Monday, February 28, 2011

Come Work With Me This Summer

This summer on the campus of Harvard University on July 25 and 26 I will be co-teaching with Tom Daccord Best Web 2.0 Tools & Apps for Teachers. This will be two days of hands-on learning about Web 2.0 tools that you can leverage to transform learning. We will also be exploring mobile apps that you can leverage for learning. So bring your laptop and your favorite iOS or Android device and join us for hands-on learning. Graduate credit is available. Click here to read the full workshop description, schedule details, and to register.

Please note, while it is held on the Harvard campus, this is not a Harvard course.

Vyew - Host Online Conferences for Free

Last week I wrote about four ways to give short presentations online. This morning, through Kevin Jarrett's excellent blog, I learned of another service to add to that list. Vyew is an online presentation tool that does not require you to download anything and can be used for free with up to 20 participants.

Vyew offers tools for uploading slides and talking about them with other participants. You can also upload documents and annotate and discuss them with other participants in your Vyew room. Vyew provides you with a whiteboard on which you can type and draw. If you want to share your computer's screen with other people in your Vyew room you can do that too. Vyew users can talk to each other using voice and text chat.

Applications for Education
Vyew's collaborative whiteboard feature could make it a good tool for giving short mathematics lessons or lessons about any other topic in which a sequence of steps needs to be written or drawn out live.

Class Blogs - Blogs for Classrooms

There is no shortage of blogging services available for free to teachers and school administrators. Some free services offer more features than others. One newer blogging service that is offering a lot to teachers at no cost is Class Blogs.

Class Blogs is a blogging service based on the WordPress Multi User platform. The service isn't open to everyone yet, you have to register for an invitation, but for your consideration here is a run-down of what they offer. Users can create as many free, ad-free blogs as they like. This means that for someone like myself who teaches multiple sections of a course, each section could have its own blog. If you plan to have students blogging, you can batch register students to expedite the process of joining your blog. Class Blogs also aims to be a LMS by offering you the option to create, distribute, and grade student assignments online. Finally, Class Blogs has an option for giving live online presentations.

Applications for Education
If Class Blogs delivers on all that it promises in its features list, it could become a central location for all of the online materials you use in your classes. Not only will you be able to do all of the things that blogs are great for, like keeping a record of your lessons, students sharing insights, but you will also be able to give presentations online and keep track of grades. Those last two items are not something you can do within most blogging platforms.

If you're wondering why you should have a blog for your classroom, check out what the kids in the video below have to say.

Vocab Genii - Challenging Vocabulary Games

Vocab Genii is a new site offering challenging vocabulary games. The basic purpose of Vocab Genii is to offer games that require players to unscramble letters to create a word that matches the definition provided. Players can select the level of difficulty for each game that they play. I tried it out this morning and found that even some of the "easy" words were quite challenging. Vocab Genii can be played by registering directly on the site or connecting through your Facebook account.

Applications for Education
Vocab Genii could be a nice way for students to challenge themselves to test and expand their vocabularies. The option to connect to the game through Facebook makes it possible for students to start playing the games in a matter of seconds.

Snag Learning Film of the Week - Last Voyage of the Lusitania

The last US Veteran of WWI died yesterday at 110 years old. One of the events of WWI that is often included in lessons about WWI is the sinking of the luxury passenger ship Lusitania. The sinking heightened calls in the US for joining the war, but President Wilson resisted. None-the-less, the sinking of the Lusitania was significant in shaping public opinion about the war. In The Last Voyage of the Lusitania National Geographic examines why the ship was attacked by Germany and why it sank so fast (in just 18 minutes). Click here to watch the film and read discussion questions.
Watch more free documentaries

Study Boost - Study Through IM and Text

Students use instant messaging and text messaging to communicate with each other all day long. Study Boost knows this and is trying to leverage that student habit to make studying a part of students' text and IM habits.

Here's how it works; students sign-up on Study Boost and link their favorite IM service or SMS (mobile number) to their Study Boost accounts. Then students create batches of questions or find batches of questions made by others. After creating and or selecting batches of questions students "activate" those questions. Activating a batch of questions means that those questions will be sent via IM or SMS at intervals specified by the student. Students answer the questions and get feedback via IM or SMS.

Watch the video below to learn more about Study Boost.

Applications for Education
Study Boost could be a good service for students to use to study on the go. Using Study Boost students traveling for club or sports activities need to only take their mobile devices with them study. As a teacher you can register and submit batches of questions that your students can study. Or students can create their own sets of questions to study.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Skype in the Classroom is Now Open

At the end of 2010 Skype announced that they were creating a directory of classrooms that want to connect with each other through Skype. This morning I learned through Read Write Web that the Skype in the Classroom community is now open. Skype in the Classroom invites teachers to create profiles that include their locations and interests. Browse the profiles of other teachers you can help or can help you and your students through Skype. When you've found someone you can add him or her to your Skype contacts.

Applications for Education
Teachers have been connecting through Skype for a while now, but until now the only way to find other teachers was through other networks like Twitter and Classroom 2.0. Now teachers can find collaboration partners within the Skype environment. If you would like to learn more about using Skype in your classroom, please read the Skype section of The Super Book of Web Tools for Educators.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Week in Review - Nebraska to Alaska

This week I had the great opportunity to work with teachers in Nebraska and Alaska. On Monday I was in Scottsbluff, Nebraska working with the staff of ESU 13 and on Friday I was in Anchorage, Alaska working with teachers in Alaska's Learning Network. I plan to write more about Alaska's Learning Network very soon. This week the posting would have been lighter if not for the help of my friends and guest bloggers Steven Anderson, Mary Beth Hertz, Kyle Pace, Beth Still, and Harold Shaw thank you all.

The picture you see is me with a "real Alaska bushman" that I met on the streets of Anchorage. He was collecting donations of the wounded veterans of Alaska association.

Here are the most popular posts of the week:
1. 10 Ways for Students and Teachers to Build Websites
2. Four Ways to Give Short Presentations Online
3. VuSafe - A Safe Way to View YouTube in Schools
4. My PD Resources Site - My Favorite Resources
5. The Awesome Library
6. The US Presidents in Google Earth
7. Think Tutorial Now Offers More Than 1000 Tutorials

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Graph Google Books Over Time

A couple of months ago Google launched a new application in Google Labs (the experimental section of Google products) called the Books Ngram Viewer. The Books Ngram Viewer provides users with a tool for graphing when and how frequently phrases, names, and words have appeared in the books archived by Google Books. Watch the short video below for a visual explanation of the Books Ngram Viewer.

Applications for Education
The Books Ngram Viewer could be a neat way to compare when and how frequently terms historically appeared in books. For example, in the graph below you can see when the names Rockefeller and Carnegie started appearing in books. After creating the graph, you can click through to find the books that were published in those years.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Protests Across the Middle East on a Google Map

Through the Google Lat Long blog I discovered a site called Storyful that is producing maps of the protests  in the Middle East and North Africa. While they're producing maps of individual countries, they've also produced a map about protests across the whole of the Middle East and North Africa. Like all good Google Maps, this one includes images, links, text, and video clips. You can view the map below or click here to view the full size map.

View Protests across the Middle East in a larger map

Applications for Education
Keeping up with developments in the Middle East and North Africa is one of the things that the students in my Global Studies course have to do this semester. This map could be very helpful for them in reaching that goal. In general, I like maps like this one because it puts global news into a geographic context that students can see.

Hearing Loss - Causes and Prevention

You Want to Lose Your Ears? is an infographic produced by Big Oak for the Ear Plug Superstore. As you can see in the image below, the infographic outlines some common and uncommon causes of hearing loss. The infographic also recommends some ways to prevent hearing loss.
Click for source and full size image.
Applications for Education
Infographics like these can make for good classroom displays. This one in particular could be useful for health teachers.

H/T to Cool Infographics.

Advice and Instruction for Teaching Online

This is a bit of repost from December. I'm doing this for the great folks who were in attendance at the Alaska's Learning Network's conference/ workshop today. The conference/ workshops were all about using technology to create blended learning environments. I'll be post more about this great organization in a post later tonight.

Curt Bonk is a professor at the Indiana State University School of Education. Professor Bonk has produced a series of 27 videos containing strategies and tips for teaching online. The first video in the series, Planning an Online Course, is embedded below.

And for a text primer on teaching online courses, please see the "teaching online" section of The Super Book of Web Tools for Educators.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Twitter: Keeping Up With It All

Update for clarification: In this post Steven mentions Read It Later. Read It Later is now called Pocket.

Thanks to Richard for allowing me to post on the most awesome Free Technology For Teacher Blog! I hope you are are enjoying your travels!

Steven W. Anderson is an educator, blogger, speaker and social media user. As one of the founders of #Edchat on Twitter, Steven, travels the country talking to educators about how they can harness the power of social media to create the learning spaces students need and to provide the professional development they aren't getting. When not traveling he is a District Instructional Technologist for the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools in Winston-Salem, NC. There he resides with his wife, Melissa and their 2 year old daughter, Reaghan.


I admit it.

I am addicted to Twitter.

And I have admitted that before. I truly enjoy the people I am able to connect with and have conversations with. But I am most addicted to the resources because that is how I started. I spend lots of time finding stuff for my teachers. And I figure if it works for them, why not share with other educators.

There are tons of links, articles videos and other great stuff that come across my screen everyday. I can never keep up with it all. People ask me all the time how I have time to go through everything. The key is I don't do it the moment it comes up. If I see an interesting tweet with a link and I have time, I will dig deeper but most of the time I only glance, decide if it is something to look at and save it for later.

There are lots of ways to save tweets for later. Each tweeter has an RSS feed that you can subscribe to in a reader like Google Reader or on a page like Netvibes or Pageflakes. And that is an ok way but you still have to do that for each Tweeter and still have to scroll through each user to find the good stuff.

Others suggest using a social bookmarking service like Diigo or Delicious and that is better to save links but then what if what you find is no good or not what you expected? Then you have to spend the time to go back and delete the save. And that can be time consuming. Diigo does have the advantage of the Save It Later feature that doesn't bookmark but does save for later. And it works but for me it was too many steps and I needed something that would work on any device and I can access on any device.

My favorite tools that I absolutely can not live without is Read It Later. It is a beautifully simple service that saves your links for later. The best part, the app works on just about every device out there. So I can go seamlessly from my PC, to my iTouch to my Droid and have complete functionality and access to my complete list of saves.

Sounds little like Diigo right? Don't get me wrong, I love Diigo. But the thing that sets Read It Later apart is the Unread/Read features. I have the standard list of unread links. But what if I read one, uncheck it and forget to save it to my Diigo account? No worries my friend. Read It Later saves every link I have ever saved to read later in a nice little list I can access anywhere. And it is searchable too by key term, tag or date. Now that is handy!

As I said before Read It Later is available for any browser with the simple bookmarklet. There is one for adding the site to your Read It Later List and one for marking it read. But if you want more functionality you can get the Read It Later Extensions for either Firefox or Chrome.

Want to have access on your iTouch or iPhone or iPad? No problem. There are apps for those devices too. Do you have a Droid? If you useDolphin you can use the bookmarklets or you can download the PaperDroid app in the Android Marketplace.

Once you get your list started (and you have some time) you can log into your account, anywhere you have Internet access and see all the sites you marked and can visit them at your leisure. Each site opens in a new window so you don't have to worry about going back and forth to your list. Once you are done with the site you can unckeck it but remember, you have the "Read" list so you can revisit it in the future.

One of the new features is your List with a brain. Called Digest, you get a highly organized and personalized site of all your saves that reads like a newspaper. It costs 5 bucks. I haven't done it but it looks neat.

Right now I have over 700 sites. Yep, over 700 in my list. Some have been in there since I started using the service about a year ago, and I just haven't gotten around to looking at them but I know I want to some time. So if you are looking for a quick and easy way to save all those great resources you get from Twitter that you just don't have time to check out, give Read It Later a try. I promise, you won't know what you did before it!

Video Guide to Conference Awesomeness

Earlier this month I shared with you Sacha Chua's great guide to conference awesomeness (her word choice). That guide is designed to help shy people connect with others and make the most out the conferences they attend. Well now she's made a video explaining the things in her Shy Connector's guide. The video is just under eight minutes in length. Even if you're not a shy person, the guide and video offer tips that anyone can use to maximize their conference experiences.

View All Microsoft Formats in Google Docs

Somehow I missed Google's announcement last Friday that the Google Docs viewer now supports all Microsoft Office file types. The viewer also supports Apple's Pages files. If you have files in any of those formats you can now upload them to your Google Docs account and view them from any computer. Most importantly, if someone sends you one of these file types as an attachment to your Gmail account, you can view the file without having to download it.

Applications for Education
If you work in a school environment in which your students and colleagues use a variety of word processing services the support for multiple file types in Google Docs could make managing the files sent to you a whole lot easier. Rather than trying to save files into multiple folders or trying to convert the files before saving, you can just read them in Google Docs.

Customer Service and the Services We Choose

Image Credit: RW PhotoBug
This is a guest post from Harold Shaw, Jr. Harold and I got started in the ed tech blog-o-sphere about the same and met virtually during a call-in show on Wicked Decent Learning. A few months later we met in person when he lent me an OLPC laptop to try out with students. 

I want to thank Rich for giving me the opportunity to guest post on his blog. I got the idea for this post as a result of his recent struggles with his cable company and Internet Service Provider.

Customer Service - what is it? Pretty simple in theory, taking care of the people who use your products and finding solutions to problems they are having with those products as quickly as possible. Customer service is changing due to social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, etc.  In the past most customer service issues were handled between the two parties at a relatively low organizational level. However, with the advent of social media, companies can “listen in” to know what people are really saying about their company at much higher levels - if they choose to and act upon those issues differently than they have in the past.

I recently wrote a post about MarsEdit, how it was not working for me and added the link to that post on Twitter. Within a couple of hours, I had a reply from Daniel at Red-Shirt Software asking me to contact him. We went back and forth for about a week and he figured out what the problem was, fixed the main issue I was having with MarsEdit, which made me a very happy customer. Due to his efforts I will continue using MarsEdit as my blog editor on the Mac. Also according to Daniel, they have some good things planned to improve MarsEdit and I look forward to seeing the updates that are in the pipeline.

While this is only an example of great customer service, it is not an isolated instance of companies paying attention to what is being said about their products on social media sites like Twitter.  I believe that almost all companies are actively listening to what is being said about their products on social media websites and attempt to resolve customer service issues that are discussed there as quickly as possible - they really don’t want something about their product going viral.

In today's world of Twitter, Blogging, Facebook and other forms of social media, when we review or discuss a product or service, our words can be spread to 100's, 1,000's or even more people almost instantaneously. These words can have a powerful effect on a product or business positively or negatively, therefore, we also have the responsibility to ensure that what we are saying is accurate, to the best of our ability.  

When I write and publish a post about a customer service issue or something that doesn’t work to my satisfaction and am angry or frustrated, are those the same words I would choose later?  In most cases they are not.  Usually I am simply venting and haven’t given the vendor an opportunity to actually have time to resolve the issue. Is venting this in public fair to that business or product if they haven’t had a reasonable opportunity to resolve the issue. I don’t really think so. I also know that I am not the most patient person when comes to technology  I just want it to work and work when I want it to (does that sound familiar to anyone else out there?).

I use the following rule of thumb when I am going to say something negative about a product or a businesses customer service - wait 24-48 hours (depending on how frustrated or angry I am) after writing the entry before publishing. That way I have time to take out something or edit it differently before others get to read it.  Who know perhaps, just perhaps you might get great customer service while you are waiting and have a completely different story to tell than the one you originally would have wrote about.  Then again if there is no resolution in sight and you have all you facts correct, you should be honest about what is going on, but like my grandmother used to say “a little honey goes a long way, where a lot of vinegar just doesn’t do whole lot of good sometimes.”

This relatively new power to communicate with with anyone within an organization via social media has empowered the “little guy” to be heard by people other than just that person on the other end of the phone or who reads your letter and throws it in a file “someplace”.  To my way of thinking this is a good thing.

What do you think? Has social media changed customer service in today's technology-based world? Does a company's use of social media influence your decision to use their products?

Maps Compare - Four Maps on One Page

Maps Compare is a site that allows you to compare Google Maps, Yahoo Maps, Bing Maps, and Google Earth browser plug-in on one page. To use the service just enter the name of the place you're searching for and Maps Compare will display that place on all four maps at once. Zoom in or zoom out on one of the maps and you're doing the same on the other three.
Applications for Education
Maps Compare makes it easy to compare the maps of four commonly used services. Each map displays the same place just a little bit differently. The differences could be used in an introductory lesson in geography and cartography.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Daqri - Build Your Own Augmented Reality

Daqri is a new service for creating augmented reality layers for your mobile devices. Daqri will enable users to create augmented reality products without writing any code. The service is so new that it isn't open to the public yet, but it is accepting sign-ups for their private beta. Learn more about Daqri in the video below.

Not sure what augmented reality is? Watch the video below from Common Craft.

Applications for Education
One of the potential uses I see for build your own augmented reality services is having students create layers of information about important buildings and landmarks in their towns. Students could use a service like Daqri to create walking tours of their towns that people can follow by using their mobile devices.

Wikispaces Now Offers Free Wikis to Higher Ed

To date, Wikispaces has given away more than 980,000 free advertising-free wikis to K-12 classrooms. Wikispaces has the stated goal of giving away two million advertising-free wikis to educators. To that end, Wikispaces is now giving away advertising-free wikis to higher education users. These wikis never expire and are full of the same features you would find if you were purchasing one of Wikispaces's premium $50/year wikis for a business. The free wikis for educators can be made private or public.

If you would like to learn how to create a free wiki on Wikispaces, please see my Wikispaces tutorial.

Teachers Interviewing Teachers - Reflective Practice

Image Credit: Rusty Sheriff
In the last week I've been interviewed for two different blogs, Hack Education and Against the Wind. Last month I did two live web interviews, Higher Ed Live and Classroom 2.0 Live. One of the reasons that I like to do both text and live interviews is that it gives me the opportunity to reflect on my practices both as a blogger and as a teacher. I was thinking about this this morning when it hit me, "more teachers should interview each other."

Applications for Education
Teachers interviewing teachers would provide a forum that stimulates reflection on our classroom practices. This could be done as an exercise in a staff meeting or department meeting. Develop a set a interview questions, but feel free to go off-script as necessary, and have teachers actually conduct interviews with each other. The interview doesn't necessarily have to appear on the web to be a meaningful exercise. In fact, in some cases it might be best to not have it appear on the web because some teachers may be reluctant to share their true thoughts on the web.

Snag Learning Film - Going Hollywood: The War Years

This week's Snag Learning film of the week is Going Hollywood: The War Years. Using clips of films made in Hollywood studios during World War II, Going Hollywood: The War Years explains the role of movies in shaping the American public's knowledge and opinions about WWII. You'll see clips endorsing the purchase of war bonds, endorsements for enlisting in the army, and clips encouraging viewers to support "our boys." Some of the actors and actresses appearing in these clips include Bob Hope, Gene Kelly, Katherine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, and Fred Astaire.
Watch more free documentaries
Applications for Education
For teachers of US History, this film could be a good resource for showing students the role of movies in shaping citizens' actions and attitudes during WWII. You can find discussion/ viewing questions for the film here.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Interactive Comic - The Pit and the Pendulum

Edgar Allen Poe's The Pit and the Pendulum (click link for free copy) was one of my favorite required readings when I was a middle school student. My classmates and I read the story and watched a short film version of it afterward. Now there is a new way to experience the story. The Pit and the Pendulum is now available as an interactive comic book created by Poe in the Pit. View the comic book online and you can click symbols within it to open videos, additional images, and additional background and insight into Poe's work. If you choose to print the comic book you can us the QR codes embedded within it to access the videos, images, and additional info on your mobile device.

Here's one of the videos found within the comic book.

I was sick, sick unto death with that long agony... from Into ThePit on Vimeo.

H/T to Open Culture for the link.

Grammaropolis - Fun Grammar Games & Videos

Grammaropolis is website designed to help elementary school students learn the parts of speech. Grammaropolis features cartoon characters that represent nouns, verbs, adjectives, and other parts of speech. Students can click on any of the characters to read that character's story. After going through the character stories students can watch videos about the parts of speech and play games about the parts of speech.

Here is one of the videos available on Grammaropolis.

Thanks to Kelly Tenkely for this neat resource. If you're an elementary school teacher, I highly recommend subscribing to Kelly's blog iLearn Technology.

Applications for Education
The games on Grammaropolis could provide a fun way for students to review their knowledge of the parts of speech. While I don't think it was intentionally designed for use on an interactive whiteboard, I do think that Word Sort on Grammaropolis could be a good IWB activity.

History of the U.S. Flag - Images and Video

This afternoon I found on Larry Ferlazzo's blog a neat little resource for US History teachers. US Flag: Its Meaning, Design, and History is an interactive image produced by the Sun Sentinel. Click on the interactive image to learn what the colors, stripes, and stars symbolize. Click on the stars to learn which star represent which state. Finally, click on the "flags" tab to see a timeline of all of the flags used by the United States since 1777.

Along the same lines, I found the following video overview of the history of US flags.

What We Pay For - Where Your Tax Dollars Go

In case you haven't seen the barrage of HR Block and Turbo Tax commercials on TV lately, tax season is upon us in the United States. For some of us it's a season full of stress and for others it brings relief in the form of a rebate. But just where does of all the collected tax revenue go? What We Pay For has some answers to that question.

What We Pay For uses publicly available tax data to show you how your tax money is appropriated. On the left side of the screen you will see the total revenue and appropriations for the entire United States. On the right side of the screen you can enter your filing status and pre-tax earnings for the year to see the approximate amount you will pay toward US budget items. You can enter your pre-tax earnings as an annual figure, monthly figure, weekly, daily, or hourly wage.

What We Pay For was featured on the Google Blog today as part of the announcement of a data visualization contest asks participants to develop interactive tax data displays.

Applications for Education
When high school students get their first paychecks from their first part-time jobs, they're often surprised to see that they didn't net as much as they anticipated. This leaves them wondering where their money went (as Rachel on Friends once said, "who the heck is this FICA guy?"). What We Pay For shows students where their tax money is going.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Library of Congress Virtual Tour

While perusing the app store yesterday I came across a wonderful, free app from the Library of Congress. It is a multi-faceted app that provides not only a virtual tour, but resources and mini podcasts focused on the various areas of the Library. 

Library of Congress--Virtual Tour provides not only photos of the Library's historic rooms, but historical background on them, paired with related links for further investigation and audio podcasts about items or features in each room.

I found it easy to navigate and the links open up within the app itself, which is great for moving seamlessly between the rooms.

Some applications I see for the classroom are in a Social Studies unit on anything from the early Americas to the history of our Nation. I also could see it being a fun competition between teams to find particular items or images or facts.  Students could also be charged with doing more in depth research on a particular item of their choice featured in the Library.

Have a great time in Alaska, Richard!

Posted by Mary Beth Hertz who blogs at Philly Teacher and can be found on Twitter as @mbteach.

Listening to Our Students

Thank you Richard for inviting me to guest post at Free Tech 4 Teachers. Thank you for all you do every single day to share with teachers all over the world.

I had a very insightful experience this past Friday that I'd like to share with you before we jump into some conversation starters. Some of my coworkers and I invited students to share with us what they liked (and more importantly what they didn't like) about taking one of our online courses. Mind you, this was on a district professional development day. Students did not have school. Which means they came voluntarily. I really wasn't sure heading in to this meeting what to expect. I wondered if they would really open up and talk to us about their experience with the online course(s) they took last semester.

We had about ten students come to this meeting which was great. We took a few minutes at the beginning to frame our time together and then we broke them up into a few smaller groups based on the course they took last semester. We had some guiding questions to get the conversation going and once that happened, I couldn't take notes fast enough. This was a good thing. A very good thing I quickly realized.

The students did such a great job of sharing what made the course(s) engaging and relevant for them. They were sincere, honest, and respectful with their criticisms (I didn't expect them to be disrespectful). Nothing was out of line with their requests and suggestions for how to make the courses better. Needless to say, they all had excellent points. These students were truly "getting it" about what e-learning should look like and understood its place in the rest of their educational lives. They understood where our program began, where it is now, and what we're planning the future of our online program to look like.

When this meeting was over I was blown away with these students. I was so proud of them and it was the first time I'd met them! They were so helpful. We immediately began a Google Doc for all of us to compile our thoughts from the furious note-taking we'd done.

Here's my question: Why are we not doing this more? Particularly for me I think about its potential to leverage educational technology additions and improvements. Are we spending enough time listening to students and in turn using their input to make education in general better? Kids have great things to say if we make the time to value them and listen.

I'd love to hear more ideas and examples from you in the comments section. I've already had some great discussions on Twitter around this topic so feel free to chat with me there too.

Thank you for reading.

Kyle Pace

My PD Resources Site - My Favorite Resources

It's 5:30am and I'm wide awake in Nebraska getting ready to give two presentations today for Nebraska ESU 13. While I was tweaking my PD resources site, the thought came to me that I've never shared the link to it on Free Technology for Teachers. The site is basically a collection of my favorite resources categorized according to the function they perform. You won't find resources categorized by content area. Rather you'll find it is categorized by topics like creating videos, creating blogs, creating websites, etc. I've been slowly updating it for the last eight months or so and will continue to tweak it as necessary. I hope you find it useful.

ISTE Newbie Project

My name is Beth Still and my blog is Nebraska Change Agent. I am passionate about helping teachers connect to one another and learn how to integrate the use of technology into their curriculum so that it is not an event. I have known Richard since I started following him on Twitter in 2008. He was kind enough to be the test subject of a crazy idea I came up with in March of 2009. This is that story.

My love affair with Twitter began on June 14, 2008. By the time September rolled around I was telling everyone who would listen that they needed to sign up for Twitter because it was an amazing resource. By the spring of 2009 I was really tired of people looking at me like I was some kind of freak each time I uttered the word “Twitter.” So I devised a plan that would show everyone who ever dared to question the power of Twitter that we could use it to do great things.

I decided to see if I could organize my personal learning network around a common goal. I asked them to donate funds to send one person to the National Educational Computing Conference (now called ISTE). This project came to be known as the ISTE Newbie Project and it was a huge success. Richard Byrne was the first “Newbie.” Within two weeks of launching the project we reached the goal of $1500. It never occurred to me to do the project more than once, but the response was so overwhelmingly positive I decided to do it again in 2010. Jason Schrage, a Social Studies teacher from New York, was the Newbie in 2010. For 2011, I decided to shake things up a bit by sending an administrator. George Couros, a principal from Canada, is the Newbie for 2011.

Selecting an administrator was a tough decision because I knew I would get some push back from my personal learning network. Most people have been supportive because they understand how critical it is for administrators to attend conferences so they can continue learning and also so they can network with other administrators. I realized many months ago that significant changes will not occur in schools until administrator are on board. Administrators are not our enemy. We need them and that is why I selected George.

The Newbie Project is about what we can do together as a network. It is meant to serve as an example of what one person can do when they are connected to so many people either directly or indirectly. I am a teacher in Scottsbluff, Nebraska. There aren’t many places in the United States that are more rural than where I live. This project illustrates the point that geographic location no longer matters.

For two years in a row my network has helped me accomplish a task that would have been next to impossible a few years ago. I need your help to make sure the third ISTE Newbie Project is a success as well. If everyone who reads about this project would make a $5 we could meet the goal for 2011 in no time. If you believe in the power of the network please consider making a donation. Together we can do great things!

A Fun Overview of the US Presidents

Many schools in the US are closed today for President's Day. For those who are in school today, here's a fun overview of the US Presidents courtesy of the Animaniacs. The video ends with Bill Clinton so have your students try to make up a rhyming addition to the song to include George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

My Interview on Hack Education and a FAQ

Audrey Watters who writes for Read Write Web and Hack Education recently asked to interview me for Hack Education. Audrey's write-up of the interview is now available on Hack Education. One of the interview questions that didn't make it into the final post was about how I balance teaching full-time and blogging so much. That's a question I'm asked almost every time I do an interview. So I think it's time that I post my working schedule. Here's a typical weekday for me:
  • 4:45am wake-up, make coffee, walk the dog, check email, moderate blog comments, write a blog post, get ready for school, drive to school (35 minutes).
  • 7:25am - 2:00 (once or twice a week this extends to 2:45 for meetings) at school I teach 3/4 of the day with 1/4 for planning. That 1/4 is when I do a lot of lesson planning, gradebook updates, and all the other "stuff" teachers have to do. A lot of my lesson planning also happens when I'm driving to and from school. The 35 minute drive is a great quiet time to let my mind wander.
  • 3:15ish - Walk the dog, check the snail mail, cat nap on a good day.
  • 4:15ish - 6:15ish writing blog posts, reading RSS feeds, replying to email
  • 6:15 - 7:00 Dinner, I do all the cooking in our house. 
  • 7-8:30 (sometimes later, but usually my brain is mush by 8:30) writing, reading RSS feeds, replying to email. 
  • 8:30-9ish mindless TV on the couch. 
  • 9-9:30 take the dog out, read a few pages in a book, go to sleep.

Four Ways to Give Short Presentations Online

Earlier this month I published a review of seven free services teachers can use to create and conduct online courses. Those services are good for on-going courses that contain a series of lessons. But sometimes you might just need a quick and easy way to give a short online lesson. In those cases you might want to try out one the following free services.

Big Marker is a good option for conducting online tutoring sessions, brainstorming sessions, and other online presentations. Big Marker allows you to create your choice of a private or a public online meeting room. If you make your room public anyone can join. If you make your room private you have to give participants a password to enter the room.  Once in your Big Marker conference room you can share screens, chat via text, chat via audio, or turn on your webcam so that people can see and hear you. Your Big Marker conference room comes with a white board that you and your participants can write and draw on. As the creator of a Big Marker conference you can control who can and cannot be heard or seen in the live audio and video chats.

Zipcast is a new service from Slideshare for conducting online presentations. Using Zipcast you can share your slides, talk to your audience, respond to your audience, and have your audience interact with each other in realtime on one page. The best part is you can do all of this without having to download anything. Using the free version of Zipcast your presentation can be private or public (a small ad is inserted at the bottom of your presentation). The premium version of Zipcast removes ads and allows you to password protect your presentation.

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. Scribblar also supports the use of mathematics functions in your whiteboard. 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. Using the voice chat feature and the mathematics function could make Scribblar a good tool for conducting mathematics lessons online. is a free service offered by Log Me In. allows Mac and Windows users to quickly share their screens with each other and work together. To use you do need to download the 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. Use to share a slide presentation and chat or share scientific calculator on your screen and explain to students how to solve an equation.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The US Presidents in Google Earth

Monday is President's Day in the United States. In celebration of that day, Google has published a new kmz file containing images and links to information about each former President of the United States. You can download the file and launch it in Google Earth or view it here using the Google Earth browser plug-in. The file shows where each president was from, offers an image of each president, provides a link to more information about each president, and shows how many states were in the Union when each president was elected.
Applications for Education
In their post announcing the publication of this file, Google offered some good suggestions for using Google Earth on President's Day. This is what they suggested:

  • Explore the White House, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial and other historical monuments in 3D and have students explain how architecture is used to honor people, concepts and establishments
  • View a 3D model of Valley Forge National Park in Google Earth
  • View a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation signed by Abraham Lincoln and map the areas where slavery ended, as well as the areas that were not initially covered by this executive order
  • Discuss the famous painting “Washington Crossing the Delaware” by German American artist Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze and use the ruler tool in Google Earth to measure the width of the Delaware River.

VuSafe - A Safe Way to View YouTube in Schools

Whenever I go to a conference I like to take an informal poll about access to YouTube. I've never had much more than half of the respondents say that they could access YouTube in their classrooms. While there are plenty of alternatives to YouTube sometimes the only place you can find the clip you want is on YouTube. Larry Ferlazzo may have found a solution to that problem. That solution is called VuSafe.

VuSafe provides a place for you to find, organize, and watch videos in a secure, filtered environment. VuSafe offers a password protected environment in which you can post videos for your students to watch without exposing them to the comments, advertisements, and automatically generated related videos found on YouTube. As a teacher you can search for videos either through VuSafe or directly on YouTube. When you find the video you want, you can tag it by content and grade level and add it to your VuSafe page. Watch the video below to learn more about VuSafe.

VuSafe is currently in beta and you must apply to get an account.

Applications for Education
VuSafe could be a great tool for schools that would like to open up access to YouTube but don't because of objections to the advertisements, comments, and related videos that accompany the videos.

Think Tutorial Now Offers More Than 1000 Tutorials

Think Tutorial is a site providing free, easy to follow tutorials on a variety of web services, software, and mobile applications. When I originally reviewed the site last summer, they had a few hundred tutorials. Now they have more than 1,000 video and text tutorials. Of particular interest to educators is the addition of a Moodle Tutorials section. In that section you will find more than four dozen tutorials on all things Moodle.

Applications for Education
Think Tutorial could be an excellent resource to send to friends and colleagues who aren't as proficient with technology as you are. The next time you're about to create a software tutorial for the faculty at your school, check Think Tutorial first and you could possibly save yourself from trying to reinvent the wheel. Along the same lines, you may want to check out Learn It In 5 for some good web services tutorials designed for use by teachers.

Week in Review - North to Alaska

Good morning from Maine where after a brief thaw we're headed back into regular winter temperatures. And because I love the cold, I'm heading north to Alaska next week to work with teachers in the Alaska Learning Network. I'll also be visiting ESU 13 in Nebraska next week. While I'm on the road, I have five great guest bloggers who will be contributing to Free Technology for Teachers. I think that many of you will recognize them when you see their names next week.

Here are the most popular posts of the week:
1. Seven Platforms for Teaching Online Courses
2. Interesting Ideas for Classroom Blog Posts
3. Awesome Screenshot - Capture, Annotate, Share
4. Little Bird Tales - Digital Storytelling for Young Students
5. Plagiarisma - A Plagiarism Checker
6. Here's a Good Digital Storytelling Project
7. 10 Excellent Ideas for Using Khan Academy in Schools

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Friday, February 18, 2011

The Awesome Library

The Awesome Library is a collection of more than 37,000 educational resources organized by academic category and sub-categories. For example, if you click on the "teacher" category you can then select from nine sub-categories about teaching. Or try selecting the "technology" category where you will find guides for using technology including this Internet guide for beginners.

Applications for EducationThe Awesome Library could be a good reference resource for teachers and students alike. The categorization scheme is easy to navigate which may be helpful for students that have difficulty refining general Internet searches. 

Embed Plus - Clip & Annotate YouTube Videos

If you've ever shown a YouTube video in your classroom and wanted to show just a portion of it for students to discuss, you know the inconvenience of trying to skip to the right starting point. Embed Plus addresses that problem and others. Embed Plus allows you to start a video at any point you specify. You can also use Embed Plus to skip scenes in a video, play it in slow motion, zoom into an area of a video, and annotate a video.

The annotation feature of Embed Plus is a nice complement to the real-time reactions feature offered by Embed Plus. Real-time reactions pulls in Twitter and YouTube comments about your chosen video. The annotation feature lets you comment on specific parts of a video. Your annotations can include links that you insert.

Here's a video without using Embed Plus.

Here's the same video using Embed Plus.

Applications for Education
If you're in the habit of embedding videos into your blog or website for students to watch, Embed Plus could be a good tool for you. You can use Embed Plus to have your embedded videos start and end at the places you want so that you can direct students' attention to the most important parts. You can use the annotate with links feature to direct students to information that will build upon what students watched in your embedded video.

Use Your Own Data in the Google Public Data Explorer

Last spring Google launched the Public Data Explorer. The Public Data Explorer allows anyone with a Google account to create visualizations of public data sets. Until this week, the only data you could visualize was the data from Google's preferred providers (World Bank, US CDC, US Bureau of Labor, and others). This week Google announced that you can now upload and create visualizations of your own datasets in the Public Data Explorer. To do this you need to use the new Data Set Publishing Language (DSPL) developed by Google. The process of upload data in the DSPL format isn't something you'll learn in minutes, but if you're really interested in doing it Google does have a step-by-step tutorial for you to follow.

To learn more about the Google Public Data Explorer and how it could be used in schools, please read my comments here. Here's part of what I wrote about it last year:

Applications for Education
My first thought when I saw Google's Public Data Explorer was that I could use it in my civics course. Each year in my civics course I ask students to analyze data and create a public policy proposal based on that analysis. The Public Data Explorer could help students compare data sets.

Another good resource for creating data visualizations is Google's Fusion Tables tool

Collaborize Classroom - An Online Learning Platform

Collaborize Classroom is a free service that host websites for teachers. The fundamental purpose of Collaborize Classroom is to provide a discussion forum for teachers and students. On Collaborize Classroom teachers can post assignments, notes, and media for students. Students can reply to the teacher and to each other. To help teachers keep track of student use of their sites, Collaborize Classroom provides teachers participation and activity reports about each registered user of their sites.

Applications for Education
Collaborize Classroom doesn't offer a lot of options in the aesthetics department, but it makes up for it by offering an easy-to-use service for teachers and students. The participation and activity reports could prove to be very helpful and time-saving for teachers.