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Monday, April 30, 2012

Sushi Monster - A Free Scholastic Math App for iPad

Sushi Monster is a new free iPad game from Scholastic. The purpose of Sushi Monster is to provide a fun environment for students to practice their addition and multiplication skills. This is the premise of Sushi Monster; students feed their Sushi Monsters by correctly choosing two numbers that when added or multiplied result in the number that the monster wants to eat. When the monster has been fully fed students move on to feeding a new monster. The video below provides a good demonstration of Sushi Monster in action.



Applications for Education
If you're looking for a free iPad app that your elementary school students can use to practice their addition and multiplication skills, Sushi Monster is definitely an app to add to list.

UNDP Development Data Interactive Map

Over the weekend through Noel Jenkins I learned about a neat interactive map from the UNDP. The UN Stat Planet Map allows you to create useful mapped displays of UN development indicators data. There are ten data categories from which you can choose. Within each category there are further refinements possible. You can customize the map to present sharper contrasts between the data indicators, change the indicator symbols, and alter the map legend. To visual the change in data over time, use the time slider at the bottom of the map. Your maps and the data that they represent can be downloaded as PNG and JPEG files for printing.

Applications for Education
Simply looking at data spreadsheets or graphs reveal some good development data to students. But for better visual comparisons tied to locations, the UN Stat Planet Map is useful.

Exploring the Early Americas - Library of Congress Interactives

This morning I spent a bit of time exploring the Library of Congress's education resources. One of the resources that I particularly liked is the LOC's collection of eight interactive displays about the early Americas. The gallery of the early Americas interactives includes exploring interactive maps, investigating Mayan writings and artifacts, and short interactive lessons on paintings telling the story of early exploration of the Americas.

Applications for Education
The Library of Congress's early Americas interactives aren't the most in-depth resources I've seen, but they could be a nice part of a lesson. The Conquest of Mexico Paintings exhibit would make a nice visual lesson that combines history and art.

Searchy Pants - A Safe Search Engine for Kids

EdCamp Boston was held on Saturday and even though I couldn't make it in person, I did follow along with some of the Posterous updates about the day. One of the Posterous updates included the list of resources shared during the apps and tools Smackdown session. In that list was a new-to-me search engine called Searchy Pants.

Searchy Pants uses Google Custom search to provide a safe search environment for students. But Searchy Pants offers more than just a simple search engine. You can customize the page on which students search by choosing from a variety of fun background themes. Once you've chosen a theme you can add links to your page that you want students to see. For example, you might link to your school's website or link to a site like CNN Student News. You can also post a custom message for your students to read before searching.

Applications for Education
If you're looking for a safe search engine for your students to use without actually creating your Google Custom Search Engine, Searchy Pants could be a good tool for you.

Mathematica for Teaching and Student Use

Over the weekend I received an email from Wolfram informing me of a new free training they're offering for learning how to publish using CDF (Computational Document Format). While I'm not sure if there are many readers who are using Wolfram CDF, I do know that there are quite a few who are using Wolfram Mathematica and or are interested in learning more about Mathematica. If you're interested in learning more about Wolfram Mathematica and how you might use it in your mathematics lessons, Wolfram has a free on-demand, online course for beginners.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

About Google Teacher Academy

This evening I had the third person in a week ask me about how to become a Google Certified Teacher. Therefore, I thought I would revive a couple of things that I've shared in the past about how to become a Google Certified Teacher. You can read Google's official materials about GCT status here.

The first thing that you should know about becoming a Google Certified Teacher is that you have to attend a Google Teacher Academy. Google Teacher Academies or GTAs are events that are not held on a regular, published schedule. GTAs are part of some Google Employees' 20% time (time given to employees for projects of special interest to them that might not be a part of their regular job responsibilities). Follow this page to find out when the next GTA will be held.

Participation in a GTA is by application only. Typically there are hundreds of applicants (more than 400 applied for the one I went to) and only 50 are accepted. To apply you have to create an original one minute video on a topic specified on the application for that GTA. Each GTA is looking for something a little different in the videos, so read the application materials carefully. If you're nervous about making a video, please read on...

Republished from January 2010:

Prior to submitting my own application for the GTA in Washington, DC I had my own apprehension about creating and submitting a video. I don't consider myself to be a terribly creative person when it comes to multimedia presentations. I have the technical know-how to create multimedia presentations, but I don't think have the creativity for making dynamic videos such as those created by multimedia geniuses like Marco Torres. Yes, I've posted videos of myself on this blog before, but I tend to think that I'm too stiff on camera. None-the-less, on the last day that applications were accepted for GTA in DC, I plunged ahead and made a short video that included me talking on camera. I knew that I couldn't compete in a video making competition, but I was confident that my written content and overall body of work would offset a lack-luster video. It turns out that I was right.

Reflecting on the GTA application process, here is my advice for those who would like to apply but are apprehensive about application process.
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 herethis 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.

Try Crocodoc for Collaboratively Annotating PDFs

Yesterday, I received an email from a reader who was looking for a free tool that she and her students could use to collaboratively annotate PDFs. While you can comment on PDFs in Google Drive, you can't yet anchor those comments to a specific part of a PDF (at least I haven't figured out how to do that yet). The tool that I recommended instead is Crocodoc.

Crocodoc is a simple service that allows users to quickly share and edit PDFs, Word documents, and PowerPoint files.To use Crocodoc just upload your file, select your marking tool, and get to work. Crocodoc provides a unique url for every file you upload. Share that url with the people you want to have comment on your PDF, Word file, or PowerPoint slides. You can also embed your file into a blog post or webpage and allow people to comment on it there.

Applications for Education
Crocodoc could be very useful for online peer editing of documents. You could also embed a document into your class blog and ask students to comment on what they're reading. You might also use an embedded document with annotations to model proper peer editing practices.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Make Your Own Squishy Circuits

Last night on Facebook Kevin Jarrett posted a link to Sylvia's Super Awesome Maker Show. For those not familiar with the show, it features a young girl named Sylvia making things like paper rockets, crazy putty, and squishy circuits. The squishy circuits episode caught my attention because I had written about squishy circuits last fall. In the squishy circuits episode Sylvia shows viewers how they can make their own squishy circuits to safely experiment with electric circuits. Watch the episode below then head over to Make where you can find the full directions and materials lists.



Applications for Education
If you're looking for a good, safe hands-on electricity lesson for your students, making squishy circuits could be just the thing for you. Click here to watch a TED Talk about squishy circuits.

Week in Review - The Snow is Back

Good morning from Maine where I'm home with my loyal four legged friend and it's snowing. I had a busy week this week that included a day in Omaha, Nebraska for NETA 2012 followed by a lot of seat time at in planes. As much I love having the opportunity to speak at so many conferences and work with many schools, I have to admit that I am looking forward to spending the next week at home before heading off to New Brunswick for a couple of days. Thank you all for choosing to read my blog. This week we we're joined by the 46,000th subscriber. Amazing!

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Three Questions to Consider Before We All Flip
2. Blogger Buster is Back!
3. Week in Review - It Feels Like Spring!
4. File Sharing Just Got Easier Through Dropbox
5. Google Drive - Store Files, Share Files, and Talk About Them
6. 7 Resources for Teaching and Learning About Mount Everest
7. Don't Tell the Band... History References in Songs

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Friday, April 27, 2012

Add More to Your Images with Thinglink

Yesterday, at NETA 2012's web tools showcase session I demonstrated two tools, ThingLink and Jellycam. During my Thinglink demonstration I only showed inserting pinmarks with links to make interactive images. This afternoon I learned that there is a lot more than links that can be inserted into those pinmarks. The Slideshare presentation below shows all of the options, but there are a few that I want to make sure you see. Media from Google Maps, YouTube, Vimeo, and Flickr can all be included in your Thinglink images.


Applications for Education
One way that Thinglink could be used in a  US History classroom is to have students upload pictures representative of  concepts from the Industrial Revolution then tag different parts of the images to link out to further explanations and examples. And here's an example of an interactive infographic created with Thinglink.

Timeline - From Civil War to Civil Rights

The cover story on the May issue of National Geographic is about the sketches of artists during the US Civil War and how those sketches helped to tell the story of the war. You can view a gallery of sketches here. One of the online features supporting May's issue is a timeline spanning 1526 to today. The timeline is focused on the Civil War and the years following. Along the timeline there are images and short stories of significant moments in the history of civil rights in the United States.

Applications for Education
From Civil War to Civil Rights is in no way a comprehensive overview of the Civil War or the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. That said, the visuals and the short stories could be useful as introductory materials and conversation starters.

The Evolution of the Zamboni

Disclaimer: it might be a stretch to call this post educational. It's more of a sports trivia post than anything else. 

It's Stanley Cup playoff time and even though the Bruins just got eliminated and my childhood team, the Whalers, abandoned me like a bad prom date long ago one thing remains the same, the Zamboni cheers for no one. While flipping through Sports Illustrated last night I learned that the 10,000th Zamboni rolled-off the assembly line last week. To celebrate this achievement the Zamboni company released a time-lapse video of its production. I couldn't find that video but I did a poster on the evolution of the Zamboni and some images and a video about how it works.


Applications for Education
If you have students that are passionate hockey fans, you could grab their attention with a short science lesson about refrigeration and ice.

And if you're looking to make your own Zamboni, Red Green has a tutorial for you.

TEDx Bozeman - Classroom Game Design

On the heals of my slightly critical post about TED Ed, I thought it would be good to balance things out by sharing a good TEDx Talk that I recently watched. Classroom Game Design is a talk that was given by Montana's 2011 Teacher of the Year, Paul Anderson, at TEDx Bozeman. I have to admit that when I read the title I thought it would be just another talk extolling the virtues of playing video games. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I was wrong. In his talk Paul Anderson talks about using the principles of game design to revamp his methods for grading, delivering instruction, and planning. Paul's ten minute talk is embedded below.


On his website and YouTube channel Paul Anderson has uploaded more than 200 quality instructional videos like the one about the skeletal system that you can watch below.

A Thought or Two About TED Ed

TED made headlines this week with the launch of TED Ed. TED Ed is a new platform through which teachers can build short lessons around short videos that have been given the TED stamp of approval. Like most TED videos, the videos in TED-Ed that I have watched so far are good. From a production standpoint the videos are better than the blackboard and narration that you get with Khan Academy. But that's about where my excitement ends.

After and or while watching the videos on TED Ed students answer multiple choice and short answer questions about what they're seeing and hearing. Which is exactly what many teachers (myself included in my first years teaching) do or have done by handing out question lists for students to complete while watching film strips, reel-to-reel movies, VHS tapes, and DVDs. TED Ed does have one slight advantage here in that students do get instant feedback on their multiple choice answers on TED Ed.

TED Ed provides a place for teachers to "flip" lessons which is TED's way of saying build their own quizzes around the TED Ed videos and link to related resources that they select for their students. I gave it a quick try and found it easy to do this. But I also know that I could do the same thing with other tools. The assessment tools that TED Ed provides didn't strike me as anything more than what you can do with a tool like Flubaroo. And before you flip your classroom, please consider these questions.

One of the things that I would like to see added to TED Ed is a place for real-time conversations about the videos that students watch. This would allow students to ask questions of each other and of their teachers while watching the videos. This allows the students to take a bit of the lead in determining what is thought-provoking in a video. I know from experience of showing video clips in social studies classrooms  that giving a forum for that kind of response to videos can mean the difference between watching and thinking about what is being shown and simply hunting for answers in a video. Here are three tools that have the required kind of technology in place now.

Overall, TED Ed seems like it could be handy for creating quick introductory or review lessons, but it's not going to revolutionize how education works. I welcome your thoughts in the comments.


Record MP3 - A Simple MP3 Recorder

Last year I published a short list of free and simple tools for creating MP3 recordings to post online. Record MP3 is another good tool to add to that list. To record a message using Record MP3 just grant the Flash recorder access to your computer, click record, and start talking. When your recording is complete you will get a link that you can post online or email to anyone you want to hear your recording.

Applications for Education
Tools like Record MP3 are great for posting short reminder messages on your blog for your students to hear. If  you're going to be out of your classroom for a day, record a message with that day's directions for student and post it on your blog. Then your substitute teacher can hear the directions and your students can too and nothing gets lost in the chain of communication.

H/T to Clif Mims and his bookmark posts.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Roc Out With Aviary's Myna

Earlier today Wes Fryer asked on Twitter for help finding a web-based tool for audio editing in a manner similar to Audacity and Garage Band. I Tweeted back with the suggestion of checking out Aviary's Myna and Roc services. That prompted me to dig up a couple of my previous posts about both of those excellent services from Aviary.

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. The video embedded below provides a great overview of the many features offered by Myna.
Using Aviary's Roc you can create your own music loops or samples. After you've created your music samples you can download them, reuse them in Myna, or embed them into your blog. Below you will find a brief tutorial on how to create sound loops using Aviary Roc.


Google Apps for Education users, remember that Aviary's services can be incorporated into your account through the Google Apps Marketplace. This means that teachers and students can save their Aviary creations in their Google Accounts. Below is a tutorial on how to add Aviary to your Google Apps for Education services (note: you have to be the administrator of your organization's Google Apps for Education account to make this happen).


Interactive Map of Sea Level Rise Estimates

Surging Seas, produced by ClimateCentral.org, is an interactive map of the potential impact on the United States of rising sea levels. The map allows you to click along coastal areas on the east coast and west coast to see how high the sea level could rise. The Surging Seas maps also project the number of people, homes, and land area that could be affected if the projections are correct.

Applications for Education
If you're teaching lessons on climate change, particularly if you're teaching those lessons in US coastal area, the Surging Seas interactive map could be a great way for students to see how climate change could affect them in the future.

H/T to Read Write Web.

Wappwolf - Drag Files to Dropbox and Automatically Convert Them To Multiple Formats

If you're like me and you have multiple devices that you use on a frequent basis, Wappwolf is a Dropbox client that you have to check out. Wappwolf allows you to upload files to your Dropbox account by dragging and dropping from your desktop. Once you have set all of your Wappwolf options you can have specific synchronization and conversion actions applied to the files that you upload.

Some of the automated options that you can apply to your Wappwolf account include syncing to specific folders in you Dropbox account, converting files into various file types (I chose to have all PDFs convert to TXT) syncing files to your Kindle, syncing files to Google Docs (now a part of Google Drive), or automatically convert your files to ePub for viewing on iPads. You can also use Wappwolf to have image files automatically shared to Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Learn more about Wappwolf in the video below.


Applications for Education
For teachers and students who use multiple devices and need to be able to access their files in a variety of formats, Wappwolf could be a fantastic tool to use in conjunction with Dropbox. Have a series of audio recordings from your students that need to be converted for use in multimedia projects? Upload them through Wappwolf and they'll be automatically converted in the file format of your choice. Have a series of documents that you want students to be able to read on their iPads, but don't have them in ePub format? Upload them through Wappwolf and have them all converted for you.

Screen Draw - Draw or Type on Any Webpage

Grizzly Ape is a software development company in the U.K. that has built some handy Firefox add-ons. One of their free add-ons is Screen Draw.

With Screen Draw installed you can type on and or draw free-hand on any webpage that you're viewing in Firefox. You could circle elements on a page then type a bit about that element. Your screen drawings can be saved as PNG and JPG files.

Applications for Education
If you're looking for a quick way to create annotated screen images to provide directions to students, Screen Draw could be a handy tool for you.

One way that you might have students use Screen Draw is to have them practice giving written directions. Have students pick one of their favorite websites and write directions for using it as if someone was brand new to using the web. Students (and teachers too sometimes) often assume a lot when giving directions. By starting from scratch assuming that the audience knows nothing, students are forced to slow down and think about the details that they might otherwise assume everyone knows.

For some more screen capture options, please see 7 Good Screen Capture Tools for Teachers.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Easier Location Sharing in Google Earth

Sharing your favorite locations in Google Earth recently got a lot easier than it used to be. In the past to share a Google Earth location you had to download the KMZ or KML files. The newest sharing option in the latest version of Google Earth (version 6.2) allows for quicker and easier location sharing. Now when you're viewing a location in Google Earth that you want to share, you can share it by simply clicking the "share" button in upper-right corner of your screen. The sharing options include sharing a screenshot via Google+ or email, sharing a view via email, sharing a placemark via email, or sharing to the Google Earth community. Sharing a view or placemark via email creates a KML file for you. (You do have to be signed into your Google Account to do this).

While we're on the topic of sharing map views, this is a good time to remind you that you can share views from Google Maps by clicking on the "link" icon on the upper-left corner of a Google Maps screen. You can also generate a KML file in Google Maps by selecting the "export as KML" option. Take a look at the screenshots below for directions.


Applications for Education
If you're using Google Earth for lessons with your students, the new location sharing option could be useful for sharing with students who are not in the classroom with you. And if your students are over 13 and using Google+ sharing views to a Google+ circle could be a good way to host a conversation around a particular view or place in the world.

Send to Kindle Now Available for Mac Users

Back in January I shared the news about Amazon's Send to Kindle software for Windows. As I learned from CNET, Send to Kindle is now available for Mac users too. Send to Kindle allows you to send documents from your computer to your Kindle or another device, such as an iPad, that has a Kindle app installed. With Send to Kindle installed you can drag and drop a document from your Mac to your Kindle and it will transfer wirelessly to your Kindle device.

Applications for Education
While you cannot edit documents on a Kindle, Send to Kindle could still be handy for anyone that needs to read reports or other documents while away from a computer and or without Internet access. Send the reports you want to review to your Kindle device and read them whenever and wherever you take your tablet. For students this could be a good way to read documents that they may have downloaded from the web to read for their courses.

Shakespeare Animated

Yesterday, I Tweeted a story from Open Culture that highlighted 12 animated Shakespeare stories. In my investigation of the video source that Open Culture highlighted, I discovered Shakespeare Animated. Shakespeare Animated is a YouTube channel containing twelve playlists ten of which are animated adaptations of Shakespeare's most famous plays. Some of the animated plays that appear in the Shakespeare Animated playlist are Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, MacBeth, and The Taming of the Shrew. I've embedded part one of Romeo and Juliet below.


Applications for Education
The Shakespeare Animated videos could be useful for supporting your students' reading of Romeo and Juliet or any of the nine other plays in the list. Because the plays are broken into segment they are well-suited to being used one class meeting at a time. You could show the ten to twelve minute segments

New 3D Photo Tours on Google Maps

This morning Google announced the release of a new way to view images in Google Maps. 3D Photo Tours on Google Maps is a collection of public Panoramio and Picasa images of famous landmarks arranged into 3D panoramic tours. You can take a tour of places like the Grand Canyon, Buckingham Palace, and Fenway Park. Here's a complete list of the places for which 3D photo tours are available. To access these new views you do have to have to be using a modern browser that supports Web GL technology. The video below highlights the new 3D Photo Tours on Google Maps.



Applications for Education
If you don't have access to Google Earth on your school's computers, the 3D Photo Tours in Google Maps is a great alternative for showing students what some of the famous landmarks they may have studied look like.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Google Drive - Store Files, Share Files, and Talk About Them

Today, Google introduced a new service for saving, sharing, and discussing files online. The new service is called Google Drive and it combines some of the best elements of Google Docs and Google Plus into one package. In fact, Google Docs is now a part of Google Drive.

When you upload a file to your Google Drive account you can share it with anyone just like you can share any document in your Google Docs account. You can share files publicly or privately. You can create comment threads for any of the files that you share whether they're document, image, video, or music files. These features alone don't make Google Drive significantly better than something like Dropbox with its new sharing functions. But Google Drive does have a nice search feature that I haven't seen elsewhere. Google Drive has a search function that will allow you to search the contents of your files, even your scanned files. Rather than just searching file names, you can search the entire contents of your files.

Watch the video below to learn more about Google Drive.


Applications for Education
Just like Google Docs, Dropbox, and other online files storage services, Google Drive eliminates the need for flashdrives/ USB drives and eliminates the need to send email attachments in order to share files. The threaded commenting option could be very useful for peer review of work as well as be useful for teachers to use to offer feedback to students.

Google Drive provides 5GB of free storage which should be more than enough for the vast majority of students. The only scenario in which students might use up this space is if they have a lot of video and music files stored in their Google Drive accounts.

And now I need to go make some updates to Google Docs for Teachers to include information about Google Drive.

Listen to Dinosaurs Talk About Themselves

DinoDatabase.com has a great little feature called If Dinosaurs Could Talk. In If Dinosaurs Could Talk you will find twenty audio recordings in which a narrator playing the role of a talking dinosaur shares a little information about that dinosaur.

In addition to the If Dinosaurs Could Talk feature, Dinodatabase.com offers a huge glossary of terms about dinosaurs.

Applications for Education
If Dinosaurs Could Talk could be a nice little resource to use in elementary school lessons about dinosaurs. You could use the audio recordings as a way to spark students' curiosity about dinosaurs before sending them off to read and research more information about the dinosaurs that they just heard talking to them.

Build Your Own Video Games on Sploder

Sploder is a website that offers free tools for creating your own video games. There are four basic game templates that you can modify to your heart's content. The four templates are a physics puzzle game, an algorithm creator (which reminded me a little of Zelda), a shooter game template, and a blank platform which I used to create a simple Mario Brothers-like game.

Creating games on the Sploder platform is a drag and drop process. You can select as many elements as like for each scene of your game. Game elements can be resized and re-used repeatedly throughout your games. When you think you're ready to publish your game, use the Sploder game tester to try your game and see how it actually works. If you find something you want to change in your game, you can do that at anytime after testing it and before publishing your final product.

Sploder has a YouTube channel containing some tutorials to walk you through creating games. I've embedded one of the tutorials below.

Applications for Education
Creating a game on Sploder could be a good way to get students to think about the logic and sequencing used to plan and develop video games.

Cookie Offers Excellent Educational Games

Cookie is a site offering dozens of excellent educational games for pre-K and elementary school students. The games that I tried all featured large, clear graphics that make it easy to start playing immediately. Cookie doesn't just provide games, it also offers short animated video lessons. At the end of each lesson there is a short quiz that students can use to test their new knowledge. Each game and lesson automatically launches in full screen thereby eliminating and potential sidebar distractions.

The first lesson that I tried on Cookie was a handwriting lesson. The lesson directed me to draw letters and numbers by following the arrows. If I didn't go in the correct order, a red "x" stopped my progress until I went back and traced correctly.

Applications for Education
An embed code is available for the games and lessons on Cookie. If you have a resource page for your classroom or school, Cookie's resources could be a great addition to that page.

H/T to David Kapuler.

Cartoon - Let's Flip, Think Before You Flip

On Saturday I wrote a short post containing three questions to consider before flipping your classroom. Jeff Branzburg took that post and created a great cartoon based on those questions. The cartoon, which you can see below or on Jeff's blog explains what flipping a classroom means and presents the questions to consider before flipping.


You'll notice that Jeff uses BitStrips to create his cartoons. Here is a list of ten other tools you can use to create cartoons.

Monday, April 23, 2012

File Sharing Just Got Easier Through Dropbox

For a long time Google Documents has made it very easy to publish work to the web by simply selecting the "anyone with link" or "make public on web" options in the sharing menu. Now Dropbox has gotten in on the easy file sharing game by introducing a very similar feature. The new Dropbox file sharing option allows you to publish to the web any file that is in your Dropbox account.

To publish files to the web from your Dropbox account simply click "get link" next to your file's name and a URL for your file will be generated. Give that URL to anyone you want to view your file. People accessing that URL will be able to see the file and its contents but will not be able to edit or delete any of the file's contents. Publishing isn't limited to just one file at a time, you can publish an entire folder from your Dropbox account with one link. As TechCrunch's Anthony Ha said about the new feature, "it's ridiculously easy."

Applications for Education
Dropbox is a great service for teachers and students to save all kinds of files online. Used in conjunction with DropItToMe Dropbox is a great place to collect students' works without flooding your email inbox. The new file sharing option will make publishing students works very easy. If students have a portfolio of writing that they wish to share online, Dropbox file sharing could be what they need.

Grovo - Video Lessons on Web Apps

Grovo is a service that offers video lessons on how to use a huge array of web apps and web services. Grovo lessons on the subjects of Internet basics, productivity, business tools, communication, lifestyle, and entertainment. Within each of these subjects you can learn how to use hundreds of different websites and web apps. Not sure how to set up filters in your email? Grovo can teach you. Confused about privacy settings on Facebook? Grovo lessons can clarify them for you. Have an interest in Pinterest, but don't know how to use it? Grovo lessons will help you learn.

Grovo's video lessons aren't just stand-alone videos. There a part of a sequence of video courses. Each course has guiding questions that you can use to check your knowledge along the way.

Before you get too excited about Grovo, you should know that their course offerings a mix of free and paid enrollment courses. The courses marked with a big "G" indicate that they are courses for which you will have to pay to enroll.

Applications for Education
Courses like Grovo's course on Facebook privacy settings and Facebook communication is a course that students and parents alike could benefit from taking. By taking the course together students learn a bit about how to manage their digital footprints, parents will learn what all of the settings do, and students will know that their parents know what can be done on Facebook.

Don't Tell the Band... History References in Songs

L.O.C. 04402
This post will reveal a bit about my personality. As I was working through a weekend's worth of email this morning I was listening to a music playlist of mine titled, "Dead, Phish, Panic." In it there is a song by Widespread Panic titled Don't Tell the Band. In it there are references to the Battle of Gettysburg and the sinking of the Titanic. But I'm not sure that all history students would pick up on the references.

Listening to Don't Tell the Band got me wondering about other songs that make veiled and not-so-veiled references to significant events in history. Billy Joel's We Didn't Start the Fire is the obvious one, but what else is out there? I've added a few songs below. Please leave a comment if you have more to add to the list.


Barry McGuire - The Eve of Destruction
Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young - Ohio

PBS Kids Cyberchase - Dozens of Math Activities

PBS Kids Cyberchase offers dozens of online and offline mathematics games and activities for students. The collection of more than forty online games are designed to make students think about patterns and use logic to solve challenges. The offline activities use the same model, but are designed for hands-on offline learning.

The highlight of the Cyberchase online activities are the "quest" activities in which students have to solve problems as along a journey as they work toward a goal. For example, in Mission Motherboard students have to solve problems to earn money that they then use to buy parts to fix a motherboard. Not all of the games are as time intensive as Mission Motherboard. A quick activity is the Virtual Coin Flip. The Virtual Coin Flip teaches students a short lesson in probability. There is a supplementary explanatory video to go along with each game in the Cyberchase online activities.

Applications for Education
The large selection of online activities available on Cyberchase makes it a good resource to use in a classroom where you have groups of students working on different skills at the same time. I really like the quest activities because they provide a nice game environment in which students are working toward a goal through the use of their problem solving skills.

Come Work With Me This Summer


Over the last week or so I've been asked by a dozen or so people about where I will be presenting this summer. Here's the list and descriptions of events that I will be speaking at this summer that are open for registration right now. 

Once again this summer I will be working with Tom Daccord and the Ed Tech Teacher team to present a series of workshops on the campus of Harvard (yes, you can tell your students that you went to Harvard this summer). The first workshop is Teaching History With Technology on June 27 through June 29. You can register for that session here. July 16-18 Tom and I will again present best Web 2.0 Tools for Teachers. You can register for that session here. July 30 - August 1 I will again be part of the team presenting Teaching History With Technology. You can register here for that session. Both of these sessions were full last year. In fact, Teaching History With Technology was so popular that a second session was added. 

New Hampshire Educators, whether you have never used Google Apps in your classroom or you're looking to step-up your game to become a Google Apps guru, you'll want to consider coming to the Google Workshops for Educators that I will be presenting at July 10-13 in New Hampshire. These full-day workshops are coordinated by Dr. Mark Wagner. I will be one of four presenters along with Mark, Kern Kelley, and Alice Barr. You do have to complete an application to participate in these workshops. Please click here for all of the details about these Google Workshops for Educators. 

In late July (22-28) I will be running a week of workshops on Google Apps at the Maine School of Science and Math in Limestone, Maine (yes, that is in far northern Maine). My workshops are part of their week-long STEM camp.

Finally, I am developing a four part webinar series with Angela Maiers and Chris Dawson. The series is for educators who want to learn how to build their personal brands with an eye toward earning an income through speaking, writing, and consulting. I have had lots of people ask me over the last year how I have managed to earn money through my blog. In this series I'll share how I've done it and all of the good and bad lessons I've learned along the wear. Angela and Chris will be doing the same. More details and registration for the webinar will be available very soon. 

I will also be presenting at a handful of schools this summer. If you're interested in having me present at your school this summer, I still have some openings in my schedule. Please click here to learn more about my school PD offerings. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Blogger Buster is Back!

One of my go-to places for learning Blogger tips, tricks, and hacks is Blogger Buster. For the last year or so it was fairly dormant. In the last couple of weeks, it has come back to life with a bunch of new tips and tutorials. It's also a good place to find custom templates to use with your Blogger blog.

Applications for Education
If you're having students use Blogger to maintain their own blogs or digital portfolios, you may have some students who want to customize the look of their blogs to make them stand-out from the crowd. For those students, Blogger Buster could be a great place for them to find hacks to customize their blogs in their own unique style. In trying these hacks your students will also learn a bit about HTML and CSS.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Week in Review - It Feels Like Spring

Good morning. Another week has zoomed past us, but at this point in the school year some of us may think that's a good thing. This week the Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page received its 21,000th "like." Thank you all for sharing and liking my posts. After five years of blogging I am still amazed and flattered that you choose to spend some of your valuable time on my blog. As I do every weekend, I've put together a list of the seven most popular posts of the last week.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Teaching Parents and Others About Passwords
2. Using the Swabr Microblogging Network in Schools
3. Financial Literacy, Taxes, and Economics Lessons
4. Alpha Maps - Wolfram Alpha Entries on a Map
5. Geography, Class, and Fate of Titanic Passengers
6. Seven YouTube Channels Not Named Khan Offering Math Lessons
7. QR Codes Explained and Ideas for Classroom Use


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Three Questions to Consider Before We All Flip

Pedro Moura Pinheiro on Flickr
It seems like you can't open an education periodical these days without finding an article espousing the wonders of flipping the classroom. Like most initiatives in schools, flipping the classroom does have merit in the right situation. But also like most initiatives it's not a one-size-fits-all solution. Here are three questions that I have to ask before flipping a classroom.

1. Do the majority of your students complete their homework assignments on time on a consistent basis? If not, there may be a larger issue of student engagement and motivation to investigate. Furthermore, if you flip the classroom and students come to class having not watched the video lessons, how do you spend your classroom time the next day? Do you let students watch the videos in class? Do you reteach the lesson that they should have watched for homework?

2. Do all of your students have access to the web at home? If not, how are you going to address that? Will you distribute copies of your video files to students before they leave your classroom? Do you all of your students have computers or tablets to use at home? If the answer is "no" to one or all of these questions, are you setting up an inequitable learning environment?

3. Do you have time to create quality videos? If not, will you create some and then source the rest of from the web?

For the record, I'm not against flipping the classroom in the right situation. I just don't want to rush into a model that might not be the best solution for all situations.

Friday, April 20, 2012

7 Resources for Teaching and Learning About Mount Everest

This is one of those posts that I write every year just because this is one of my "pet topics." Visiting the Himalayas is on my life list so I like to write about Mount Everest when I get a chance. This year's spring climbing season on Mount Everest is underway so I thought I would review some resources for teaching and learning about Mount Everest.

National Geographic Expeditions has a lesson plan for middle school students about the history and development of climbing Mount Everest. The lesson plan also touches on the physical challenges posed by high altitude mountaineering.

The Rest of Everest video podcast provides more than 100 hours of video and commentary from two expeditions to the Himalayas. If you're looking for a way to show students what life on a mountain climbing trip is really like from start to finish, the Rest of Everest is the place to go.

Panoramas.dk, hosts dozens of other interactive panoramas from around the world. Included in that list is this 360 degree interactive panoramic image taken from the peak of Mt. Everest. Using this panoramic image students can see what mountaineers see when they stand on the peak of Mt. Everest. The image includes views of the famous Khumbu valley as well as Everest's neighboring peaks Lhotse, Changtse, Makalu, and Nupste. The rest of the list of interactive panoramas includes views of cultural festivals and tourist attractions. The database of US panoramic views includes the Grand Canyon, the Jefferson Memorial, and two dozen other panoramas.


Everest: Beyond the Limit was a Discovery series that chronicled the efforts of amateur mountain climbers attempting to climb Mount Everest. The climbers are accompanied by professional guides and Sherpas. The entire climb was coordinated by Russell Brice. To accompany Everest: Beyond the Limit, Discovery has developed a number of interesting and educational web resources. On the Everest: Beyond the Limit website you will find interactive Sherpa-cams, puzzles, games, and climbers' blogs. The Sherpa-cams give you perspective of what a climber sees has he or she ascends Mount Everest.

This Google Earth tour of Mount Everest's South Col route offers good views of the steps and camps along the way to the summit of Mount Everest. The South Col route is the route that Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay used on the first successful summit climb. The South Col route is also the most commonly used route up Mount Everest.

A team of scientists studying climate change in Nepal have established a live webcam feed featuring Mount Everest. The camera is only operational during daylight hours in Nepal (roughly 6am to 6pm local time) but if you can grab the feed at the right time you can get some great looks at the mountain. The same researchers are also posting real-time climate data about Mount Everest and other mountains in the region.

I recently read Mount Everest, The Reconnaissance 1921 which I downloaded for free from Google Books. In the introduction there is a three page explanation of the methods used to measure the height of Mount Everest. An explanation of the differences in measurements is also provided in the introduction. Part of that explanation includes differences in snow fall, cyclical deviations of gravity, and differences atmospheric refraction when observations were made. I'm not a mathematics teacher and will never pretend to be one, but reading that introduction did get me thinking about a possible mathematics lesson.

On a mildly related note and on a promotion of a Mainer note, Snow in the Kingdom: My Storm Years on Everest by Ed Webster is one of the best books ever written about Mount Everest. If you enjoy good adventure stories and or stories about overcoming personal struggles, I think you will enjoy Webster's book. For my money, and I own two copies of it, it is far better than Krakauer's Into Thin Air.

Three Simple Tools for Creating Strong Passwords

Some readers may recall that last weekend I tried to explain passwords and computer viruses to my step-father. In the post about that experience I included a short video from Explania about how to craft a strong password. If after watching that video you or your students still need help creating strong passwords, here are three simple tools that will help you develop strong passwords.

One of the best ways to protect your online identity is to create strong passwords containing unique characters. Sometimes it's difficult to think of new strong passwords. When you're having a mental block thinking up a new password try PassCreator. PassCreator is a free service that helps you create a strong password. To use PassCreator just select the attributes you want your password to have (number of characters, character type, etc.) then press "create." If you don't like the password created for you, just press "create" again to generate another password.

Password Bird is a simple website that asks you three questions then generates a password for you based on your responses. Every password it generated for me included numbers and letters. If you don't like the password it generates for you, simply click the link for a new password.

If you've ever been in that place where you're stuck trying to develop a password, PassPlex is for you. PassPlex is a simple tool for generating strong and unique passwords. To use PassPlex to create a password all you have to do is enter the number of characters you need and the level of complexity you desire for your password.

Microsoft Flight Simulator in the Steam Gaming Environment

Last month I wrote about the latest version of the Microsoft Flight Simulator being available to download and play for free. This week I learned from Make Use Of that the Microsoft Flight Simulator is also available to play on the Steam gaming platform. Like the version available from Microsoft, the Steam version of the game is free for the basic package and there are add-ons that can be purchased.

Applications for Education
Playing Microsoft Flight might be a fun way for some students to experiment with some basic aerospace physics. On a related note, Google Earth has a flight simulator which you can activate by going to the tools menu and selecting "activate flight simulator" or by press "ctrl+alt+a.

Image Resizer Increases Image Accessibility

Image Resizer is a handy Firefox add-on that enables you to click on just about any image on a website and resize it. It could be very helpful for students who need to see images in more detail or just need the images enlarged for better viewing. I learned about Image Resizer from a recent episode of Tekzilla Daily which you can watch below.

Google Apps Terminology Explained

I am often asked for clarification on the differences between Google Apps and Google Apps for Education. I understand the need for clarification  because the terminology can sometimes be confusing. Hopefully, the following explanations will offer some clarity.

The term Google Apps generally refers to the suite of Google services (Gmail, Docs, Sites, etc) that a person or organization uses under their own registered domain. For example, I have a Google Apps account for Free Technology for Teachers through which I access Gmail, Google Sites, Docs, Voice, Alerts, and other Google services. This is slightly different than a standard Google account because all of my services are linked together under the banner of Free Technology for Teachers which is why my email is richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers (dot) com even though it's powered by Gmail.

There are four different versions of Google Apps. Here's how Google explains them on their official blog.

  • Google Apps is our free service geared towards families, entrepreneurs and other groups up to 50 users.
  • Google Apps for Business offers 25GB of email storage per user, a 99.9% uptime guarantee, data migration capabilities, advanced management tools, telephone support, added security features and more, all for $50 per user per year.
  • Google Apps for Government is FISMA certified and designed with local, state and federal agencies in mind.
  • Google Apps for Education offers many benefits of Google Apps for Business, but at no cost to schools, universities and qualifying non-profits.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

How to Print Posters Using a Standard Printer

I often run across infographics that could be great posters to hang in a classroom if only there was an easy way to print them poster-sized. Most teachers don't have ready access to printers that can handle poster-sized paper, but do have access to standard letter-size printers. Thanks to a recent blog post by Joyce Valenza I have discovered a way that you can print posters using a standard inkjet or laser printer.

Block Posters is a web-based tool to which you can upload a high quality graphic then divide it into letter-sized chunks for printing. Print out each section and put them together on a poster board to make your own poster.

Applications for Education
If you find a great infographic like this one about our solar system that you want to display in your classroom, Block Posters could be a great tool for you to use. Want to create a giant jigsaw puzzle? Block Posters could be useful for that. Or if you have students create their own infographics that they want to display, print them out with Block Posters. Speaking of creating infographics, click here and here to learn about a couple of tools for creating infographics.