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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

October's Most Popular Ed Tech Posts

Happy Halloween! It's almost hard to believe that the end of October is already here. This month I had the pleasure and privilege of presenting at events in Ohio and Montana. Thank you to everyone who came out to those events. I drove between the two events and I am currently on my way home. Of course, no road trip would be complete without pictures so I've snapped a few. The picture to the left is the answer to a fun geography trivia question.

This month Free Technology for Teachers crossed the 51,000 subscriber mark. That's just incredible to me. Thank you all for subscribing and sharing the posts with your colleagues. These are the most popular posts of the month.

1. Creative Uses for iPads in the Classroom
2. Seven Whiteboard Tools for Teachers & Students
3. Do the Two Step to Protect Your Google Drive, Dropbox, and Box files
4. Six Multimedia Timeline Tools for Students
5. 37 Crash Course History Videos
6. Access Google Docs With One Click Even When You're Offline
7. Video Creation in the Classroom - Tools & Tips
8. Professor Word - Identify SAT & ACT Vocabulary Word on Any Page
9. Text 2 Mind Map - Type to Create a Mind Map
10. The Electoral College in Plain English

Please visit the official advertisers and marketing partners that help keep this blog going.
Send Hub offers an excellent service for sending group text messages to parents.
Hall.com offers chat, video conferencing, and screen sharing to teachers.
Discovery Education & Wilkes University offer online courses for earning Master's degrees in Instructional Media.
Vocabulary Spelling City offers spelling practice activities that you can customize.
The College of St. Scholastica offers M. Ed courses.
MasteryConnect provides a network for teachers to share and discover Common Core assessments.
ABCya.com is a provider of free educational games for K-5.
Lesley University offers quality online graduate programs for teachers.
The University of Maryland Baltimore County offers graduate programs for teachers.
Ed Tech Teacher offers professional development services for schools and is hosting iPad Summit USA in November. Register now.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology.

How to Subscribe to Free Technology for Teachers
If you aren't subscribed you can join more than 51,000 others who do subscribe via these links.
Subscribe via RSSSubscribe via Email.
Like Free Technology for Teachers on  Facebook.
Find me on Twitter, on Google+, or on Pinterest.

Are you looking for a keynote speaker or workshop facilitator?
Click here for information on what I can do for you.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Quickly Find Images for Google Presentations

Back in May Google added an integrated research tool to Google Docs. The research tool allows you to quickly find images, quotes, and links without leaving your document.  Today, Google added the research tool to Google Docs presentations and drawings.

To access the research tool in Google Docs, Presentations, or Drawings just select it from the "tools" menu when you have a document, presentation, or drawing open. If you want to locate images that are licensed for re-use, open the "settings" menu at the bottom of the research pane and select "free to use, share, modify even commercially." Make that selection before conducting your search. If you use Chrome or Firefox you can drag images directly into your document, presentation, or drawing from the research pane.

Applications for Education
In addition to finding images on the web, the research pane in Google Docs now searches through images that you have stored and or shared in Picassa web albums and Google+ posts. If your students are using either or both of those services to store images the research pane could be a great tool for them to use to quickly recover and re-use their own content.  And, of course, the research pane on its own is a good asset to students when they're designing presentations in Google Docs.

theLearnia - Video Lessons with a Social Network

theLearnia is a new website that is organizing video lessons into collections. The service calls the videos "lessons" and appears to have plans for adding more to the lessons than just video clips, but that doesn't appear to have happened to most of the lessons. theLearnia has a social element that allows you to connect with other students and teachers to comment on videos and exchange public and private messages about lessons.

Applications for Education
Right now I think that the value of theLearnia is its organization of videos according to grade level and subject. In the future when there are more users theLearnia could be a good place to host informal online study sessions.

Chromebooks in the 7th Grade Classroom

Gene Tognetti is a 7th grade Social Studies teacher and vice-principal at St. Leo the Great in San Jose, California. This is Gene's account of using Chromebooks with students.


My school (St. Leo the Great in San Jose, Ca.) has three Chromebook class sets for an ‘in school’ 1:1 program (5th through 7th grades).  We’re a Google Apps for Education (GAFE) school. I teach 7th grade Social Studies, and the students use the Chromebooks daily.
 

Key Features and Activities
Our use of the Chromebooks has given me some insight regarding how to take best advantage of them. First, some general observations. The Chromebooks seem pretty rugged. Two Chromebooks have been dropped in the past year, with (thankfully) no ill effects. One simple, but key, feature is the ‘instant on’ nature of the device. I can ask kids to shut the Chromebooks at any time, if I need their full attention and want to avoid ‘computer distraction syndrome’. For instance, we’ll be working on a new Google Doc graphic organizer, and, if I need to give them an instruction, I ask them to shut the lid, instruct, then they can re-open and get right back on track. Sounds silly, but this is a big help, especially since more than a couple kids do have attention issues.... We also LOVE the long battery life. I teach at end of day, and the computers are still going strong at that time of the day.

We just completed our study of the fall of the Roman Empire, and I assigned the kids a large culminating project.

One early activity I had for the kids was to create a timeline of Roman Empire events using Google Draw. Draw was easy to learn and suited our needs, so in this case no timeline website was used. Students routinely take notes during class - from (short) lectures, while watching videos (guided and unguided), and for some formative assessments. Students collaborate with each other using various Google tools. For instance, student teams developed a brief Google Presentation that they used to teach others as the “expert” on a relevant Roman Empire topic they chose. The integration with Google Apps (the kids sign on to the device, then they are immediately online and connected to Google Apps) is great and saves more time.

One of our main tech goals is to use free web tools as much as possible. Since the Chromebook is an internet access device, its use is right in sync with our goals. The simplicity of most web tools we use - Google Apps are a good example - means students can concentrate on ‘higher order thinking’ skills (like evaluating and creating information), and not so much ‘how do I use this application?’  Students support each other very well - I’m very pleased to see them helping each other as questions arise. They generally love the Chromebooks. The computers are pretty speedy, and accomplish everything we want. 

 

The Bumps and Their Solutions
There have been some minor  bumps along the way. Early on, there were some network connectivity issues on a few Chromebooks.  Those were solved by ‘refreshing’ the OS (about a 10 minute process); those problems have (almost completely)  disappeared. Google also provides regular ChromeOS updates (which install fast and unobtrusively). The improvements have been continuous.  Printing using Google CloudPrint is still a work in process; it’s not always totally reliable. We don’t print much, so not a big deal so far.

Until recently, there were problems uploading small (30 to 60 second) video files to web-based editing sites. The problems included unsuccessful uploads, or an inability to edit clips. “Digital Storytelling”  is a key student skill here, so that was troublesome. We’ve started to use Pixorial and I’m very pleased to say that Pixorial’s video editing has been excellent. It’s reliable, the uploads are relatively speedy, the tool is simple to use, and the end results have been excellent. Their customer support - as I got up to speed on how to use the tool- is first-rate. Creating videos was a major part of the student work done for the culminating Rome project, and it was a success!

Here are some of the web resources students have used this year on the Chromebooks:


Google:
Gmail - ongoing two-way communication between students and me
Docs - video notes, lecture notes, formative assessments, assignment and project collaboration
Presentation - collaborative presentations with ‘student as teacher’
Calendar - piloting use of calendar for Fall of Rome project due dates
Forms - collecting “what do I want study?” student responses; “what did I learn today?” exit tickets
Draw (embedded in Doc) - Fall of Rome timeline with embedded images
Advanced Image Search - find copyright-friendly images for various assignments

Other tools:
Collaborize Classroom - For example “who is Rome’s MVP, and why?” conversation
Pixorial - students created video newscast for Rome project
Corkboard - project brainstorming list, shared with class
EasyBib - generate Sources Cited to include with Google Preso
instaGrok- for initial learning about a Roman Empire topic

Monday, October 29, 2012

One Nexus 10 Feature That Could Make It a Great Classroom Tablet

The big Google press event in New York City was canceled today, but Google still officially unveiled three new Nexus devices on their official blog. The device that I want to talk about here is the Nexus 10 tablet.

The Nexus 10 tablet runs the latest version of Android (4.2). Google calls it a "premium entertainment device" and if the Nexus 7 that I currently own is any indicator of performance, the Nexus 10 will live up to its billing. Of course the device will run productivity apps as well as entertainment apps. The dimensions and tech specs of the Nexus 10 is bound to make people compare it to iPads. 

I haven't touched a Nexus 10 yet, but there is one feature of it that I think has a ton of potential for classroom use. That feature is the option to add multiple users to each device. You can switch between user profiles from the lockscreen. This should allow multiple students to use the same device without interfering with each others apps.

The Nexus 10 hits stores in mid-November. I'm not sure that I can justify buying another tablet right now, but I will definitely be "window shopping" when they do hit stores.

Update: I just learned from Ryan Bretag that it's all Android 4.2 devices not just the Nexus 10 that will have multiple profile support. TechCrunch mentions that too in their break-down of the new Nexus devices.

Chrome Remote Desktop Leaves Beta to Allow You to Offer Tech Help Remotely

I've written about the Chrome Remote Desktop App a couple of times this year because I think that it can be very helpful to people who play the role of tech support in their schools or just in their families. Today, Google announced that the Chrome Remote Desktop App is leaving beta. In leaving beta the app has added the option to copy and paste content between devices. Windows users also now have a real-time audio option.

Using the Chrome Remote Desktop App you can grant access to your computer to another person who also has the Chrome Remote Desktop App installed. If you want to share your desktop just click "share now" and Chrome Remote Desktop will generate an access code to give to the person who will access your computer.

To access and control another person's computer you just need to enter the access code that they provide to you.

Applications for Education
The Chrome Remote Desktop app could be very helpful in aiding teachers and students when they get stuck trying to accomplish a task on their computers.

Creative Commons in Plain English

I just published a post about creating attributions for Creative Commons licensed images. Writing that post reminded me that Creative Commons isn't always an easy topic to understand. Whenever I give a presentation or run a workshop about student video projects, I spend time explaining what Creative Commons licensing is and its benefits for consumers and producers of media. Sometimes in my workshops I use Common Craft's explanation of Creative Commons licenses and what they mean for consumers and producers of media. I've embedded the video below.

 
Applications for Education
Copyright and Creative Commons Explained by Common Craft can be very useful in helping students understand why they cannot simply copy and paste whatever images they like that they find online.

For my Canadian friends the rules of copyright are different than they are for me in the United States. David Wees has a good presentation about Copyright for Canadian educators.

Common Craft videos can be viewed for free online but to download them or embed them you do have to be a subscriber to their service. In the interest of full disclosure I will tell you that I have an in-kind relationship with Common Craft which means that I have received a subscription in exchange for advising Common Craft on some product offerings.

A Handy Attribution Helper for Flickr Images

Correctly formatting Creative Commons image attributions can be a little tricky. Alan Levine (Cog Dog Blog) has developed a Chrome extension that takes the guess work out of formatting image citations for Creative Commons works that you find on Flickr. The Flickr CC Attribution Helper generates text and HTML that you can use in webpages, presentations, and any other place that you 
use someone's Creative Commons works.

Applications for Education
This extension only works in Chrome for Flickr images, but Flickr is one of the largest if not the largest collections of Creative Commons licensed images. If you or your students are using Creative Commons images in presentations and blog posts, give the Flickr CC Attribution Helper a try.

Thanks to Selena Woodward for sharing this handy tool with me on Google+.

Double Your Productivity with Radical Co-location

Hall.com is an advertiser on Free Technology for Teachers. This is their sponsored post.

Ever wonder how software companies like Facebook and Twitter are so productive? One of the industry secrets is that teams work better and communicate more efficiently in a single, big, and open room.
Research at the University of Michigan teams found that teams experience a higher level of work satisfaction and are more productive when they can gather together in the same space, communicating in real-time without any barriers or delays. This type of working environment is called “Radical Co-location.” Members of a team that are not in the same location need a way to collaborate online. Products like Hall can help.

It’s Real-Time
Still using email to communicate and get things done? You’re probably reducing your productivity (and your team’s productivity) by about 40%. The solution is to move your team to group chat.  If you need to work with one person send an instant message (IM): Conversation with a single click of a button - no need to open emails or wait for a response.

It’s Convenient
Hall is one of the only group chat and instant messaging applications that is accessible on all platforms including web, desktop, mobile (iOS & Android). By choosing a product that works on all platforms, you’ll be able to get things done even faster, anytime and anywhere.

It’s Easy to Start
The most important thing to do is to get started. Join Hall and let people know this is your new virtual office where your team gets things done, collaborates, chats, and instant messages. You’ll find real-time collaboration solutions like Hall are a more productive and fun way to stay connected to your team.
Experience group chat and instant messaging at Hall.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Bibliography Templates for Google Documents

Tools like EasyBib, refDot, and Citelighter can help students format their bibliographies. One problem with those tools is that students have to install browser extensions, create new accounts, or both in order to use them. If your students already use Google Docs there is an easy-to-access alternative.

The Google Docs template gallery is a good place to check out before you create your next form or document that requires a lot specific formatting. Chances are someone else may have had a similar need and has already created and published a template that you can use. For example, the Google Docs template gallery has templates for creating bibliographies in APA, MLA, AMA, and Chicago Style.

Applications for Education
The Google Docs bibliography templates could be very useful for any student that needs to create a bibliography. The templates can be embedded into a classroom blog as a model for students to follow even if they don't use Google Docs to create their bibliographies. 

Activities for Learning 60 Languages

Digital Dialects has a large selection of educational games and activities for learning sixty different languages. Most of the games are designed to learn and practice the basics of each of the sixty languages listed on the Digital Dialects homepage. The more commonly spoken languages have more activities than the less commonly spoken languages. Audio files have recently been added to some of the languages too.

Applications for Education
The educational games and activities found on Digital Dialects could be useful to students just beginning to learn a new language. Some of the games provide instant feedback to students so that they can monitor their progress and choose the appropriate skills or vocabulary sets to practice. 


Make Your Own PBS Cyberchase SMART Board Game Show

PBS Kids Cyberchase website offers dozens of  educational games for students in grades three through five. The games are intended to help students develop their skills in mathematics, logic, and pattern recognition. Students who have PBS Kids accounts can keep track of the games they've played and rank the games they've played.

If you would like to make your own game for your SMART Board, check out the PBS Kids Lucky Star Game Show template. The template contains 150 questions that can be used to create games. One of the activities that you can develop using the template is a "game show" featuring your students' favorite Cyberchase characters.

Applications for Education
PBS Kids Cyberchase games and the SMART Board template could be useful for elementary school mathematics lessons. Students can play the games individually then come together to participate in a group activity using the SMART Board activities you develop with the PBS Kids template.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Spend Four Weeks in D.C. as a C-SPAN Fellow

I recently received an email from C-SPAN reminding me of a great free PD opportunity that they offer for teachers in the U.S. during the summer. The C-SPAN Teacher Fellowship Program brings together teachers and media specialists for four weeks in Washington, D.C. every summer. During the four week program teachers work together to develop new teaching materials. Teachers selected for the program will receive an award valued at $7,000 (including lodging and travel costs). You can learn more and find the application here. Applications are due by February 8, 2013.

Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Near the Bob Marshall Wilderness, MT.
Last Saturday I had the honor of delivering the kick-off presentation from a hotel room in Missoula, Montana for Discovery's Virtual Conference. After that presentation I headed north toward the Bob Marshall Wilderness where we camped for the night and were grateful for down sleeping bags when the snow started to fall. I don't have anything nearly as exciting planned for this weekend, just some general relaxation. Whether you have exciting adventures planned or your just hanging out watching movies, I hope you have a great weekend. And if you're looking for some quick ed tech reading, check out the list below.

The Most Popular Posts of the Week:
1. Creative Uses for iPads in the Classroom
2. Six Multimedia Timeline Creation Tools
3. Video Creation in the Classroom - Tools & Tips
4. Access Google Docs With One Click Even When You're Offline
5. The 1900 House Living Without Technology Challenge
6. Stack the Countries - A Tetris-like Geography Game
7. Video Projects and Common Core Standards

Please visit the official advertisers and marketing partners that help keep this blog going.
Send Hub offers an excellent service for sending group text messages to parents.
Hall.com offers chat, video conferencing, and screen sharing to teachers.
Discovery Education & Wilkes University offer online courses for earning Master's degrees in Instructional Media.
Vocabulary Spelling City offers spelling practice activities that you can customize.
The College of St. Scholastica offers M. Ed courses.
MasteryConnect provides a network for teachers to share and discover Common Core assessments.
ABCya.com is a provider of free educational games for K-5.
Lesley University offers quality online graduate programs for teachers.
The University of Maryland Baltimore County offers graduate programs for teachers.
Ed Tech Teacher offers professional development services for schools and is hosting iPad Summit USA in November. Register now.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology.

How to Subscribe to Free Technology for Teachers
If you aren't subscribed you can join more than 51,000 others who do subscribe via these links.
Subscribe via RSSSubscribe via Email.
Like Free Technology for Teachers on  Facebook.
Find me on Twitter, on Google+, or on Pinterest.

Are you looking for a keynote speaker or workshop facilitator?
Click here for information on what I can do for you.

Friday, October 26, 2012

MIT + K12 = Educational Videos for K-12 Students

MIT + K12 is a new MIT project that features MIT students explaining math and science concepts for K-12 students. The website isn't a collection of Khan Academy-style videos it's a place where you will find videos featuring real MIT students explaining concepts while showing them as hands-on demonstrations or experiments. Watch one of the featured videos below.


Applications for Education
MIT + K12 is new and so far they only have a couple of dozen videos, but the concept of the MIT + K12 is promising. If you have an idea for a video, you can suggest it on the site. The MIT + K12 videos are hosted on YouTube and on MIT Tech TV for people who cannot access YouTube in their schools.

Use Studeous to Create a Discussion Forum for Your Class

Studeous is a new service that teachers can use to create online discussion forums for their courses. In your Studeous account you can create a discussion forum for each of the courses that you teach. In addition to using Studeous as a discussion forum you can create an announcements page. If you upgrade to a paid account you can post files and images too (the free version limits you to two files). Students can join your forum by entering the access code for your course or you can send them invitations via email.

Applications for Education
Studeous is not as robust as some similar services like Edmodo. That said, if you're looking for a quick and easy way to create a discussion forum for your courses Studeous might be for you.

New and Better Views of Natural Geography on Google Maps

Today, Google released new visual improvements to the base maps in Google Maps. The improvements include new representations of terrain, vegetation, and land formations. The new base layer reminds me quite a bit of what you would typically find in a flat wall map. It also reminded me of the base layer in the National Geographic Map Maker.

Applications for Education
For a couple of years now you have been able to use "Earth view" in Google Maps. The Earth view provides a great look at the physical geography of the Earth, but running the Google Earth plug-in can be quite CPU intensive on some computers and if your school doesn't allow you to install plug-ins that view is inaccessible to you. Today, Google took a step toward resolving those issues.

140 WWII Aircraft Discovered In Burmese Jungle

This isn't a technology story, but I think it will be of interest to history teachers and history geeks like me. This morning The Adventure Blog has a story about a British explorer who has discovered a cache of 140 Spitfires that were buried 40 feet underground during WWII. According to the story the planes are fully intact and stored in their original shipping containers. The story is that the planes were buried for safe keeping to be uncovered and used later in WWII. The war ended without the planes being used and they were forgotten about. Read the full story here.

Applications for Education
Here are some of the World War II resources that I've shared in the past:
Video - WWII Maps of Europe & North Africa
How War Stories Inspire Learning
Interactive Pearl Harbor Map
The Science and Technology of WWII

Discover 60 New Web and iOS Apps Here

Last week Ray Birks sent me an email about a presentation that he and his colleague Aaron Hansen gave at the Washington Association of Educators of the Gifted and Talented Conference. Their presentation was a run-down of their favorite apps and websites. I went through the presentation and found a handful of new-to-me apps that I plan to try in the near future including this one. I'm sure that everyone can find something new to them in the presentation embedded below.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

The 25 Worst Passwords of the Year and How to Create Better Passwords

The CNN Tech blog recently published a list of the worst passwords of 2012. The top of the list includes all of the things that you might expect like "abc123," "password," and "qwerty." Hopefully, you and your students are not using any of the passwords on the list.

But if you or one of your students are using weak password, try one of these three free tools to create a strong password. If you prefer to create your own password rather than rely on a random password generator, watch the video below for suggestions on forming strong passwords.

One Hundred Free Books for Your Kindle

One Hundred Free Books is a website that offers free Kindle books on a daily basis. On One Hundred Free Books you can browse for free Kindle books by genre or search by title. The list of books changes constantly as new books become available for free and others are pulled from the free collection. You can subscribe to the website to keep up with the new releases of free books.

Applications for Education
One Hundred Free Books could provide you with a good place through which you can build your library of Kindle books for your students without spending a dime.

EduCam Classroom - Share Your Document Camera Images

EduCam is a new Android and iPad app that users of Flexcam an Ken-A-Vision document cameras may find useful. The EduCam app allows your students to view images captured with your document camera. Students can view images on their iPads and Android tablets. The images that they view they can also annotate and draw on. Students can submit their annotated images to their instructors through the EduCam viewer app.

Click here for the EduCam iPad app. Click here for the EduCam Android app.

Applications for Education
The EduCam viewer app could be a good app to have your students use to annotate images that you share with them. In a social studies course I might have my students use the app to annotate a primary source document that I share with them. In a biology course I might share a diagram of a cell and ask my students to label it and explain the structure of the cell.

Three Free Halloween iPad Apps

Halloween is less than one week away. This afternoon I spent some time trying out a variety of Halloween-themed iPad apps. I found a lot of paid apps that are good, but only a few that I think are worth telling you about. These are the three that I some elementary school teachers will like.

Halloween eBook by Visuals Work is a simple, customizable Halloween story. The short story is about a friendly vampire, monster, and mummy preparing to go trick or treating. Students "find" each one of these as they read the story. To customize the story you can upload students' pictures so that they appear next to the mummy in the story.

Halloween Word Search is a simple word search application that has a Halloween theme. All of the words in the app have a Halloween theme.

Carve a Pumpkin allows students to carve virtual pumpkins. There are five types of pumpkins to choose from. Students can carve their pumpkins using templates in the app or they can carve free-hand.

Video Projects and Common Core Standards

Last week I ran two workshops on video creation in the classroom. A part of that workshop was a discussion of Common Core standards that can be addressed through video creation projects. I've pulled out some of the standards that I think a video creation project can address. The standards that I chose all came from the Language Arts standards. I would love to hear from mathematics teachers who have ideas about Common Core standards that can be addressed through video creation projects.


CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.WHST.6-8.1e Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the argument presented.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.WHST.6-8.2a Introduce a topic clearly, previewing what is to follow; organize ideas, concepts, and information into broader categories as appropriate to achieving purpose; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., charts, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.WHST.6-8.2b Develop the topic with relevant, well-chosen facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.WHST.6-8.2f Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the information or explanation presented.


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Google Street View Heads to the Grand Canyon

Earlier today Google announced their next off-road Google Maps project. A team of Googlers is setting off to capture Street View imagery of the Grand Canyon from hiking trails inside the canyon. The Street View imagery will be available soon. In the meantime you can enjoy Thomas Hayden's immersive tour from river level.

Applications for Education 
One of my former colleagues used to teach an entire unit on geology by walking students through the Grand Canyon with pictures she had taken. Hayden's Gigapan imagery combined with the Google Street View imagery will enable more teachers to use the same model for teaching geology.

PenPal News - Connecting Classes to Discuss News

PenPal News is a neat service that I learned about from David Kapuler. As the name implies, PenPal News connects classrooms across the U.S. and the world to create electronic PenPal relationships. But rather than just connecting classes, PenPal News connects classes to discuss current events. To help students understand the topics that they're discussing with their penpals, PenPal News provides short video introductions and articles about each topic.

PenPal News is currently connecting classrooms in the United States to discuss issues related to the Presidential Election. Next semester PenPal News will connect classrooms internationally to discuss world events.

The video below is from the current PenPal News curriculum on election issues.

Government from PenPal News on Vimeo.

Applications for Education
What I like about PenPal News is that it provides lessons that students have in common before they start writing. Even though the students will watch the same videos and read the same articles through the process middle school and high school students may be able to learn a bit about how personal background and local culture can influence interpretation of events.

Symbolab - A Scientific Equation Search Engine

Symbolab is a new search engine designed for mathematicians and scientists. The search engine is a semantic search engine which means that rather than just searching the text of your query Symabolab attempts to interpret and search for the meaning of your query. What this means is that when you type in an equation you will get results as links and get results as graphs when appropriate. Think of it Symbolab as a cross between Google and Wolfram Alpha.
The Next Web has an extensive interview with Symbolab's founder that I recommend reading if you're interested in learning about the ideas behind the development of this search engine.

Applications for Education
Symbolab could be a useful search engine for mathematics students. The search results can be sorted to find explanations of how to solve an equation, what an equation is used for, as well as videos and examples of an equation in use.

Math teachers, have you used Symbolab? How might you use it in your classroom?

Creating Awesome Assessments - Free Webinar

Disclosure: Mastery Connect is an advertiser on Free Technology for Teachers.

Last month Mastery Connect offered a free webinar about creating assessments aligned to Common Core standards. The webinar was so popular that they have decided to offer it again in November. Creating Awesome Assessments will be held on November 13 at 6pm MST. The focus of this webinar will be on the Language Arts standards. 

Mastery Connect is also offering webinars for school administrators in October, November, December, and January. You can find the full schedule of webinars here.

uSpeak HD - A Nice App for Learning Spanish

uSpeak HD is a free iPad app designed to help beginners learn Spanish. The app matches you with word lists and learning activities based on your current level of knowledge of Spanish. Before you even register on the service you take a quick assessment to match you to the appropriate lists and activities. Once you've registered all of your progress is stored in your uSpeak account.

uSpeak's word lists are organized in webs of related words. Click on any web to reveal the words. Then click on a word to reveal a web of in-context uses of that word, images associated with that word, and synonyms and antonyms for your chosen word.

uSpeak's learning games include matching words to images,  matching translations, and word association games.

Applications for Education
uSpeak HD could be useful in helping students acquire Spanish vocabulary knowledge. The webs and in-context examples could help students get a better understanding of how words fit together. The app advertises sound files of pronunciations but those files weren't working when I tried the app. Hopefully, that feature will be working soon.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Access Google Docs With One Click Even When You're Offline

Today, Google released three new Chrome apps that allow you to access Google Docs, Spreadsheets, and Presentations in one click. I'm actually surprised that it took Google this long to make one-click access available through Chrome. The Docs app (each app is a separate install) allows you to create documents even when you're offline (this feature has been available through your browser for a while).

Installing each app is a one-click process that does not require you to restart your browser. Once the apps are installed you can click them to instantly open and create a new document, presentation, or spreadsheet. If you use the offline Docs app to create a new document when you reconnect to the web your document will sync with the rest of your online files.

Applications for Education
If you're working in a school that has Chromebooks, the new Chrome apps will make it easier for new Google Documents users to access and create documents. I occasionally hear from elementary school teachers that their new students have trouble opening a new documents from the drop-down menus. The Chrome app should help those young students create new documents.

Interactive Infographic - Tracking American Poverty

Tracking American Poverty is an informative infographic that I found on Cool Infographics. The infographic has six screens that you can move through to find poverty statistics divided by race, gender, education, age, and family type. Each screen allows you to drill-down to more refined statistics. You can look at statistics by year from 1967 through 2010. 

Applications for Education
The screen that I think will be of most interest to educators is the screen about poverty according to level of education. Not surprisingly, the group with the highest rate of poverty is the group with the lowest level of education. The

What Happened to Qwiki? It's Going Mobile

When it launched in 2011 I was impressed by the multimedia reference site Qwiki. Then when they launched a creation tool earlier this year, I was again impressed. Unfortunately, Qwiki has taken those tools offline and is transitioning to mobile development. According to their website, their Twitter page, and this TechCrunch article Qwiki has plans offer a multimedia reference creation app for iOS and Android. There's no word yet on what the app will cost, if anything. If the app is like the web version, I'll be trying it as soon as it launches. You can sign up for early notification of the app's release on the Qwiki website.

Halloween and SMART Boards

Image Credit: Elizabeth Thomsen
Halloween is just over one week away. If you're a SMART Board user who would like some new Halloween-themed resources, James Hollis has a list for you. The list of more than three dozen resources is divided into sections for games, clip art, informational activities, puzzles, sound files, and SMART notebook resources.

James Hollis always has good stuff for SMART Board users. So even if you're not looking for Halloween resources, you should check out his blog for other SMART Board resources and tips and tricks for using your SMART Board effectively.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Creative Uses for iPads in the Classroom

This afternoon I Stumbled Upon a good Slideshare presentation from Mike Amante who I had the pleasure of meeting during ISTE 2010. Mike's presentation Creative Uses for Ipad in the Classroom offers a nice run-down of the apps and examples of using them in the classroom. The presentation includes some QR codes that you can scan to get the lists of apps that Mike recommends. Take a look through the presentation as embedded below and you're likely to find a new app or idea that you can use in your classroom.


Take Your Students on a Virtual Tour of the Tundra to Learn About Polar Bears

Discovery Education and Polar Bears International have teamed up to offer some fantastic virtual field trips starting later this week. During each of the virtual field trips students will have the opportunity to ask questions and learn from some leading experts on polar bears and Arctic climate change. Through the virtual field trips students will learn about the animals of the Arctic and how they have adapted to survive in the harsh Arctic climate. Students will also see and hear about how climate change is affecting the animals of the Arctic.

The first virtual field trip is on October 24 at 12:30 CDT. Click here to see the full schedule of the Discovery virtual field trips. The schedule extends beyond Discovery's involvement with Polar Bear International. Polar Bears International is running virtual field trips and webinars throughout November. Click here for that schedule.

Remind 101 Launches an Android App

Back in May Remind 101 released a free iPhone app that can be used to send text messages to groups of students and parents. Today, Remind 101 released a free Android app for the same purpose. Just like the web version and iPhone version of the service, Remind 101 on Android is an opt-in service. Students and parents have to enter a confirmation code to state that they do want to be contacted by you through the service. Remind 101 keeps phone numbers hidden so that the parties cannot see each other's numbers. Learn more about Remind 101 in the video below.


Applications for Education
The Remind 101 Android app could be a good tool to use to keep students and parents informed of important information about your classes. You could use it to send reminders about assignments, use it to send encouragement, or use it to send praise for a job well done on an assignment.

Teach Your Monster to Read Helps Kids Learn to Read

Teach Your Monster to Read is a fun game designed to help students improve the speed and accuracy with which they recognize letters and sounds. The game has eight levels (or islands as they're called in the game) each containing four activities. Students play the game as a friendly monster avatar. On each island students can earn prizes for their monsters and customize the look of their monsters.

Learn more about Teach Your Monster to Read in the video below.

Teach Your Monster to Read (First Steps): Trailer from Teach Your Monster to Read on Vimeo.


Applications for Education
Creating Teach Your Monster to Read accounts for all of your students is a simple process. Just register yourself as a teacher then enter your students' names (first names only) or upload a CSV file of your students' names. Teach Your Monster to Read will automatically generate a password for each student. As the teacher you can log-in anytime to see your students' progress.

Thanks to Fred Delventhal for sharing this last week.

Three Ring Adds New Features for Sharing Students' Digitized Work With Parents

Three Ring is a free iOS and Android app that launched in March. The app makes it easy to digitize and catalog your students' drawn and handwritten work. Today, Three Ring released a new option to share digitized works with students and their parents. To share an artifact with students and their parents just choose the artifact from your list then click the share button to send that artifact in an email.

Learn more about Three Ring in the video below.

Applications for Education
Three Ring provides a great way for teachers whose students produce a lot of handwritten, drawn, and hand-built work. Last week I was in an elementary school that had some first grade students' artwork on display. Three Ring could be used by the teachers of those students to create a digital record of each student's work. Three Ring is also useful for mathematics teachers whose students do a lot of work on paper rather than typing as they solve problems.

Stack the Countries - A Tetris-Like Geography Game

Stack the Countries is a fun geography app available for the iPad, the iPhone, and the iPad Touch. The game requires players to correctly answer a geography question in order to earn a game piece that they then place into a row. The object is to stack up pieces to reach a target height. When the target height is reached players move on to the next level.

The free version of Stack the Countries allows players to move through ten levels before the levels start to repeat. The paid version of the app costs $1.99.

Applications for Education
Playing Stack the Countries could be a fun way for elementary and middle school students to develop their knowledge of world geography. The developer of Stack the Countries also offers Stack the States which uses the same concept for learning about U.S. geography.

Thanks to Jen Deyenberg for the tip.