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Monday, December 31, 2012

The Last Post of the Year

We're in the last 12 hours of 2012 and I just want to say thank you to all of you who have read and shared any or all of the 1,527 posts that were published on Free Technology for Teachers this year. A special thank you goes out to the guest bloggers who shared their insights at various times throughout the year.

This year I had the privilege to meet many of you in person at conferences and schools throughout North America and Europe. Thank you for coming up and saying hello to me. It's always so nice to see friendly faces in a crowd.

After more than five full years of writing this blog I'm still amazed by support of all of you.

 I'm looking forward to 2013 and I wish everyone the best for great new year!

26 iBooks Author How-to Videos

This week I'm taking a few days off to ski, play with my dogs, visit with friends and family, and generally recharge my batteries. If you're on vacation this week too, I hope that you're having a great vacation. While I'm away I'm rerunning the most popular posts of the year. The selections are based on pageviews during 2012. New posts will begin again tomorrow.

iBooks Author is a great tool for creating interactive ebooks. Unfortunately, creating content with iBooks Author isn't always as easy as you might hope it is. Back in June I shared a free 110 page book about using iBooks Author. However, if video tutorials are more helpful to you I have found twenty six videos that you should look at.

Kinetic Media has a nearly one hour video that takes you through every aspect of creating an iBook with iBooks Author. The video covers everything from choosing a template to using custom HTML5 widgets in your iBooks. That video is embedded below.


If sitting through a one hour video like the Kinetic Media iBooks Author video is a bit too much for you, take a look at this playlist of 25 iBooks Author tutorials from DIY Journo. The videos cover the same things as in the Kinetic Media tutorial, but each tutorial is its own short video.

MIT Video - More Than 10K Educational Videos

This week I'm taking a few days off to ski, play with my dogs, visit with friends and family, and generally recharge my batteries. If you're on vacation this week too, I hope that you're having a great vacation. While I'm away I'm rerunning the most popular posts of the year. The selections are based on pageviews during 2012. New posts will begin again tomorrow.

Last night I stumbled upon this video of David Breashears presenting at the Cambridge Science Festival. The video is hosted by MIT Video which I either had never seen before or had completely forgotten about (a real possibility after 6500+ blog posts).

MIT Video is a giant collection of more than 10,000 educational videos organized into more than 150 channels. The largest channel is the Open Courseware channel that contains more than 2,300 lectures from MIT's open courses.

All of the videos are either MIT productions or videos approved by editors at MIT Video. Only people with MIT email addresses are allowed to contribute to the collection. Some videos are hosted by MIT Video while others are from YouTube.

Applications for Education
If you're looking for educational videos to use to supplement your instruction in your high school or undergraduate courses, it will be well worth your time to search through MIT Video.

5 Ways to Use Google Sites in Schools

This week I'm taking a few days off to ski, play with my dogs, visit with friends and family, and generally recharge my batteries. If you're on vacation this week too, I hope that you're having a great vacation. While I'm away I'm rerunning the most popular posts of the year. The selections are based on pageviews during 2012. New posts will begin again tomorrow.

Over the last two weeks I've had five occasions to work with teachers to either develop new websites or improve existing websites in Google Sites. Over the course of these workshops I've found that there are five ways that Google Sites are commonly being used in schools.

Before you jump to the list, the shameless promotion department at Free Technology for Teachers would like to mention that you should see Google Sites for Teachers if you need help getting started using Google Sites.

5 Ways to Use Google Sites in Schools
1. As a wiki: Google Sites can be used as a wiki if you share your site with others and invite them to be editors. As a teacher you could start a site then add your students as owners or editors on the site. If you add them as owners they will be able to start new pages. If you add them as editors they will only be allowed to edit existing pages. You can also use the new page-level permissions option to allow students to only edit the pages that you grant them access to.

2. As a digital portfolio: Google Sites can be used by students to create digital portfolios featuring their best works and accomplishments. I would encourage high school students to develop a digital portfolio that they can share with university admissions officers. Teachers should also consider developing a digital portfolio of their best lesson plans, credentials, and references to include when they apply for teaching positions.

3. As a digital file cabinet: If you have PDFs, Word files, or other documents that you want your students to be able to easily download, consider using the File Cabinet option in Google Sites. By creating a File Cabinet page you provide a place for those files to be easily accessed. You might also consider putting up a File Cabinet page for forms like permission slips that parents need to access.

4. As a blog: Use the Announcements template to create a blog page within your Google Sites. You can update the blog or make the blog page collaborative and let your students contribute to a class blog.

5. As a website: I left the most obvious option for last. If you need to create a place where parents and students can come to find important information about your course(s) or your school, Google Sites provides all of the tools for that. Incorporate a blog element (see #4 above) for posting updates and use the rest of the pages to house information that doesn't change that often. You can also incorporate a file cabinet (see #3 above) to post forms for parents to download. And if you're using Google Calendar, you can easily add a calendar of events to any page in your Google Site.

5 Video Projects for Students

This week I'm taking a few days off to ski, play with my dogs, visit with friends and family, and generally recharge my batteries. If you're on vacation this week too, I hope that you're having a great vacation. While I'm away I'm rerunning the most popular posts of the year. The selections are based on pageviews during 2012. New posts will begin again tomorrow. 


Credit: Chelsea Davis
Video creation projects are some of my favorite things to do with students. I like video projects for a number of reasons not the least of which is that students generally enjoy them too. I like video projects because when they're organized properly students have to write, research, produce, and revise just as they would if they were writing a story or research paper. The difference is that shared finished video projects have the potential to reach many more people than a well-written essay does. Another bonus is that I can invite my administrators into my classroom to watch a few short videos and they can quickly see what my students have been doing.

Here are five ideas and tools for video projects that you can try with your students this year.

1. Biographical and Autobiographical videos: The first week of school is when we get to know our students, they get to know us, and they get to know each other. To help everyone introduce themselves, try using short videos created on Animoto. Have students select ten or so images from that are important to them or represent things that they are passionate about. Then let them select the music that matches the message they want to send to the class about themselves. Don't forget to create a video about yourself. When all of the videos are ready, have a little viewing party in your classroom.

2. Common Craft -style videos: Common Craft produces fantastic educational videos using nothing more than drawings, paper cut-outs, and voice over. I used that model last fall to have students tell the story of Lewis and Clark. My students worked in pairs to create images then narrate their videos. They took turns narrating and moving the images in and out of the scenes. We used Flip Cameras, but just about any digital video recorder will work.

This summer I've been playing with PowToon which allows me to create a Common Craft style video by dragging and dropping pre-drawn elements into each scene. PowToon is still in beta, but I encourage you to sign up for an invite. You can see one of my PowToon videos here.

3. Stop-motion videos: One of my favorite tools for creating stop-motion videos is Jelly Cam. Jelly Cam allows me to create a stop-motion video by upload images or capturing images with my webcam then playing them back at any frames-per-second rate that I choose. The latest version of Jelly Cam allows me to add an audio track to my project. Think about the possibilities for creating claymation movies with Jelly Cam, the next Gumby could be born in your classroom.

4. Documentary videos: Perhaps the next Ken Burns is sitting in your classroom right now! With We Video your students can collaboratively create documentary videos.

5. Flipped classroom videos: If you have been considering trying out the flipped classroom model by making your own short instructional videos there are plenty of tools available to you. Show Me for the iPad is one free tool that I like. I also like Screenr and Screencast-o-Matic for creating videos on your desktop. You might consider flipping the flipped classroom by having your students create short instructional videos to share with each other. Take a look at Next Vista for some good examples of students creating short instructional videos for each other. And if you are going to try the flipped classroom idea this year, please consider these three points first.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Create Videos Online With WeVideo for Google Drive

This week I'm taking a few days off to ski, play with my dogs, visit with friends and family, and generally recharge my batteries. If you're on vacation this week too, I hope that you're having a great vacation. While I'm away I'm rerunning the most popular posts of the year. The selections are based on pageviews during 2012.

For the last six months I've been sharing WeVideo with anyone who has come to me searching for a good online video creation tool. I live WeVideo because it is cloud-based and collaborative. They released an Android app in March that makes mobile, collaborative video editing possible. Now they have a Google Drive app too. The WeVideo Google Drive app allows you to save all of your video projects in your Google Drive account. Learn more about it in the video below.

Web Search Lesson Plans from Google

This week I'm taking a few days off to ski, play with my dogs, visit with friends and family, and generally recharge my batteries. If you're on vacation this week too, I hope that you're having a great vacation. While I'm away I'm rerunning the most popular posts of the year. The selections are based on pageviews during 2012.

One of the big stories shared all over Twitter this week was Google's updated Search Education pages. I didn't get to check it out until this morning and I have to say that I am impressed with what the new pages offer. There are fifteen lesson plans aligned to ISTE NETS, Common Core, and American Association of School Librarians standards. The lesson plans are arranged according to skill level in five categories. Those categories are picking search terms, understanding results, narrowing results, searching for evidence, and evaluating credibility of sources.

Google's new search education promotional video is embedded below.


Applications for Education
Being able to use Google (and other search engines) effectively is a skill that all students need to develop as early as possible. The lesson plans available on Google Search Education might not fit every classroom situation, but at the very least they provide a great framework for teaching search strategies and evaluating information found on the web.

Nine Shel Silverstein Stories Animated

This week I'm taking a few days off to ski, play with my dogs, visit with friends and family, and generally recharge my batteries. If you're on vacation this week too, I hope that you're having a great vacation. While I'm away I'm rerunning the most popular posts of the year. The selections are based on pageviews during 2012.

Last year I shared an animated video of Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree. Yesterday, through an Open Culture post, I discovered eight more short animated versions of Shel Silverstein's works. The videos can be found on the Shel Silverstein Books channel on YouTube. I've embedded Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me Too! below.


Provide Tech Help Remotely Through Chrome Remote Desktop

This week I'm taking a few days off to ski, play with my dogs, visit with friends and family, and generally recharge my batteries. If you're on vacation this week too, I hope that you're having a great vacation. While I'm away I'm rerunning the most popular posts of the year. The selections are based on pageviews during 2012.

Yesterday, I received an email with a question about how to remotely help students and teachers with the Chrome browser and with Chromebooks. Almost as if he was reading my mind, later in the day Fred Delvental shared a bookmark for the Chrome Remote Desktop App. Using the Chrome Remote Desktop App (still in beta) 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.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Three Questions to Consider Before Flipping Your Classroom

This week I'm taking a few days off to ski, play with my dogs, visit with friends and family, and generally recharge my batteries. If you're on vacation this week too, I hope that you're having a great vacation. While I'm away I'm rerunning the most popular posts of the year. The selections are based on pageviews during 2012.

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.

Quickly Find Definitions and Related Websites With Snapify

This week I'm taking a few days off to ski, play with my dogs, visit with friends and family, and generally recharge my batteries. If you're on vacation this week too, I hope that you're having a great vacation. While I'm away I'm rerunning the most popular posts of the year. The selections are based on pageviews during 2012.

Snapify is a handy little Chrome extension that I've shown to live audiences twice in the last two days. Both times I showed how it works I heard some "oohs and ahs." Snapify allows you to highlight any word or phrase on a webpage and quickly find definitions, videos, Tweets, and webpages about that word or phrase. See it in action in the video below.

Applications for Education
Snapify could be a great little tool for students to use when they're reading articles online. Anytime students come to a word or phrase that they don't understand they can simply highlight it and click "snap it" to find definition or explanation.

How to Print Posters With a Standard Printer

This week I'm taking a few days off to ski, play with my dogs, visit with friends and family, and generally recharge my batteries. If you're on vacation this week too, I hope that you're having a great vacation. While I'm away I'm rerunning the most popular posts of the year. The selections are based on pageviews during 2012.

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.

7 Ways to Send Group Texts to Parents and Students

This week I'm taking a few days off to ski, play with my dogs, visit with friends and family, and generally recharge my batteries. If you're on vacation this week too, I hope that you're having a great vacation. While I'm away I'm rerunning the most popular posts of the year. The selections are based on pageviews during 2012. 

People, particularly teenagers, have an almost compulsive reaction to open text messages when their phones beep or buzz. So if you want to quickly deliver an important message to student or parent today, sending a text message is the best way to do it. Managing a list of cell phone numbers can be a daunting task. Here are seven services that educators can use to easily send and manage group text messages.

Class Parrot is a service that enables teachers to send text messages to groups of students and parents. Using Class Parrot teachers send text messages from their computers. Class Parrot keeps the students' and parents' phone numbers private. Here's how Class Parrot works; teachers create a different group messaging program for each class that they teach. Each group that a teacher creates is assigned a unique opt-in code. Teachers give that code to students and parents. Then if a student or parent would like to receive messages from the teacher, they can simply opt-in by texting the opt-in code to Class Parrot.


Class Pager is another service that teachers can use to send group text messages to their students. Using Class Pager teachers can send text messages to their students without either party seeing each other's real cell phone number. To get started using Class Pager, register yourself on the site. Class Pager will then provide you with an enrollment code to share with your students and their parents. When a student or parent sends a text to Class Pager with that code, he/she will be added to your roster. Then when you write a text message it will be sent to everyone who has opted into the service. A couple of fine print things to consider about Class Pager. Class Pager is free for your first class. Additional classes are available for a fee. You should also bear in mind that if your students don't have unlimited incoming text message plans, they could incur charges.

gText is a new service offering free group text messaging. A neat piece of information about gText is that it was developed by a high school student. gText allows you to send text messages to groups that you have created in your gText account. Your texts can be sent from your phone or from your computer. By default gText keeps group members' phone numbers private. Group members who want other group members to see their numbers can allow that. Beyond simple text messaging gText offers options for sharing files (although that could consume a lot of space on a phone), sharing images, and sharing calendars.

Kikutext is a service for keeping parents informed about your classroom and or school through text messages. The service is an opt-in service for parents. When you create a Kikutext account you're assigned an opt-in code to distribute to parents. Parents then send that code in a text message to register to receive messages from you. Kikutext keeps the phone numbers of parents and those of teachers and principals hidden from each other.

SendHub is the latest group text messaging system that I've discovered. To use SendHub give people the opt-in code to join your contact list. Once people opt-in you can put them into a group within your account. Then when you have a message for a group you can send it out to all members of that group without sending the message to your entire contact database.

WeTxt offers free group text messaging. WeTxt works with ten major cellular service providers to offer you the ability to send text messages to large groups at once. In addition to creating and sending initial messages, WeTxt offers an option for sending "reply all" messages. Messages can be sent from your mobile device or from your email account. A mobile calendar helps you keep track of items that you need to send out as text messages.

Remind 101 allows you to send text messages to groups of students and or parents from your computer. Like most of the other services in this list, Remind 101 uses an opt-in system. Students and parents who want to receive messages have to enter a code to sign up to receive messages.

Friday, December 28, 2012

10 Awesome Android Uses and Apps in Education

This week I'm taking a few days off to ski, play with my dogs, visit with friends and family, and generally recharge my batteries. If you're on vacation this week too, I hope that you're having a great vacation. While I'm away I'm rerunning the most popular posts of the year. The selections are based on pageviews during 2012.

This morning I gave a short presentation on Android apps for education. The slides for that presentation are embedded below.

3 Places to Find Online Children's Audio Books

This week I'm taking a few days off to ski, play with my dogs, visit with friends and family, and generally recharge my batteries. If you're on vacation this week too, I hope that you're having a great vacation. While I'm away I'm rerunning the most popular posts of the year. The selections are based on pageviews during 2012.

This post is born out of a request for help from someone that I met at the Teacher 2 Teacher conference in Bow Island, Alberta. She was looking for some free online talking storybooks to use in her grade 1 class. I didn't have anything coming to mind right off, so I searched Diigo and my blog archives to find these three places to find and free online talking children's storybooks.

MeeGenius is a nice source of free and paid ebooks for kids. There are lots of sites that offer the same thing as MeeGenius but MeeGenius distinguishes itself with one excellent feature. That feature is automatic word highlighting to accompany the narration of each book. When children open the ebooks online, on an Android tablet, or on an iPad they can choose to have the story read to them or to read the story on their own. When the story is read to them each word in the story is highlighted on the page. This should help children follow along with the story.


The Woodlands Junior School is a school website based in the UK. I've previously featured their site as a good place to find educational games for elementary age students. In my search yesterday, I discovered that they also have a nice collection of links to free online talking storybooks.

Magic Keys is another site with a good collection of talking picture books for children. Magic Keys seemed a bit tricky to navigate at first so I would recommend that you use it to find storybooks for your students rather than sending your students to the site on their own.

I know there are a lot of good iPad and Android apps for talking storybooks, but web-based versions are a little more elusive. If you have a site that should be added to this list, please leave a comment.

Use the Three Ring App to Digitize Your Students' Work

This week I'm taking a few days off to ski, play with my dogs, visit with friends and family, and generally recharge my batteries. If you're on vacation this week too, I hope that you're having a great vacation. While I'm away I'm rerunning the most popular posts of the year. The selections are based on pageviews during 2012.

Three Ring is a new free service offering free Android and iPhone apps for digitizing and organizing student work. Using the app teachers can take a picture of a student's work and upload it to a free Three Ring account. Three Ring offers teachers a lot of organizational flexibility. You could organize artifacts by student name, class, date, or just about any other tagging system that works for you.

A short video overview of Three Ring is embedded below.

Applications for Education
Three Ring could be a great way to collect hand-written work without actually collecting pieces of paper. Just go around the room snapping images of your students' work. You can add notes to each image before and after the upload so it is possible to grade work using the notes field next to each image.

H/T to Audrey Watters

5 Ways You Can Use Wikis With Students

This week I'm taking a few days off to ski, play with my dogs, visit with friends and family, and generally recharge my batteries. If you're on vacation this week too, I hope that you're having a great vacation. While I'm away I'm rerunning the most popular posts of the year. The selections are based on pageviews during 2012.

Today I had the privilege to participate in Discovery's Beyond the Textbook forum. One of my take-aways from the day's conversation is that most of the technologies that we want to use to make textbooks interactive and meaningful for students already exist, we just need to organize and utilize them in a way that makes sense for teachers and students. I've combined that take-away with a recent request from a reader to delineate some ways that teachers can use Wikispaces to create this list of ideas for using wikis in classrooms. Please feel free to add your suggestions, with links if possible, in the comments below (please note, I'll be on planes for the next 18 hours so there will be a delay between your comment submission and its appearance on the blog).

1. As a digital portfolio of student-created videos.

2. As a place for students to share notes on each unit of study in your courses.

3. As an alternative to textbooks. Work with colleagues in your school or department to create a multimedia reference site for your students. Include YouTube videos that use the "choose your own adventure" model to allow students to pursue areas of interest.

4. As an alternative to textbooks. Have students create reference pages for units of study in your course. When you do this students become responsible to each other for creating accurate and meaningful content that they can refer to when it comes time for assessment. For example, when I get to the 1920's in my US History curriculum I have each student create a page on a wiki about a theme from that decade. Some of the themes that the students cover are fashion, entertainment, and sports. I mentioned this briefly on a podcast that will be published soon by Steve Dembo and Dean Shareski.

5. As a place to track, document, and manage on-going community projects. In my district every student is required to complete a community service project before graduation. As a homeroom or "common block" advisor teachers are supposed to help their students take the necessary steps to document that work. By creating a homeroom wiki you create a place where students can make weekly updates about what they have done to complete their projects.

How are you using wikis in your classroom? Please leave a comment below. 

If you're not quite sure what a wiki is or what makes it different from a traditional website or blog, watch Wikis in Plain English from Common Craft.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

An Interactive Journey Through U.S. History

This week I'm taking a few days off to ski, play with my dogs, visit with friends and family, and generally recharge my batteries. If you're on vacation this week too, I hope that you're having a great vacation. While I'm away I'm rerunning the most popular posts of the year. The selections are based on pageviews during 2012.

Mission U.S. offers two interactive journeys through two important eras in U.S. History. The journeys are designed as role-playing games or missions. Both games can be played entirely online or downloaded for play on your PC or Mac (you do need an Internet connection to save a game in progress).

The first mission in Mission U.S. is set in Boston in 1770. Students play the role of 14 year old Nat Wheeler who, after the Boston Massacre, must choose to side with the Loyalists or the Patriots. A video introduction is embedded below.


The second mission in Mission U.S. is set in Kentucky and Ohio in 1850. Students take on the role of a fourteen year old slave named Lucy. In the mission students escape slavery in Kentucky and navigate to Ohio. A video trailer is embedded below.


Applications for Education
Playing Mission U.S. could be a good way for elementary school and middle school students to learn about two important eras in U.S. History. The Mission U.S. website offers an educators section that includes printable lists of vocabulary terms, writing prompts, and post-game discussion prompts.

A similar resource from PBS that you might be interested in exploring is Chronicles of the American Revolution.

Web Safety Tutorials from Google

This week I'm taking a few days off to ski, play with my dogs, visit with friends and family, and generally recharge my batteries. If you're on vacation this week too, I hope that you're having a great vacation. While I'm away I'm rerunning the most popular posts of the year. The selections are based on pageviews during 2012. 

Revealed today through their Public Policy Blog ThinkB4U is a new series of web safety videos and tutorials from Google and its partners. Using the "choose your own adventure" aspect of YouTube video editing, ThinkB4U offers interactive videos to educate viewers about things like protecting online reputations, avoiding scams, research and critical thinking, and responsible text messaging.

ThinkB4U is divided into three basic sections; students, parents, and educators. Each section addresses nine different topics related to safe and responsible use of the Internet and cell phones. The sections include short videos about the topics, a short written lesson, and some interactive games on the topics of responsible use of the Internet and of cell phones.

Applications for Education
The Educators' section of ThinkB4U offers lesson plans from Common Sense Media and the National Consumer League. There are lesson plans designed for elementary school, middle school, and high school use.

30 Great Web 2.0 Tools for Teachers

This week I'm taking a few days off to ski, play with my dogs, visit with friends and family, and generally recharge my batteries. If you're on vacation this week too, I hope that you're having a great vacation. While I'm away I'm rerunning the most popular posts of the year. The selections are based on pageviews during 2012.

Earlier today I presented a short webinar about some of my favorite Web 2.0 tools for teachers. The webinar was on behalf of Ed Tech Teacher for whom I facilitate in-person workshops from time to time. This summer I'll be working with them quite a bit. You can see the list of their summer workshops here. A recording of today's webinar will be available here shortly. If you just want to know what tools I shared in the webinar, you can view the slides below.

30 Web 2.0 Tools for Teachers
View more presentations from Richard Byrne

If you're interested in having me work with your staff on the use of these tools, please visit my work with me page

Gooru - A Great Source of Math, Science, and Social Studies Materials

This week I'm taking a few days off to ski, play with my dogs, visit with friends and family, and generally recharge my batteries. If you're on vacation this week too, I hope that you're having a great vacation. While I'm away I'm rerunning the most popular posts of the year. The selections are based on pageviews during 2012.

Gooru is a service that aims to provide teachers and students with an extensive collection of videos, interactive displays, documents, diagrams, and quizzes for learning about topics in math, social studies, and science.

As a Gooru member you have access to hundreds of resources according to subject areas such as chemistry, biology, ecology, algebra, calculus, and more. Within each subject area you can look for resources according to media type such as video, interactive display, slides, text, and lesson plans. When you find resources that you want to use, drag them to the resources folder within your account. Gooru also offers you the option to add resources to your folders even if you did not find them within Gooru.

Applications for Education
Gooru could be a great place for math and science teachers to locate lesson plans and other materials to use in their classrooms. Students can create Gooru accounts to find useful review materials and take practice tests on the subjects they're studying.

Since Gooru launched in February they have added an iPad app too. You can learn about that app here

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

3 Browser Extensions Every Teacher Should Try

This week I'm taking a few days off to ski, play with my dogs, visit with friends and family, and generally recharge my batteries. If you're on vacation this week too, I hope that you're having a great vacation. While I'm away I'm rerunning the most popular posts of the year. The selections are based on pageviews during 2012.

It is no secret that I am a Google fan boy which is why I use Chrome as my primary web browser. Chrome is my browser of choice in part because of the numerous useful browser extensions and add-ons that are available for it. In the video below I demonstrate my three favorite Chrome extensions that I think every teacher can benefit from using. These extensions are also available for Firefox and Safari.


Evernote
A Cleaner Internet
Bitly

10 Digital Story Projects

This week I'm taking a few days off to ski, play with my dogs, visit with friends and family, and generally recharge my batteries. If you're on vacation this week too, I hope that you're having a great vacation. While I'm away I'm rerunning the most popular posts of the year. The selections are based on pageviews during 2012.


A couple of months ago I put out a call for readers who were interested in sharing their digital storytelling projects to get in touch with me. There was a good response to that call. From those responses came ten digital storytelling projects developed and conducted by educators just like you and me. I assembled the stories, added some content of my own, and put together the PDF that you should see embedded below. Please feel free to download the document from Issuu, Docstoc, or Scribd.


10 Digital Storytelling Projects

An Interactive Animated Heart

This week I'm taking a few days off to ski, play with my dogs, visit with friends and family, and generally recharge my batteries. If you're on vacation this week too, I hope that you're having a great vacation. While I'm away I'm rerunning the most popular posts of the year. The selections are based on pageviews during 2012.


Explania is one of my favorite resources for animated explanations of topics in technology and science. Some of their offerings are videos and some of their offerings are interactive animations. One of their interactive animations that could be quite useful for biology teachers and health teachers is The Human Heart. The Human Heart animation allows visitors to learn about the parts and functions of the human heart by clicking on different parts of the heart to find short explanations of that part's function. Your students can access the interactive animation on the Explania website or you can embed the animation into your blog or website.

The Human Heart - Explania

10 Useful Chrome Extensions for Teachers & Students

This week I'm taking a few days off to ski, play with my dogs, visit with friends and family, and generally recharge my batteries. If you're on vacation this week too, I hope that you're having a great vacation. While I'm away I'm rerunning the most popular posts of the year. The selections are based on pageviews during 2012.

If you're one of the people that made the switch to Chrome in 2012, here are some extensions and Chrome web apps that you and your students should find handy.

Printliminator is a handy little bookmarklet for Firefox, Chrome, and Safari. Printliminator allows you to highlight a webpage and select only the elements which you wish to print. You can install Printliminator in seconds by just clicking and dragging it into your browser's toolbar. Watch the video below to learn more about Printliminator.


Speech recognition software can be very pricey, but adding a speech recognition option to your computer doesn't have to be expensive. The Speech Recognizer, available through the Chrome Web Store, is free and easy to use. To use the Chrome Speech Recognizer just install it from the Chrome Web Store, launch it, then click the microphone to start taking and recording your voice. The Speech Recognizer will type out your text when you finish recording. You can then copy and paste your text to the paragraph box below the Speech Recognizer or to a document you have open in Google Docs.

A Cleaner YouTube is a browser extension for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari. Once installed A Cleaner YouTube allows you to display YouTube videos without any of the "related videos," comments, or display advertising. There are other tools that do the same thing, but what makes A Cleaner YouTube different is that not only can you display videos without the related materials, but you can also search YouTube without viewing any of the "related videos," comments, suggested videos, or advertisements.


Graph.tk is a free online graphing utility that I found in the Google Chrome Web Store. Graph.tk allows you to plot multiple functions through its dynamically resizing grid. To graph an equation on Graph.tk just click the "+" symbol to enter a new equation. Click here to watch a short video of Graph.tk in use. One thing that the video doesn't show and isn't clear the first time you use Graph.tk is that you need to delete the existing default equations before you start.


Google Related is a new extension for the Google Chrome Browser that will display related links on the webpage that you're currently viewing. Here's how it works; conduct a Google search as you normally would then when you open a webpage Google Related will display some suggested items at the bottom of the page. Watch the video below to see it in action.

Google Related is also available as part of the Google browser toolbar.

Snapify is a free Google Chrome extension that allows you to highlight a word or phrase on any webpage and quickly find more information about that word or phrase. Here's how it works; with Snapify installed you simply highlight a word then click "Snap It." When you click "Snap It" a dialogue box appears with information from Wikipedia, Google Search results, YouTube Videos, Tweets mentioning your highlighted word, and a Google Map.


Speak It is a Google Chrome extension that enables you to have the text on most webpages read to you. With Speak It installed just highlight the text on a the page you're viewing then right-click to activate Speak It. Then click the play button to have the text read to you. The voice is very digitized, but it is clear. Installing Speak It takes just a few seconds. To install it go to Speak It's page in the Chrome Web Store and click the install button. Restarting your browser is not required in order to activate Speak It. If you decide that you don't want to use Speak It any longer you can uninstall it by right-clicking on the Speak It icon in your browser and selecting uninstall. A video demonstration of Speak It is embedded below.


If you're like me, you're probably guilty of occasionally wasting time on Facebook and other social sites when you should be doing something more important. Stay Focused is a Chrome extension designed to help you stop wasting time on those sites and get your work done. With Stay Focused installed you can set a time limit for yourself on the sites that you tend to waste time on. Once you've used up your self-allotted time on those sites you won't be able to revisit them in that browser until the next day (or other time you select).


ChromeVis is a Google Chrome extension designed to make it easier for people with vision impairments to read the content of webpages. When installed ChromeVis allows you to highlight the text on any webpage and have it enlarged and placed on an easy-to-read background. Your highlighted text appears in a pop-up box over the original page so that you can quickly go back to the original source if you want to. ChromeVis can be adjusted to meet your text size and text color preferences.

Google Dictionary provides an easy and quick way to find definitions for any word you find online. With Google Dictionary installed in Chrome you can highlight and click on any word to reveal its definition and hear it pronounced. In video below Tekzilla provides an overview of Google Dictionary.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Where's Santa?

This is just a quick reminder for my friends that are celebrating Christmas with small children this year. Google Maps and Google Earth can be used to track Santa Claus through the night. You can do this on the web, on an Android device, and on an iOS device. Click here for Google's official post on the topic.

Happy Holidays to all! I'm off to put up some decorations now.

Detext Could Put the Brakes on Distracted Teen Driving

 Detext is an Android application that is designed to prevent a phone from accepting or sending calls and texts while it is in a moving vehicle. The application will send an automated message back to anyone that tries to call or text the phone while it is in a moving vehicle. Detext can be installed by parents on their teenagers' phones. In addition to blocking incoming calls and texts parents can set Detext to send an alert to their phones if their teenage drivers are speeding.

Applications for Education
The high school in my school district as well as many surrounding districts have launched aggressive campaigns about distracted driving. Awareness of apps like Detext could be good items to include the educational materials distributed to parents and their teenage drivers.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The "Other" U.S. Election

In November the choice of U.S. President was all but decided. But the results don't become official until all of the Electoral votes are certified and counted. Last week Glenn Wiebe reminded me of that procedural fact. In the four minute video below viewers learn how the Electoral votes are counted and the role that the National Archives plays in the procedure.


On an related note, I still remember watching, as a college senior minoring in Political Science, Al Gore preside over the counting of these votes in 2000 and thinking how awkward that must have felt.

Applications for Education
Many of my students over the years have asked, "what if an Electoral doesn't honor the people's will?" This video provides the answer. 

A Crash Course in Ecology

Last week I featured John Green's Crash Course on The Great Gatsby and literature in general. This evening I'd like to point out Green's equally good crash course in Ecology. Like his other crash courses the Ecology crash course is comprised of fast paced overviews of important points. Watching these videos won't replace the need for a good teacher, but they can certainly reinforce or introduce a topic. The playlist is embedded below.


Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Week in Review - The Family Grows

Good morning from the Free Technology for Teachers world headquarters in Greenwood, Maine. This week my little family grew by one as I adopted another dog from Harvest Hills Animal Shelter. Max is a two year old Lab and Pointer mix. He and Morrison are getting along well even if Morrison doesn't quite understand all of Max's antics.

As I shared last week, my "family" of blogs grew this month too as I am now actively maintaining iPad Apps for School in addition to Android for Schools and Free Technology for Teachers. As of this morning more than 2,500 people have already subscribed to iPad Apps for School. Thank you all for continuing to support my blogging efforts through your Tweets, reTweets, Pins, comments, and emails.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Three Approaches to Classroom Blogging
2. Video - How to Create Infographics
3. How to Open and Edit Word Files in Google Drive
4. A Guided Tour Inside the International Space Station
5. How to Use Google Docs Offline
6. Common Curriculum Adds Support for Links and Files in Common Core Lesson Plans
7. Planwise Can Help Students Plan Their Financial Futures

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Friday, December 21, 2012

NASA Shows Us the Earth As Art

Earth As Art is a beautiful collection of NASA satellite imagery of places all over the globe. The collection is available to view in a PDF (link opens PDF) or in the NASA Earth As Art iPad app. Earth As Art includes nearly 150 pages of imagery and explanations of the imagery so that you know what you're looking at. Browsing through Earth As Art is a nice way to see some of the truly unique features of the Earth's physical geography.

H/T to Open Culture.

A Google Map of Plant and Animal Life Cycles

The USA National Phenology Network has built an interesting map of plant and animal life in the United States. The map allows you to see where various plants and animals have been observed and reported to USA NPN. You can search the map by animal, plant, or location. The map includes a timeslider that can be used to visual the life cycles of the plants and animals on the map. Users of the map can add climate overlays to it too. Click here to read the documentation on how to use all of the map's features.

Applications for Education
The USA National Phenology Network's map of plant and animal life could be useful for helping students see the biodiversity of the United States. Turn on the climate overlays to help students see the relationships between climate and plant and animal life.

Fun Snowy Activities for Students and Teachers

In my previous post I shared a video about the chemistry of snowflakes. Writing that post reminded me of some ideas that I've shared before for fun outdoor winter activities with students. A few of these could be tied into basic physics lessons.

NOVA, as a part of their program on Denali, has directions for building a snow cave and directions for building an Igloo.

Boys' Life offers a list of outdoor winter games as well as directions for building igloos and snow shelters.

Making your own snowshoes is an activity that can be done indoors with the final product enjoyed outdoors. Mother Earth News offers directions for making your own snowshoes. How Cast has video directions for making an emergency pair of snowshoes.

In the video below BBC Survival Expert Ray Mears teaches viewers how to make an igloo and what igloos were traditionally used for.


When I was about seven or eight I was given a copy of The American Boy's Handy Book(Amazon link). That book is filled with fun hands-on indoor and outdoor activities including an entire section devoted to snow forts and other snow-related activities.

The Cool Chemistry of Snowflakes

In my neighborhood we've had at least some new snow every day this week. Just a little north of me there has been nearly two feet of new snow this week. The latest video episode from Bytesize Science nicely matches this week's weather in Maine.

The latest episode of Bytesize Science explains how snowflakes are created. The two minute video is embedded below.


H/T to Open Culture.

3 Ways to Explore Marine Life in Google Earth

Google Earth is a great tool for exploring many aspects of geography. One of the features of Google Earth that seems to be frequently overlooked is the ocean imagery. Using Google Earth tours can be a good way for students to learn about marine life and habitats. Here are three good resources that you can use for that purpose.

To get started take a look at a look at this list of ocean tours featured on the Google Earth showcase. Some of these tours will also work in the Google Earth browser plug-in. Learn about protected whale areas in the tour below.



The Encyclopedia of Life offers four Google Earth tours of interest to teachers and students. One that I particularly like is the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Tour. The tour of the Artic Tern migration patterns is featured in the video below.


EOL Migration Google Earth Tour Video - The Arctic Tern from Encyclopedia of Life on Vimeo.

The Encyclopedia of Life also hosts an interesting interactive quiz using Google Earth. The Encyclopedia of Life's Google Earth Species Quiz (opens KMZ) presents players with images of an animal and the animal's name scientific name. Players then have to pick the place that the animal is from. If the correct answer is chosen, the player is zoomed to the correct location on the map. 

NOAA offers dozens of Google Earth files and demos related to weather and marine life. You can find the list here.



Bonus: Not Google Earth, but quite cool.
Ocean Tracks is an Australian website on which students can view the tracks of marine animals in an online 3D environment. The "tracks" part of Ocean Tracks shows you where in the world tagged animals are swimming or have swum. Ocean Tracks uses the Unity browser plug-in to provide animations of the underwater views of tracked animals. You can see what bluefin tuna, swordfish, sharks, and many other fish see in 3D.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

3 Ways To Quickly Share Bunches of Links With Your Students

If you have ever tried to get all of your students to the same set of websites at the same time, you know that just a couple of mistyped characters can create a frustrating experience. One solution is to post all of the links on your course blog. Another solution is to use a link bundling service that will group all of your links together into one package. Then instead of sending out a bunch of individual links you can just send one link that will open all of the bundled links for your students. Here are three services that you can use for just that purpose.

Bundlenut is a simple service for organizing a set of links and sharing them with others. To use the service just visit Bundlenut and start entering the links that you want to include in your bundle. You can include comments about each of the links. When you have added all of links that you want to include in your bundle, Bundlenut will assign a unique url to your bundle. Anyone with access to that url will be able to see all of your links and comments about those links. You can use the service with or without registering. The advantage of registration is that you can go back and modify your bundle whenever you would like to.

LinkBunch is a free service that you can use to quickly send a group of links to your friends, colleagues, and students. To use the service just visit LinkBunch, enter the links that you want to share, and click "Bunch." When you click on "Bunch" you will be given a URL to share with anyone you want to see the links in your bunch. When someone clicks on the URL for your Bunch he or she will be able to open the links you bunched together.

Bitly is one URL shortener that I have been using for years. It's simple to use, especially if you use the bookmarklet, allows you to customize URLs, and it offers good statistics about the use of your links. Bitly offers an option for bundling bookmarks into one package that you can share with just one link. Bitly bundles can be created collaboratively if you invite other Bitly users to bundle links with you.