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Monday, September 17, 2012

Google Reminds Us That Soon All Docs Will Be in Drive

When Google launched Google Drive back in April we knew it was only a matter of time until all Google Docs users would have to transition to Google Drive. That's not a bad thing in my opinion. The day of compulsory transition to Google Drive seems to be getting much closer. Today, Google published a blog post declaring Google Drive is the new home for all your Google Docs. The blog post included the news that if you haven't transitioned yet you will see a prompt to transition the next time you visit Google Docs. You can choose to continue to use the "old look" for a while by selecting that option in the settings menu, but that option will eventually go away too.

If you're looking for a guide to Google Drive, I published one in May. It is embedded below.

Google Drive and Docs for Teachers 2012

Picture Book Maker - Create Children's Stories

Earlier today I wrote about Stop Frame Animator from Culture Street. After playing with the Stop Frame Animator I tried out another of Culture Street's tools, the Picture Book Maker. The Picture Book Maker allows students to create six page stories by dragging background scenes into a page, dragging in animals and props, and typing text. All of the elements can be sized an positioned to fit the pages. Text is limited to roughly two lines per page. Completed stories are displayed with simple page turning effects. Stories created on Picture Book Maker can be printed.

Applications for Education
Picture Book Maker could be good tool for elementary school students to use to create short stories that they can print or email to share with their parents. If you have students who struggle to start a creative story, have them pick an animal from the menu and write a story about that animal. The story that I created was about a penguin lost in a forest (I think my mom is going to love it when the printed story arrives in the mail).

Dozens of Icebreaker Activities and Team Building Games

This morning on the Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page someone asked me for recommendations for icebreaker activities. That question reminded me of Icebreakers.ws.  Icebreakers.ws is an online catalog of dozens of fun icebreaker and team builder activities. The activities are categorized by group size and activity type. To find an activity appropriate for your group just select your group's size then use the activity type key to find "get-to-know-you games," "team building games," or "active (break a sweat) games."

Applications for Education
We often think of icebreaker and team building activities as things we do at the beginning of the school year. But as we know, getting to know our students is an on-going process. The next time you're looking for a team building activity, take a look at Icebreakers.ws.

Symbaloo Mobile - Share & Access Your Favorite Resources On Any Device

Back in July when Google announced the closure of iGoogle I recommended trying Symbaloo as an alternative. Since then I have heard from many readers who are happy with Symbaloo. Last week Symbaloo launched a new iPad-friendly version. The iPad-friendly version gives you access to all of your favorite Symabaloo bookmarking and sharing options in a format optimized for tablet display.

Symbaloo does offer an iPhone app, but that app is only optimized for phone display.  However, the Symbaloo Android app is optimized for tablet display. In fact, I like the Android app better than the new iPad-friendly tablet display. For my taste the Android app has a cleaner, less cluttered display than the iPad display.

Applications for Education
Symbaloo allows you to bookmark your favorite websites and arrange them into tile boards that you can share or keep private. Symbaloo calls the tile boards webmixes. You can create multiple webmixes arranged according to topics of your choosing. You could create webmixes about topics to share with your students. Or you could have students create their own webmixes and share them with the class to help everyone learn from each other's research.

Symbaloo does offer an education version, but the education version is not free except for individual use which doesn't make it different than signing up for a regular Symbaloo account

Stop Frame Animator - Create Stop Motion Videos

Stop Frame Animator from Culture Street is a neat tool for creating animated stop motion movies. Creating your animated stop motion video is a simple drag and drop process on Stop Frame Animator.

To get started creating your stop motion video select a background scene then drag your characters into place. While you have nine background scenes to choose from, the only characters you can use are wooden manikins. You can position the manikins' arms and legs in every scene. After choosing your scene and characters you can add some other props like chairs and beach balls. And if you want you can add sound effects and music to your video by selecting them from the Stop Frame Animator gallery.

Stop Frame Animator productions cannot be saved locally, but they can be saved online if you create an account. You can share your productions by emailing them to friends.

Applications for Education
If you're looking for a different way for your students to create short stories, have them try Stop Frame Animator. The challenge of using Stop Frame Animator is getting students to tell stories without using words. This process will require students to make careful selection of props and sound effects.

Thanks to Nathan Hall for sharing Stop Frame Animator with me.

Spanish Is Your Amigo - Video Lessons for Beginners

Spanish Is Your Amigo is a new series of video lessons taught by Kristen Williams. The lessons are designed for beginners. The short, upbeat lessons cover the basics of things like letter pronunciation, numbers, syllabic stress, verb conjugation, nouns and articles, and common Spanish phrases. Check out a sample lesson embedded below.


Applications for Education
As I say with almost every series of video lessons, they won't replace direct in-person instruction. But video lessons can be good resources for students who need a review or for students who can benefit from a slightly different wording or way of looking at material.

Spanish Is Your Amigo does have an etextbook available too, but the etextbook is not free as the video lessons are. 

Wikispaces Updates Viewing and Editing on iPads

Wikispaces does not have an iPad app, but they do have a mobile-friendly site that was recently updated for a better iPad viewing experience. The updated site has the major navigation functions at the bottom of the screen in order to provide you with more working space on each page. At the bottom of your screen you will now see "home," "recent changes," "pages and files," and "members." The edit button resides at the top of your page. You can edit anything on wiki with your iPad that you would edit on your laptop.

Applications for Education
The updated Wikispaces mobile interface isn't limited to iPads. It also works on my Android tablets. The cross platform compatibility is a nice feature for schools with BYOD policies as your don't have to worry about one student not having the same editing options as another.

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