mobile version. This feature will be rolled-out over the next few days. Watch the video below to see the mobile editor in action.

The second announcement Google made today regarding Google Docs is an enhancement to auto-correcting typing mistakes and an enhancement to the equation editor. The auto-correct feature allows you to specify which words Google Docs will correct for you. The equation editor now allows for LaTeX shortcuts to type out equations.

Applications for Education
When I read about the option for mobile editing of Google Docs my thoughts immediately went to field reporting. Mobile editing of Docs means that students can on a field trip, outside collecting data, or riding the school bus and working on their documents. Here's what I'm thinking about, a common field trip for New England area students is to go to Boston and walk the Freedom Trail. While walking the Freedom Trail students can record observations and make notes directly into a working document that they then elaborate on when they return to school.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Google for Teachers
Twenty Google Tools Tutorials for Teachers
Google for Teachers II

Who Wants To Be A Mathionaire?

I have to admit that I'm not crazy about "drill and kill" educational games. That said, this evening I saw a good example of an elementary level math game being used effectively. Here's the story. This evening my girlfriend and I are babysitting our six year old neighbor (Logan). One of his homework assignments was to practice his addition skills. To that end, my girlfriend (Denise) found some online games for him to play. One of those games was Who Wants To Be A Mathionaire found on Math is Fun.

Who Wants To Be A Mathionaire isn't unlike a lot of other mathematics games that ask students to answer questions and move through progressively more difficult problems until they reach the final goal or get too many wrong answers. What made tonight's experience different for me is that I saw Denise not let Logan just guess at the answers. She broke out the number line he had made at school and had him do the problems before selecting an answer. Since Who Wants To Be A Mathionaire isn't a timed game there wasn't any pressure on Logan to answer before a timer went off. There was still an element of reward though because each correct answer took Logan a step closer to becoming a "millionaire."
Number line is mostly blocked by Logan's head.

I'm still not sold on the idea of turning a whole class loose at once on "drill and kill" educational games as a lesson plan, but I can now see how they could be valuable activities in the right setting.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
10 Sources of Educational Science Games
Math Live - Animated Mathematics Lessons
Using Maps in an Elementary School Math Lesson

A Good Case for Learning a Second Language

Yesterday, I read an interesting post about the value of knowing a second language on Washington Wizards owner Ted Leonsis' blog. Leonsis is also a former president of AOL. In his post The Global Economy May Leave Our Children Behind, Leonsis points out that more Fortune 500 companies are seeking out and hiring more CEOs that can speak a second language. I encourage you to read his whole post. Leonsis promotes Rosetta Stone for learning a second language, but there are free services you can use to learn a language. Here are seven free services that can help you learn or teach a foreign language. 

Vocabulix provides numerous free tools for learning Spanish, German, or English. 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.

Forvo can best be described as an audio wiki for word pronunciations. One of the problems with learning to speak a language that is not phonetic is trying to figure out how to pronounce the words. Forvo hosts hundreds of recordings of word pronunciations by native speakers. Currently there are nearly 200 languages supported on Forvo. Along with word pronunciations, Forvo provides some basic demographic information about each language. Forvo's content is user supported and user generated so new pronunciations are added every day.

CAPL, Culturally Authentic Pictorial Lexicon, is a project developed by Dr. Michael Shaughnessy at Washington & Jefferson College. The purpose of CAPL is to provide images that demonstrate the true meaning and intention of the words in a language. CAPL currently has collections of images for teaching and learning English (North American), German, French, Chinese, and Spanish. CAPL also has images for Japanese, Russian, and Ukranian. All of the images in the collection are licensed under a Creative Commons license that allows for re-use and manipulation for non-commercial purposes.

Verbs Online provides foreign language students with a good selection of activities for practicing verb conjugations. Practice activities are available in English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, and Portuguese. The practice activities deal with the past, present, and future tenses of regular and irregular verbs. Students can choose to do the activities in sets of ten through fifty practice items.

Make Beliefs is a free comic strip creation tool that provides students with a variety of templates, characters, and prompts for building their own comic strips. Make Beliefs provides students with a pre-drawn characters and dialogue boxes which they can insert into each box of their comic strip. The editing options allow users the flexibility to alter the size of each character and dialogue bubble, bring elements forward within each box, and alter the sequence of each box in the comic strip. Students that have trouble starting a story can access writing prompts through make beliefs. Most impressively, Make Beliefs allows users to write their comic strip's dialogue in English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, or Latin.

Euronews news videos is a service offering news videos in ten languages. Each video is accompanied by a written transcript directly under it as it is playing. Each of the news segments that I watched this afternoon were relatively short which means the transcripts are also relatively short. The brevity of the transcripts makes reading the transcripts not such a daunting task for struggling readers.

Hello World provides games and activities for students to develop their knowledge of foreign languages. Hello World has games and activities in nine languages including Spanish, French, and Mandarin Chinese. Not all of the games and activities are free, but enough of them are free to warrant listing as a good place for free learning activities.

Daniel Pink on Why Tying Teacher Pay to Test Scores Won't Work

Wes Fryer has a series of posts about the Creativity World Forum happening in Oklahoma this week.  One of those posts features a fifteen minute video excerpt of Daniel Pink talking about creativity and motivation.  I've watched Daniel Pink speak a few times and I read his work as well so I wasn't going to watch this video right away until I read this part of the talk description written by Wes.
"His discussion of how research linking teacher pay to student test scores has shown ZERO positive impact on student achievement is particularly important and relevant today."

Go to Wes Fryer's post to read more or watch the video below. 

You may also be interested in watching Pink's TED Talk The Strange Science of Motivation.

Do You Like Maps? Check Out The Map Room

For as long as I can remember I have loved to look at maps. It's probably one of the reasons I always did well in my social studies classes. If you're like me and you enjoy maps too, you should check out a blog titled The Map Room that I recently discovered. Even if you're not a map lover, but you teach social studies you should also browse The Map Room. The Map Room is a blog about all things maps. You'll find a variety of creative uses of maps in The Map Room. I should warn you though that the author of the site does occasionally use some language that is not appropriate for school so you probably don't want to send students to browse it. I'll use The Map Room for inspiration and ideas about using maps in ways that I haven't previously thought of.

Update: As Stephen Downes reminds us, another excellent place to find interesting maps is Strange Maps.