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Friday, December 3, 2010

Google Teacher Academy Sydney

Google recently announced that applications are now being accepted for the next Google Teacher Academy. The next GTA will be held on March 10, 2011 in Sydney, Australia. Applications are due by January 27, 2011. As always only 50 applicants will be accepted. You can learn more and apply here. If you're interested in knowing more about the purpose of GTA, watch the video here.

I attended the Google Teacher Academy held in Washington, DC in 2009 and have some advice for applicants. Applicants are required to create a one minute video about a topic GTA specifies. For some people creating the video is the hardest part of the application. If you're concerned about making a video, please read my reflections on the video requirement here. Here's a part of that post:
1. The video is just one part of the application. The GTA application process is not a film production competition. If you're not great at video production, just remember that it's the message of the video that is more important than fancy animations and transitions. Make sure your video accurately portrays your thoughts. Watch my video and you'll see that I lacked fancy transitions, but I made sure the audience got my message.
2. The application is designed to get a sense of your overall body of work in the educational technology community. Focus on your strengths in the application. If you have a large following on your blog, on Twitter, or you work with 3,000 teachers a year, make sure that is clear.
3. Look at other application videos for ideas. You can see mine here, this is Kevin Jarrett's, and this one is Tara Seale's. You'll see three different approaches in these videos, but all three of us were accepted to GTA.

Let's Crate - A Simple Way to Share Files

In some of my side projects I occasionally find myself needing to share files that are larger than my email service or my recipient's email service can handle. In the past I would use Drop.io or File Dropper to share those large files. This afternoon I learned about a new file sharing service called Let's Crate that I'll try in the future.

Let's Crate is very easy to use. To use Let's Crate just drag a file from your desktop to the Let's Crate page. Let's Crate then creates a unique url that you can send to others so that they can access your file. The unique url expires after 30 minutes unless you create a free Let's Crate account in which case you can keep files on Let's Crate as long as you need them.

Applications for Education
Let's Crate is a nice alternative to sending mass emailings of large files. Instead of emailing documents to students and parents you can just direct them to a URL. This frees up space in your email application and in your recipient's email application.

Now of course you could much of the same thing by hosting your files on Google Docs and posting them online. But I realize that not everyone is a Google Docs fan boy like me and I think that I should share some non-Google Docs ideas every once in a while.

Write Comics - A Simple Comic Strip Generator

Update: As of December 6, 2011 Write Comics seems to have gone offline. :(

Write Comics is a free, simple tool for creating comic strips. Write Comics doesn't require any registration to use. In fact, registration is not even an option. To create a comic on Write Comics just select a background from the menu, choose some characters, and add some speech bubbles. You can continue adding frames until you've completed your story. Write Comics is quite easy to use, but there is one short-coming and that is the only way you can save your work is to save it to your local hard drive.

Applications for Education
Creating comics can be a good way to get reluctant writers to develop stories. Write Comics enables students who don't think they're good artists to create comics and focus on story development without worrying about their artist abilities.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Chogger - Create a Comic Strip
Create Your Own Super Hero Comic
Strip Generator - Drag and Drop Comic Creation

10+ Alternatives to Drop.io

Last month Drop.io announced that they are shutting down on December 15. I just posted a reminder about that and promised to follow up with some alternatives to the services that Drop.io offered. Here are ten alternatives to the ten things teachers could do with Drop.io in the past.

1. Post documents and PDFs for others to view and download.
This can be done with many blog and website building platforms including Google Sites, Blogger, and Edublogs. But if you don't want to go that route you could use a service such as Issuu, DocStoc, or Scribd to host your PDFs and manage their downloads. All three of those services provide you with a few different formats for embedding your documents into a blog or website.


2. Post documents, links, videos, audio files for others to access and comment on.
Again, this is pretty much the purpose of a blog. I'm partial to Blogger, but WordPress, Edublogs, and Posterous are also excellent platforms. 


3. Create voice recordings in MP3 format.
Vocaroo is a free service that allows users to create audio recordings without the need to install any software. You don't even have to create an account to use Vocaroo. All you need to provide is a microphone. To create a recording just go to Vocaroo.com, click record, grant Vocaroo access to your mic, and start talking. After completing your recording, Vocaroo gives you the choice to publish it or to scrap it and try again.

MyPodcast.com provides free podcast hosting as well as free podcast recording software. (The software is available for PC only). I tested out the software a while back and found it to be more than adequate for creating vocal podcasts. For schools that do not use Apple computers (Garage Band is standard on Mac) MyPodcast.com is a good, free podcasting tool.

4. Establish a voicemail box at no cost to you.
For readers in the US Google Voice provides you with a phone number that can ring all of your landline and mobile phones simultaneously. You can choose settings in your Google Voice account to send all calls to your Google Voice number directly to voicemail where you can then play them back or have them transcribed for reading. Google Voice also offers a slew of other features that you might find handy.

5. Host online presentations.
There is no shortage of services that allow you to host presentations online. Here are a couple that I like:

Vokle is a free service for hosting and recording live web conferences. Using Vokle you can host a live conference in which participants can chat with text while you broadcast yourself. You can also broadcast a conversation of yourself and another person who has their webcam enabled. The text chat room can be used to organize a line-up of people who would like to broadcast themselves to the other chat participants. 

Join.me is a free service offered by Log Me In. Join.me allows Mac and Windows users to quickly share their screens with each other and work together. To use Join.me you do need to download the Join.me client. Once you've downloaded the client you can start sharing your screen with anyone you like. Just give your nine digit access number to your collaborators to give them access to your screen and to converse with you. 

6. Chat with others accessing your Drop.io page. 
Scribblar is a free, simple service designed for creative, real-time collaboration. Using Scribblar, users can collaborate on the creation and editing of images and drawings. If you have an image you can upload it to your whiteboard where you and others can edit it or comment on it. The commenting can take place directly on the whiteboard or in one of two side bar chat options. Users can chat in text or in voice. In the last few months Scribblar has added a mathematics equations editor and support for PPT files. 


7. Create an anonymous @drop.io email account. 
There is no shortage of services offering "disposable" or "temporary" email addresses. If you're wondering why anyone would need a disposable email address, Wikipedia offers a decent explanation. Here are a couple to look at if you need a disposable or temporary email address: mailexpire and mailinator.

8. Create a "drop box" to collect work from students using the Drop.io upload widget.
This is the feature that I thought I was going to miss the most because I was using Drop.io to collect a lot of assignments from students. I have found a new service that I like even better than Drop.io.

DROPitTOme is a free service that works with Drop Box to allow people to upload files to your Drop Box account without giving them access to the contents of your Drop Box account. For those not familiar with Drop Box it is a service that provides 2GB of free online file storage (by the way, that's way more than the 100mb Drop.io offered). You can access your Drop Box from any computer and most mobile devices. You can also sync it across multiple computers. The best part is you receive a notification every time someone adds a file to your Drop Box (you can disable this if you want).

9. Use Drop.io bookmarklets to bookmark links and add them to your Drop.io page.
Again, this is a function for which there is no shortage of replacements. I put together a list of seven good ones here. I've also been promoting Google Bookmarks for the last few months. Learn how to use Google Bookmarks in my free publication Google for Teachers II. If you're looking for a way to send bookmarks to multiple places, I recommend trying Shareaholic.

10. Offer RSS feed for updates to your Drop.io page.
Any blog or website platform worth its salt will offer this as a standard option. If you want to track the number of people subscribing to your blog or website, give FeedBurner a try. 


Reminder - Drop.io Is Shutting Down

Just a quick reminder for Drop.io users. Drop.io is shutting down on December 15. If you don't get your files before then, they will be gone. Drop.io was a great service and one that I often promoted on Free Technology for Teachers and in workshops over the last three years. I have post scheduled that will highlight some alternatives to Drop.io.

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