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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Marker.to - Highlight and Share Sections of Websites

Marker.to is a Chrome and Firefox extension that allows you highlight text on a webpage and share that highlighted section with others. Once installed it is very easy to use Marker.to. To use Marker.to just click the marker icon whenever you're viewing a page that has text you want to share with others. Then highlight the text, choose a highlighting color if you want (yellow is the default), and Marker.to will provide a unique url that will direct others to the content you've highlighted. You can share that url via email, Facebook, or Twitter.

Applications for Education
Marker.to reminds me a bit of Bounce which also allows you to highlight and share parts of webpages. In both cases the tools can be useful for directing students' attention to a particular passage that you want them all to read on a website.

Most Popular Posts of the Year - #16, Jeopardy PowerPoint

Like a lot of other people are, I'm taking this week to relax a bit and do some things that I haven't had time for lately. Therefore, all this week I'm rewinding the year by republishing the 25 most-read posts of the year. I hope that those of you who are also on vacation this week, enjoy every moment of it. See you (virtually) in the New Year.

If their website is any indication, Jefferson County Schools in Tennessee must be a very good place to teach. The website contains numerous, good, technology resources. One such resource is a collection of templates for building PowerPoint games based on the concepts of Jeopardy, Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Wheel of Fortune, Bingo, and $25,000 Pyramid. All of these templates can be downloaded from the site and altered to suit your needs.

Applications for Education
Students generally find studying to be a lot more enjoyable when they can do it in a game format. These templates provide a good way to build review games that your whole class can play at once.

Here are some related resources that may be of interest to you:
200+ Games for Your Blog or Website
Games for the Brain

Most Popular Posts of the Year - #17, 11 Digital Storytelling Tools

Like a lot of other people are, I'm taking this week to relax a bit and do some things that I haven't had time for lately. Therefore, all this week I'm rewinding the year by republishing the 25 most-read posts of the year. I hope that those of you who are also on vacation this week, enjoy every moment of it. See you (virtually) in the New Year.

Digital storytelling comes in many forms. Digital storytelling could refer to creating podcasts, creating videos, or creating multimedia ebooks to name of few of its forms. If you're considering developing your first digital storytelling project for your class, here some resources that can help you get started.

Ebooks and web references for digital storytelling.
One of the best people I know for advice about digital storytelling is Silvia Tolisano. Silvia Tolisano, the author of the excellent Langwitches blog, offers an awesome free ebook about digital storytelling. Digital Storytelling Tools for Educators is a 120 page guide to using digital storytelling tools in your classroom. The guide offers clear directions for using tools like Audacity, Google Maps, Photo Story, VoiceThread, and other digital media creation tools. Silvia's directions are aided by clearly annotated screenshots of each digital storytelling tool. Digital Storytelling Tools for Educators also provides a good explanation of digital storytelling in general and the benefits of using digital storytelling in your classroom. You can download the ebook for free on Lulu. You can also purchase a paperback copy of the book.

The Digital Storytelling Teacher Guide is a free twenty-eight page ebook produced by Microsoft. The guide outlines the basics of digital storytelling, offers ideas for digital storytelling projects for all grade levels, and provides examples of digital storytelling projects. Microsoft's Digital Storytelling Teacher Guide also offers instruction for using Windows Movie Maker and Photo Story in the classroom.

Digital storytelling guru Kevin Hodgson runs a website all about stopmotion movie creation. Kevin developed Making Stopmotion Movies as a how-to resource for teachers who are interested in having students create stopmotion movies. On Making Stopmotion Movies teachers will find downloadable storyboard and character development guides. Kevin provides an excellent outline of the whole movie making process. Visitors to Making Stopmotion Movies will also find video examples of real student productions.

The Digital Directors Guild is a project designed to help teachers develop digital storytelling projects for their classrooms. The Digital Directors Guild offers sample projects and teaching resources for all grade levels. The resources page of the Digital Directors Guild contains information regarding all stages of digital storytelling project development.

Tools for Creating Digital Stories.
Myna is a free web-based audio track mixer created by Aviary. Using Myna you can mix together up to ten tracks to create your own audio files. The sounds you mix can come from the Myna library, your vocal recordings made with Myna's recorder, or audio tracks that you upload to your Myna account. Using Myna you can record and save podcasts. You can then publish them to a free host like Blubrry.

Little Bird Tales is a nice site intended for younger students to use to create digital stories. Little Bird Tales walks users through each step of creating a multimedia story. Users can upload images, draw images, or record from their webcams. Stories can be written with text or narrated by students using microphones connected to their computers.

In the spring of 2010 JayCut relaunched its free, online, video editing service. JayCut has elements of iMovie and Movie Maker in a free online application. JayCut is free to use and your final product can be downloaded to your local computer. Here are some of the highlights of the JayCut editor:

  • Every element of your video can be added through simple drag and drop motions. The play length of each element in your video can be shortened or lengthened by simply dragging the ruler tools.
  • JayCut's API is free and allows you to put the JayCut video editor on your own website. Using their API you can install JayCut's video editor on your PHP-based website. JayCut offers step-by-step directions for installing their video editor on your website.
  • JayCut has options for adding slow motion effects, direct recording from your webcam, a green screen, and color editing.
For a quick and easy way to create simple videos from pictures, sound, text, and existing video clips try Animoto.  Animoto makes it possible to quickly create a video using still images, music, and text. In the last year Animoto has added the option to include video clips in your videos too. If you can make a slideshow presentation, you can make a video using Animoto. Animoto's free service limits you to 30 second videos. You can create longer videos if you apply for an education account. I like to use Animoto early in the school year to introduce my new students to some of the basic skills that will be carried across to more complex video creation later in the year.
ZooBurst is an exciting free service for creating digital stories. ZooBurst allows users to create 3D pop-up books using nothing more than public domain clip art and ZooBurst's web-based editing tools. Users can view ZooBurst 3D books in augmented reality by enabling their webcams (click webcam mode) then clicking the ZB button present on each story.

Simple Booklet is a free service offering online multimedia booklet creation and publishing. To create a book using Simple Booklet just sign-up for a free account and click create. Select the layout template that suits your needs. To add content click anywhere on the blank canvas and a menu of options will appear. You can add text, images, audio files, videos, and links to each page of your booklet. Each page of your Simple Booklet can have multiple elements on it. To include videos you can upload your own files or select from a variety of provides including SchoolTube, TeacherTube, YouTube, and others. To add audio to your pages you can upload your own files or again select from the online hosts Last.fm, Sound Cloud, or Mix Cloud. When you're done building pages in your Simple Booklet you can share it online by embedding it into a webpage or you can share the unique link generated for your booklet. 
My Ebook is a new service for creating rich multimedia ebooks. My Ebook allows users to create ebooks that contain text, images, and videos on each page. My Ebook users can create ebooks from scratch or upload their existing PDF files to display in a book format. When starting an ebook from scratch on My Ebook, users can import images from their Flickr, Facebook, Picasa, and Photobucket accounts or upload new images directly to My Ebook. If you don't have any digital images you can select some from My Ebook's gallery. Videos can also be embedded into the pages of My Ebook. My Ebook provides a good variety of themes and templates to give each ebook a different look and feel. Ebooks created using My Ebook can be embedded into blogs and websites or shared via email.

One word of caution about My Ebook, you might not want to let your students browse the library of ebooks without supervision. I didn't see anything that was explicitly bad (the terms of service forbid that type of content) but there is some material that you might not want middle school students accessing.
For more information about creating videos using web-based tools, please see my free ebook, Making Videos on the Web.  

Most Popular Posts of the Year - #18, Plagiarism Checker

Like a lot of other people are, I'm taking this week to relax a bit and do some things that I haven't had time for lately. Therefore, all this week I'm rewinding the year by republishing the 25 most-read posts of the year. I hope that those of you who are also on vacation this week, enjoy every moment of it. See you (virtually) in the New Year.

Update November 2014 - I removed links to Plagiarisma after a reader discovered that the site sold plagiarized copies of essays. Here are seven other tools for detecting and preventing plagiarism.

Plagiarism, as teachers we see it a lot. Sometimes it's done intentionally, sometimes it's done accidentally. Either way we can't allow our students to plagiarize other people's works. Plagiarisma is a free tool that teachers and students can use to detect possible cases of plagiarism.

There are a few ways that you can use Plagiarisma. The easiest way to use Plagiarisma is to copy and paste a chunk of text into the Plagiarisma search box. You can also upload documents (RTF, Doc, PDF, HTML, ODT) to be scanned by Plagiarisma. The third option is to type a url into the search box to have Plagiarisma scan for possible cases of plagiarism. Whichever option you use, Plagiarisma will return a list of urls containing possible plagiarism matches.

Applications for Education
Plagiarism isn't always intentional on the part of students. Sometimes they honestly don't realize that they're doing it. Having students use Plagiarisma to scan their documents before submitting them for a grade, could help them identify flaws in their works and change them before it's too late.

Here are seven other tools for detecting and preventing plagiarism.

Most Popular Posts of the Year - #19, Search Engines for Students

Like a lot of other people are, I'm taking this week to relax a bit and do some things that I haven't had time for lately. Therefore, all this week I'm rewinding the year by republishing the 25 most-read posts of the year. I hope that those of you who are also on vacation this week, enjoy every moment of it. See you (virtually) in the New Year.

A major concern that teachers, parents, librarians, and school administrators have whenever their students search for information on the Internet is having the students stumble across inappropriate materials. One way to alleviate that fear is to create your own search engine using Google Custom Search, but that could become very time-consuming. Another option is to have students use search engines intended for academic and or child use. Here are seven search engines for students of all ages.

Sweet Search is a search engine that searches only the sites that have been reviewed and approved by a team of librarians, teachers, and research experts. In all there are 35,000 websites that have been reviewed and approved by Sweet Search. In addition to the general search engine, Sweet Search offers five niche search engines. The niche search engines are for Social Studies, Biographies, SweetSites (organized by grade and subject area), School Librarians, and Sweet Search 4 Me (for elementary school students).

KidRex is a new kid-safe search engine powered by Google custom search. KidRex uses a combination of Google's safe search mode and their own database of filtered keywords, phrases, and websites. In the event that a questionable website does get past the filters, KidRex has a site removal request form.

Ref Seek is a search engine designed for academic use. Ref Seek seems to eliminate the advertising and paid links found on Google, Ask, Yahoo, and other commercial search engines. Ref Seek's intention is to serve only search results that are academic in nature. The difference between Ref Seek and a generic Google search lies lower than the top results in search returns. As you compare search results between Ref Seek and Google you will find that the second and third pages of search results on Ref Seek contain results that seem to be more "academic" than what is found on the second and third pages of a generic Google search.

Famhoo is another option for kid friendly searches. Famhoo draws on the collective results of the major search mainstream search engines like Google, AOL, and Yahoo. Famhoo simply provides a stricter family filter than the filters available on mainstream search engines.

Ask Kids is the kid friendly, kid safe version of the popular search engine Ask.com. Ask Kids is divided into five categories of which one is a general search option. The five categories are School House, movies, games, images, and video. The School House category provides students with suggested topics and links to resources for those topics. The School House also serves as a general search tool. In the other search categories Ask Kids makes suggestions for search refinement. A great aspect of the search results that Ask Kids provides is the option to refine searches based on a student's age.
Wolfram Alpha is billed as a computational search engine and this is exactly what it does. If students have any questions involving numbers, Wolfram Alpha is the place to go. Wolfram Alpha can be used for other searches, but it's not nearly as useful for general inquiries as it is for computational questions.
Google Scholar is one of Google's lesser-known tools. Google Scholar is a search engine designed to search scholarly journals, Supreme Court records, and patent records. In some cases the results will link to abstracts of books and articles that you will then have to obtain from a library or book retailer. In other cases results will link to fully viewable documents.
Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Beyond Google - Improve Your Search Results
Mashpedia - The Real-time Encyclopedia
Wolfram Alpha for Educators - Free Lesson Plans

Most Popular Posts of the Year - #20, 11 World Languages Resources

Like a lot of other people are, I'm taking this week to relax a bit and do some things that I haven't had time for lately. Therefore, all this week I'm rewinding the year by republishing the 25 most-read posts of the year. I hope that those of you who are also on vacation this week, enjoy every moment of it. See you (virtually) in the New Year.

Yesterday's list of 11 good resources to try in 2011 featured health and physical education resources. Last week I featured 55 other good resources to try in 2011. Today, I have 11 good foreign language resources to try in 2011 (I've included a couple of ESL/EFL resources in this list).


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. Along with word pronunciations, Forvo provides some basic demographic information about each language. Forvo's content is user-supported and user-generated. New pronunciations are added on a regular basis.

WordSteps is a resource for learning the vocabulary of your choice of nine languages. To start learning vocabulary with WordSteps select the language you are trying to learn then choose a set of vocabulary words in that language. WordSteps provides six types of practice activities for each set of vocabulary words. The sets of vocabulary words are called dictionaries by WordSteps. You can use the dictionaries made by other WordSteps users or create your own dictionary. WordSteps can be used without creating an account, but in order to create your own dictionary you must create an account. The languages supported by WordSteps are English, French, Russian, Spanish, Chinese, German, Japanese, Italian, and Portuguese. The vocabulary practice activities are Flash Cards, Translation Variations, Words Variants, Alphabet Soup, Write Translation by Word, and Write Word by Translation.

LangMedia, produced by Five Colleges Incorporated, provides resources for learning languages less-commonly offered by high schools and colleges in the US. Some of the languages for which LangMedia offers educational resources are Arabic, Bulgarian, Persian, Thai, and Urdu. For these languages LangMedia provides course outlines, practice dialogues, and lists of resources necessary for completing the requirements of each course. In addition to resources for learning languages, LangMedia offers a section called Culture Talk. LangMedia Culture Talk is a collection of video clips of interviews and discussions with people from many different countries, of different ages and from different walks of life. The videos are intended to give viewers insight into the cultures of peoples around the globe. Some of the videos feature English speakers while other videos do not. Those videos that are not in English are accompanied by a written English transcript.

Voxy is an interesting approach to helping ESL students learn English. Voxy uses current articles from world news, pop culture, and sports to to help students acquire language. As students read an article they can click on highlighted words and hear them pronounced. Highlighted words when clicked reveal the Spanish translation. Clicking on highlighted words also adds them to a study list. The study lists can be used for quizzes and games. Voxy is available in English and Spanish.

Repeat After Us is an online library of copyright-free English texts and audio recordings. The purpose of Repeat After Us is to provide ESL students with a place to read and hear proper pronunciations of English words. The texts on Repeat After Us are arranged into eight genre categories including children's stories, prose fiction, and prose non-fiction. Recordings can be listened to online and or downloaded from Repeat After Us. All of the recordings match the texts. Texts range in length from one paragraph to multiple pages.
iMendi is a new site, parts of it are still in development, for learning the basic vocabulary of English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Czech. To use iMendi just select the language you speak and select the language you want to learn. iMendi then gives you the choice of choosing a lesson (level 1, level 2, etc) or trying a randomly chosen lesson. The "lessons" are really just simple vocabulary matching exercises with a score and the correct answers revealed at the end.


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.

Open Culture is devoted to the idea of sharing learning opportunities. Open Culture has an extensive list of free resources for learning thirty-seven different languages. All of the resources in the list can be downloaded to your computer or iPod. When available, Open Culture has linked to the iTunes feed for the learning resources.


Lingus TV is a website featuring videos to help viewers learn conversational Spanish. The collection of videos includes lessons for beginning, intermediate, and advanced learners. The short videos feature actors having brief, realistic looking and sounding conversations. Each video is accompanied by the Spanish transcript and the English translation of the transcripts. The concept is great, but unfortunately the content of a couple of videos makes me question whether or not I would use them with students younger than high school age.

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.

22 Frames is a service that provides a central location for locating captioned videos for learning English and for Internet users who have hearing impairments. 22 Frames provides more than just captioned videos. For each video 22 Frames provides a list of idioms, slang words, and commonly mispronounced words in each video. 22 Frames tells viewers where each use of idioms, slang, and commonly mispronounced words appears in each video. Viewers can click on any of the words in the lists provided by 22 Frames to find a definition for each word and to find pronunciation tips. See 22 Frames in action in this video about a passenger plane crash in Iran.

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