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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Year in Review - No, It's Not a List of Links

The end of 2013 is less than eight hours away as I sit to write this final blog post of the year. My usual week-in-review and month-in-review posts are lists of the most popular posts. This year-in-review will not be like that. Instead, I want to take a few minutes to share the highs and the lows and the lessons I learned in 2013.

Personal highs, lows, and lessons learned
This year I was fortunate to see a lot of the country (U.S. Airways says I flew 156,000 domestic miles) for business and pleasure. Along the way I made new friends in Arizona, re-connected with old friends in Iowa, Colorado, and Nebraska, and made new friends right here in Maine. Lesson learned, one can never have too many friends. Unfortunately, I lost a friend this year too. The lesson there, be open and share.

I had the great opportunity to visit classrooms all over the country this year. I spoke with students from first grade through twelfth grade. I learned something new in each visit, but the most important lesson for me was  that I do miss having my own students on a full-time basis. Department meetings, on the other hand, are not something that I'll ever miss.

Finally, take time read books instead of web articles. Try as I might, I still can't focus on reading books when they're on a tablet because it's too easy to exit out to check Facebook for "just a second." However, I can focus when I have a physical book in my hands.

Blog/Business lessons learned
This year I launched three new projects as off-shoots of Free Technology for Teachers. The first project I launched technically launched in December 2012, but it didn't really get going until 2013. That project is iPadApps4School.com. Since the launch 8,500 people have subscribed. In launching that blog I learned a lot about WordPress and a lot about iOS.

The second project I launched was another that actually started in December 2012 and that is PracticalEdTech.com through which I've offered webinars on Google Drive, blogging, and Google Earth. This was the project I was most nervous about because it was the first time I ever directly offered anything for sale. Some people didn't like that I offered it as a paid product, but I also heard enough positive feedback to continue. The lesson I learned with this project is that there were many more hidden costs and tasks than I anticipated at launch.

The third project I launched this year was the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp. Twenty-five of you traveled to beautiful Bethel, Maine for two days of learning with me, Jen Deyenberg, and Jim Wells. Despite one network glitch on the second day, the two days went as well as I hoped. My take-away from the two days, give more time for projects and hands-on learning. I also learned way more about facilities rental costs than I ever thought I'd knew ($250 to rent extension cables for the day, yikes!). A few people have already asked if I will offer the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp again this summer, the answer is yes but I don't have dates to announce at this time.

Looking forward to 2014
I'm looking forward to speaking at more conferences and providing more professional develop workshops in schools. I'm also looking forward to launching a new blog through which I'll offer advice about blogging and consulting (the first month of content is written, the design is the hold up right now). Finally, I'm looking forward to working on my goal of talking to more people at conferences (I'm nervous in small talk situations) beginning with BETT and TeachMeet BETT in January (I tend to get lost walking in cities so if you see me looking confused in London, please help me).

The Month in Review - December's Most Popular Posts

Last sunset of 2013
Good evening from Woodstock, Maine where I've just watched the final sunset of 2013. I hope that you all are enjoying your holiday break.

As I do at the end of every month, I've put together a list of the most popular posts of the month. I post these lists for two reasons. First, over the years I've heard from many people who say the lists help them quickly catch up on things they missed earlier in the month. Second, writing the lists helps learn what types of resources I should be posting more or less of.

Here are this month's most popular posts:
1. 15 Options for Creating Screen Capture Images and Videos - Including on Chromebooks
2. Three Good Tools for Creating Multimedia Books Online
3. Have You Looked At Google Lit Trips Lately?
4. 5 Ways for Students to Create Audio Slideshows
5. By Request - Ten Helpful Resources for Middle School and High School Math Teachers
6. Some Handy Gmail Options You Might Be Missing
7. Borrow and Lend eBooks Through Open Library
8. Five Good Online Tools for Creating Infographics
9. 11 Free Online Typing Practice Activities for Students
10. Five Tools That Help Students Plan Stories

In January I am again offering my PracticalEdTech.com series How To Use Google Drive In SchoolClick here for registration details. 

Would you like to have me visit your school this year?
Click here to learn more about my professional development services.

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
Remind 101 offers a free tool for sending text message reminders to students.
IXL offers a huge assortment of mathematics lesson activities.
Typing Club offers free typing lessons for students.
MathDisk provides a great platform for creating interactive math lessons.
Discovery Education & Wilkes University offer online courses for earning Master's degrees in Instructional Media.
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.
The University of Maryland Baltimore County offers graduate programs for teachers.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology.
EdTechTeacher is organizing two iPad summits this school year.
Classmint offers a nice multimedia flashcard service.

How to Subscribe to Free Technology for Teachers
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Find me on Twitter, on Google+, or on Pinterest.

NRICH - An Excellent Source of Math Lesson Activities

At the end of yesterday's post of ten resources for high school and middle school math teachers I asked for suggestions for additional resources. This morning Colleen Young (whose blog is a must-read for math teachers) emailed me with the suggestion of NRICH.

NRICH is a provider of mathematics curricula and lesson plans covering everything from basic addition through advanced algebra and geometry. I initially reviewed it three years ago, but since then it has been overhauled for improved navigation. NRICH has sections for teachers and sections for the students. The sections have corresponding materials. For example, right now when you click on the page for secondary teachers you will see the featured activity is a time estimation lesson. A corresponding activity is presented to students when they click on "secondary students."

On NRICH you can find dozens of posters to download and print. Each of the posters displays a mathematics "trick" or challenge question. Teachers can download and print any of the posters in the collection. Each poster in the collection is linked to a problem page that contains notes for teachers using the posters.

Monday, December 30, 2013

By Request - Ten Helpful Resources for Middle School and High School Math Teachers

Recently, on the Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page someone asked for suggestions for math resources for grades 7-12. That covers a broad range of topics in math, but I've done my best to cobble together a list of resources that I think will help middle school and high school math teachers and their students. I have not included the obvious option of Khan Academy.

Get the Math is a super website designed to provide teachers and students with Algebra-based mathematics challenges. Get the Math tries to put the challenges in the context of the  "real world" scenarios of fashion design, video game design, basketball, restaurant management, movie special effects, and music production. Get the Math features short videos of professionals explaining and showing how mathematics is used in their professions. After watching the videos students try to complete a series of challenges based upon the work done in the professions of fashion design, video game design, and music production. For example, after watching the Math in Fashion video students have to design a shirt to match a specific price point

A couple of months ago Curriki released a series of six PBL geometry projects that could make geometry interesting and fun for high school students.Curriki's new geometry course features six PBL projects. Each of the projects is aligned to Common Core Standards. The course is not a self-directed course for students. The course is designed to be taught by mathematics teachers who want to incorporate PBL. The projects in the course can be used in sequence or used as stand-alone units. All materials needed for leading the projects are included available on the Curriki site. You will have to create an account and sign-in in order to access the materials. Curriki accounts are free.

Opus is a service that aims to help middle school mathematics teachers discover sample math problems aligned to Common Core standards. To find problems on Opus search by entering a topic and selecting a grade. You can also find problems by clicking the "browse the Core directly" link on the Opus homepage. Either way when you find a problem you can save it to your free Opus account where you can then generate a Word doc or Google Document of all of your saved problems. You can also create an answer sheet in your Opus account.

MathDisk is a service that teachers can use to develop interactive mathematics worksheets. Through MathDisk's "Math Builder" tool you can design mathematics models that your students can use online. The models and worksheets you develop online can also be downloaded to use offline if you also install the MiBook software on your desktop or on your Android device. If you don't have time to create new materials, the MathDisk gallery has pages of models and worksheets that you can choose from. Everything in the gallery, like everything you create through MathDisk, can be downloaded and or embedded into your own website or blog.

TenMarks is a service that offers an online mathematics program designed to supplement your in-classroom mathematics instruction. All of the problems in TenMarks' bank of more than 20,000 are aligned to Common Core standards. Within TenMarks teachers create class rosters and accounts for their students. After creating rosters teachers can assign practice problems to students. Teachers can assign problems based on the Common Core Standards that their students are trying to reach.

If you use GeoGebra in your classroom, you should bookmark GeoGebraTube. GeoGebraTube is a community site for teachers who teach with GeoGebra to share and find a wide range free resources. On GeoGebraTube visitors will find user-created tutorials, lessons, and worksheets. Visitors can search for resources by age group, language, and material type. All materials are freely available for noncommercial re-use.

Math Open Reference is a free online reference for geometry teachers and students. Math Open Reference features animated and interactive drawings to demonstrate geometry terms and concepts. The table of contents on Math Open Reference is divided into four basic categories; plane geometry, coordinate geometry, solid geometry, and function explorer tools. Click on any subject in the first three categories to find definitions, examples, and interactive drawings. In the function explorer category users can select linear functions, quadratic functions, or cubic functions to explore how changes in variables affect the graphed output.

Dan Meyer has a site called 101 Questions on which he is sharing images and videos as prompts for developing math questions. Each image and video has a 140 character field in which you can enter your question. Questions are compiled and can be Tweeted. Take a look at the top 10 to get a feel for what you will find on 101 Questions. I've embedded one of the videos from 101 Questions below. I won't pretend to be able to explain the larger purpose of the site as well as Dan does, so I'll just encourage you to go read his blog post about it. And if you need more background on who Dan Meyer is, watch his TED Talk Math Class Needs a Makeover.

Incredible Shrinking Dollar from Dan Meyer on Vimeo.

ULearniversity is a free site featuring arithmetic and algebra lessons. On ULearniversity you can watch tutorial videos and practice the concepts taught in the videos. ULearniversity provides instant feedback on your practice problems. As a registered ULearniversity user you can track your progress.

Math Shorts is the latest addition to Planet Nutshell's line-up of  animated educational videos. Math Shorts will eventually have twenty videos in the series. Right now the series contains eight animated videos for elementary school and middle school students. Each of the videos has a Common Core standard aligned to it. All of the videos have supporting materials from PBS Learning Media attached to them. The first video in the series is embedded below.



Suggestions welcome: I have never taught math and I'm open to suggestions for resources that should be added to this list. If you have a suggestion please feel free to email me at richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers (dot) com. 

Twenty Educational Games About Marine Life

NOAA's Games Planet Arcade offers twenty-five educational games for young students. The games are intended to help students learn about oceans, wildlife, and weather. Twenty of the games address topics related to marine life.

While the games are not terribly complex or fancy, they do offer some solid information for young students. For example, the Humpback Whale Migration game isn't much more than a board game that provides students with information about Humpback whales. As students move across the board they are stopped at spaces offering facts about the annual migrations of Humpback whales.

Sea Turtles and the Quest to Nest is one of the headline games of NOAA's Games Planet Arcade. The object of the game is to help a sea turtle avoid common obstacles on while navigating the ocean and the beach before laying her eggs and returning to the sea.

About half of the games are hosted on NOAA's website and the others are linked to the websites of PBS, National Geographic or the Environmental Protection Agency.

Applications for Education
If you're looking for some simple games to supplement a lesson on oceans, ocean wildlife, or weather, take a look at NOAA's Games Planet Arcade.

WWF Wildfinder - See the Ranges of 26,000+ Animals

One of my favorite free iPad apps of 2013 is the World Wildlife Fund's Together app. That app features interactive stories about endangered species around the world. The stories show you where the animals live and the threats facing them. If you and or your students don't have iPads, you can access similar information through WWF Wildfinder.

WWF Wildfinder is an interactive map through which you can see the distribution of more than 26,000 animals around the world. You can browse the map, search by region and ecosystem, or search for a specific animal. When you find an animal on the map you can open a tab of information about its habitat, whether or not its population is threatened, and view pictures of the animal.

Applications for Education
WWF Wildfinder could be a great resource for students to explore to learn about the species native to various eco-regions of the world. I would have students attempt to make correlations between maps of the distribution of a threatened species to maps about pollution and or population density.

How to Create Simple Comic Strips With Storyboard That

Storyboard That is a service that you and your students can use to create simple comic strips. I've reviewed it in the past and today I would like to share a demonstration of how to use it. The video below demonstrates how to use the basic functions of Storyboard That.


Storyboard That has free and paid plans. The free plan allows you to create three and six frame stories. The free plan also limits you to three storyboards per week. A paid classroom account offers options for managing student accounts, limiting sharing to classroom members only, and a classroom account offers more frames per storyboard.

Apply Today for a National Geographic Teaching Adventure

National Geographic Education is currently accepting applications for what looks like an awesome opportunity for twenty-five K-12 teachers in the U.S. and Canada. The 2014 Grosvenor Teacher Fellow Program will take teachers on field work expeditions to interesting places around the world. Some of the places teachers could go through the program include Holland and Belgium, the British and Irish Isles, Arctic Svalbard, the High Arctic, Iceland, the Canadian Maritimes, the Atlantic Islands, and Antarctica.

Applications are due by January 5th. You can get the complete details of the program and see a sample application here.

After Kelly Wade Hines tipped me off to this opportunity, I shared this on the Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page last night, but I'm posting it here because I want to make sure that everyone who may be interested sees it.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

An Animated Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States

The Digital Scholarship Lab at the University of Richmond recently released a new feature called the Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States. This new atlas contains more than 700 historical maps of the United States. The maps within the atlas are arranged into eighteen sections. As a student and teacher of history I was drawn to the sections devoted to population, territorial expansion, political parties and elections, and military history.

Many of the maps within the Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States can be animated to show changes over time. For example, in the section on States, Territories, and Cities you can view individual maps for each decade from 1790 to 1930 or you can click the "animate" button to see the maps put together in a time lapse animation. All of the historical maps in the Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States are displayed on top of a contemporary outline of the United States.

Many of the maps have interactive elements. For example, in the section on Political Parties and Opinions you can click on a county or state to see how people voted in that area.

To help students understand what they are seeing on each map, the Atlas of  the Historical Geography of the United States includes a text option that can be selected while viewing a map. Clicking the "text" box will display relevant information in the sidebar of the map.

Applications for Education
The Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States is a treasure trove of resources for teachers and students of U.S. History. In looking through the maps I could see a number of activities in which students compare maps from two categories and try to develop correlations between them. For example, I might ask students to compare maps from the section on Transportation with maps from the section on Boundaries.

H/T to Google Maps Mania

The Week in Review - The One Where I Get My Truck Stuck

Stuck in my own driveway
Good morning from the Free Technology for Teachers world headquarters in icy and snowy Woodstock, Maine. How icy is it? On Thursday I got my truck stuck in my own driveway while going out to get sand and salt. That incident put a damper on my plan to meet friends for skiing.

I hope that everyone is enjoying a little holiday vacation time. Judging by the record numbers of "likes" on the Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page, many of you are using some vacation time to explore resources to use in your classroom in 2014. And if you've ignored school-related things during vacation week, that's great too. We all need some downtime.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Some Handy Gmail Options You Might Be Missing
2. 11 Free Online Typing Practice Activities for Students
3. 5 Free Tools for Creating & Sharing Audio Recordings Online
4. 5 Ways for Students to Create Audio Slideshows
5. Interactive History Animation - Daily Life in the Iron Age
6. Turn-O-Phrase Helps Students Learn About Colloquial Phrases
7. MindMup - Create Mind Maps and Save Them In Google Drive

In January I am again offering my PracticalEdTech.com series How To Use Google Drive In SchoolClick here for registration details and a discount code. 

Would you like to have me visit your school this year?
Click here to learn more about my professional development services.

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
Remind 101 offers a free tool for sending text message reminders to students.
IXL offers a huge assortment of mathematics lesson activities.
Typing Club offers free typing lessons for students.
MathDisk provides a great platform for creating interactive math lessons.
Discovery Education & Wilkes University offer online courses for earning Master's degrees in Instructional Media.
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.
The University of Maryland Baltimore County offers graduate programs for teachers.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology.
EdTechTeacher is organizing two iPad summits this school year.
Classmint offers a nice multimedia flashcard service.

How to Subscribe to Free Technology for Teachers
Subscribe via RSSSubscribe via Email.
Like Free Technology for Teachers on  Facebook.
Find me on Twitter, on Google+, or on Pinterest.

Friday, December 27, 2013

5 Ways for Students to Create Audio Slideshows

For the next few days I'm taking some time off to relax, play with my dogs, and ski with friends. Rather than leave the blog dormant for a few days, I'm re-running some of the most popular posts of the year. 

Somewhere between a PowerPoint presentation and a full-fledged video is the audio slideshow. Creating audio slideshows can be a good way to add meaning to slides that otherwise might not mean much without a presenter. Here are some ways that students can create audio slideshows.

Narrable is a neat service for creating short narrated slideshows. To create an audio slideshow on Narrable start by uploading some pictures that you either want to talk about or have music played behind. After the pictures are uploaded you can record a narration for each picture through your computer's microphone or by calling into your Narrable's access phone number. You can also upload an audio recording that is stored on your computer. Narrable projects can be shared via email, Facebook, or by embedding them into a blog.

UtellStory is a service for creating and sharing audio slideshows. To create and share your story through UtellStory you can upload pictures, add text captions, add audio narration to each slide, and upload a soundtrack to support your entire story. Completed projects can be embedded into your blog, emailed to your friends, or shared through your favorite social networking sites. Watch UTellStory's introduction here. Creating my first UTellStory project, available here, took me about ten minutes after registering on the site. To create my story I uploaded pictures that I had saved on my computer, but I could have also pulled images from Flickr. Then I added the narration to each slide. In the free version of UTellStory you have thirty seconds per slide and up to two minutes of total audio. I rearranged my slides after recording by simply dragging them into the sequence in which I wanted them to appear.

Present.me is a handy service for recording video and or audio to accompany your slides. Present.me allows you to sync your recorded audio and video to your slides then publish everything as one complete package. Here's how it works; upload a set of slides to your Present.me account, then use your webcam to record a video of yourself talking about those slides. Your video and slides will appear side-by-side when you have finished recording. If you don't want to record a video, you can simply record audio only. Present.me accepts a large variety of presentation file types. And if you sign-in with your Google account, you can import presentations to Present.me from your Google Drive account.

In my mind one of the original audio slideshow tools is Animoto. It's been around for a long time (in web 2.0 terms) and it is still a good tool for students to use to bridge the gap between slideshows and videos. Animoto makes it possible to quickly create a video using still images, music, and text. In the last year Animoto has added the option to include video clips in your videos too. If you can make a slideshow presentation, you can make a video using AnimotoAnimoto's free service limits you to 30 second videos. You can create longer videos if you apply for an education account.

YouTube Photo Slideshows don't have a time limit other than the standard 15 minute limit applied to all new YouTube accounts (there are work-arounds for this). YouTube Photo Slideshows allow you to specify the length of time that each image is displayed for. After uploading your images you can use the annotations tool to add as much text as you like to each frame of your video. If you're working in a school that uses Google Apps for Education, your students can use their log-in credentials on YouTube so they don't have to create separate usernames and passwords.

The images below show you how to create a Photo Slideshow on YouTube. (Click the images to view them full size).

Step 1: Log into your YouTube account and click "upload" then click "Photo Slideshow."

Step 2: Select images from your Google Account or upload images from your computer.

Step 3: Drag and drop your images into the sequence in which you want them to appear.

Step 4: Choose a sound track and select the slide display duration and transition.

Step 5: Enter a title, description, and tags for your images. Select a thumbnail and privacy setting.

Step 6: Use the annotations tool to add text to each frame of your video. You can specify the length of time that each annotation is displayed for.

Watch my sample video below.

15 Options for Creating Screen Capture Images and Videos - Including on Chromebooks

For the next few days I'm taking some time off to relax, play with my dogs, and ski with friends. Rather than leave the blog dormant for a few days, I'm re-running some of the most popular posts of the year. 

TechSmith Snagit is a screen capture tool from the producers of the popular screencasting tools Jing and Camtasia. TechSmith Snagit is a Chrome app and extensions that allows you to capture all or part of screen then draw and write on your screen capture. The Snagit Chrome extension is what allows you to capture your screen. The Snagit Chrome app allows you to save your screen captures in your Google Drive account. You do have to install both the extension and the app for Snagit to work correctly.


Vessenger, producers of a group messaging system, offers a free program for capturing and annotating images on your computer screen. The free program, called Snaplr, is available for Windows and Mac. With Snaplr installed you can capture all or part of your screen. Snaplr's annotation tools include text boxes, highlighting, and free-hand drawing tools. When you've finished creating your annotated screen capture you can save it as a PNG file or attach it to an email message in Outlook.

Using the print screen key on your PC or "command+shift+4" on your Mac are easy ways to create a screen capture. But if you want do more and draw or annotate on that screen capture, give Snaggy a try. Snaggy is a web-based tool for drawing on, annotating, and sharing screen captures. To draw or write on your screen capture just paste your screen capture image into Snaggy. Snaggy offers tools for highlighting a section of your screen capture, typing on it, and drawing free-hand on your image. You can also use Snaggy to crop your image. When you're ready to share your screen capture, Snaggy assigns is a custom url that you can Tweet, email, or post anywhere you like. Snaggy lets you save your edited screen captures to your computer too.


Monosnap is a free screen capture tool for Mac and Windows. Monosnap is advertising that they will soon offer it for Android and iOS too. To get started download Monosnap. Once installed you can use Monosnap to capture a portion or all of your screen. One neat option is to capture your screen after a ten second delay. After capturing your screen you can draw on your image, type on it, or highlight portions of the screen capture image. You can save your screen captures on your computer or upload them to a free Monosnap account.

Szoter is a free online tool for annotating images that are stored on your computer. You can also use Szoter to capture and annotate screenshots. You can use Szoter on the web or download the Adobe Air version of it to run on your desktop. Either way you can upload images, draw on those images, and type on those images. When you're done annotating and drawing on your images you can save them to your local computer or share them online through your favorite social networks. Szoter can also be used to capture your screen and create annotated screen captures.

Explain and Send is a free Chrome extension that I have just installed in my browser. The extension allows me to quickly select all or a portion of my screen, draw on it, type on it, and share it. The extension installs in seconds and if you have synchronization enabled (click here to learn how) it will be available to you on all of the computers that you use. After you have created your screen capture you can share it via email, Twitter, or Facebook.

Pixlr offers a large set of image creation and editing tools. One of the tools that can be quite handy is Pixlr Grabber. Pixlr Grabber is Pixlr's screen capture tool. Pixlr Grabber is available as an extension for Chrome or Firefox. Using Pixlr Grabber you can capture your screen, crop the screen image, and print what you like. You can also send the image to Pixlr Editor for further editing options.

Screenr is a very simple, easy-to-use tool for creating screencast videos. You do not need to register in order to use Screenr, but if you want to save your recordings you do need a Twitter account. Screenr uses your Twitter ID to save your recording and publish it to Twitter (you can opt not to publish to Twitter). The recordings you make using Screenr can also be published to YouTube or you can download your recordings.

Screencast-O-Matic is a web-based screencast creation tool similar to Screen Castle. Screencast-O-Matic allows you to specify how much of your screen that you want to record. Screencast-O-Matic gives you up to fifteen minutes of recording time per video. If you want to include a webcam view of yourself talking you can do that too. To do that enable your webcam and then when you record a small video of you will appear in the corner of your finished video.

Quick Screen Share is a free screen sharing service from the makers of Screencast-o-matic. To use Quick Screen Cast just go to their website, select share your screen, and enter your name. Quick Screen Share will then provide you with a URL to share with the person with whom you are screen sharing. When that person opens the link you he or she will be able to see your screen. Quick Screen Share doesn't require you to install anything (assuming you have Java installed) or require you to register for the service.

The tool that I use most often of creating annotated screen capture images is Jing. Jing enables you to take a picture of part of your screen or all of your screen. Once you've captured the area you want in your picture, you can type on it, draw arrows on it, and highlight sections of text within it. To use Jing you must download and install the free software for your Mac or PC. Once it's installed, launch it and it runs in the background until you need it. You'll know that Jing is ready for you to use because you will notice an orange ball in one of the top corners of your screen. It takes up very little screen real estate and is ready to use whenever you need it. You can also use Jing to record a video of your screen. Simply select the area of your screen that you would like to show, click the record button and begin talking. Jing will capture everything you say and do for up to five minutes.

Awesome Screenshot is a great Chrome, Firefox, and Safari browser extension for capturing, annotating, and sharing screenshots. Once you've installed Awesome Screenshot you can simply activate it from your browser to capture a page or region on a page, draw boxes, draw lines, blur out information, and add text to your screenshot. When you're satisfied with your screenshot you can save it locally or share it via the url provided by Awesome Screenshot.

Bounce is a neat application that not only allows you to make annotated screen captures of websites but also allows you to instantly share those screen captures with others. To use Bounce go to their website then type in the url of any website you like and click "Bounce." Bounce will then create an image of that website on which you can draw boxes and annotate those boxes. You can create as many boxes and notes as you like. When you're done creating notes, Bounce will provide you with a unique url for your screen captures that you can share with others. If you create a Bounce account (optional) you and other Bounce users can annotate the same screen capture.

Capturing and Annotating Your iPad's Screen
To capture whatever you're currently viewing on your iPad's screen simultaneously press the on/off switch and the center "home" button. Your screen capture will be saved to your iPad's camera roll. After creating my screen capture I like to use Skitch for iPad to draw and type on the image. Using the latest version of Skitch for iPad you can register for an Evernote account and then your images will automatically be saved in Evernote. You can download Skitch for iPad here.

Capturing and Annotating Your Android Device's Screen
If you want to capture your screen on an Android device that is running Android 4.0 or higher you can do so by holding the "volume down" and "power" button at the same time. Then you can share those images to another service to mark them up. Just like on my iPad, on my Android tablets I like to use Skitch to draw on images. Click here to download Skitch for Android.

Five Essential Google Drive Skills for Teachers and Students

For the next few days I'm taking some time off to relax, play with my dogs, and ski with friends. Rather than leave the blog dormant for a few days, I'm re-running some of the most popular posts of the year.

This school year I've worked with a few school districts that are using Google Apps for Education for the first time. A lot of what I have done with those school districts is help to get the teachers acclimated to using Google Drive. When I sat down to plan an upcoming Google Drive training session I thought about some of the essential Google Drive skills that teachers need in addition to creating documents, presentations, and spreadsheets. Here are five essential Google Drive skills that I think teachers and students need.

1. Open and Edit Word Files in Google Drive.
If you're just beginning to transition to Google Apps from Microsoft Word, the chances are good you will have old files that you want to bring into and work on in Google Drive. Click here for the detailed directions on how to do this.

2. Create PDFs in Google Drive. 
Sometimes you don't want a document to be easy to alter. Or you plan on printing it and want it as a PDF. Click here to learn how to create a PDF in Google Drive in three easy steps.

3. Use Google Documents Offline.
For those times when you don't have an Internet connection and you want to work on a document, having offline access enabled is the only way to go. Click here for directions on how to enable offline access to your Google Documents. 

4. Give Yourself More Room to Work in Google Documents.
If you're using a laptop that has a screen of 13" or less there will probably be times when you want more white-space to work in. This little trick will give you about another inch of viewable document.

5. Create and Organize Folders.
Do you want to have more organization in your Google Drive account? Then you need to know how to create folders and move files into them. The steps for creating folders and dragging files into them are outlined below. (Click the images to view them full size).

Step 1:

Step 2:

Step 3:

Step 4:

11 Free Online Typing Practice Activities for Students

For the next few days I'm taking some time off to relax, play with my dogs, and ski with friends. Rather than leave the blog dormant for a few days, I'm re-running some of the most popular posts of the year. 

I've reviewed a lot of online typing practice activities over the years, but it has been more than a year since I updated my list. So this evening I put together an updated list of online typing practice activities for students.

Type Rocket is a free typing game from ABCya. Type Rocket is a sixty second game in which students make fireworks explode by typing the letters that appear on the rockets in the games. In the sixty second span of the game students try to correctly type as many letters as they possibly can. The rockets speed up as the game progresses.

Z-Type is a simple and fun typing game. The game has an easy level and a difficult level. The game is played the same way on both levels. To play Z-Type all that you have to do is go to the website and type the words that are falling from the top of the screen. When you have correctly typed a word a laser shoots it. The object is to shoot the words before they reach the bottom of the screen.

If you want students to take a break from the games, have them use Typing Speed Monitor for Google Chrome. Typing Speed Monitor is a Google Chrome extension that will track how fast you type and what keys you use most frequently. If you do a lot of writing online, Typing Speed Monitor is one way to get accurate feedback on your typing proficiency in real-world settings. The latest version of Typing Speed Monitor allows you to opt out of having it track your typing on domains you specify. For example, if you don't want it to track how fast you type on Facebook, you can exclude that domain.

Typing Adventure is a nice little game that young students can use to practice their typing skills. To play the game students just have to visit the game site, read the directions, and press start. The game scenario presented to students is a character leaping from stepping stone to stepping stone. To move along the path students have to type the letters of the stones they want to jump to. Students earn points based on speed and accuracy.

Good Typing is a free online typing skill development program. Good Typing provides 27 graduated lessons designed to help students learn to use their entire keyboards correctly. Unlike some free online typing programs, Good Typing offers support twenty different keyboard styles including US style, Japanese style, and several European languages.

Dance Mat Typing is a nice little resource from the BBC. Young students (four to eight years old) can receive clear, informative typing instruction through Dance Mat Typing. There are four levels for students to work through. Within each level there are multiple lessons and practice activities. The very first lesson that students receive is placement of their hands on the keyboard. Each lesson and practice activity offers instant feedback in visual and audio form.

Word Games offers a large collection of online word games and typing games. The word games range from simple word searches and crosswords to games that require players to complete sentences and phrases. The typing games are a mix of simple sentence typing for speed and games that require accuracy to "defend" a character or move a character through a scene. Some of the games featured on Word Games can be either downloaded to your computer, see Typing Defense, others can be embedded into your blog or website.

Typing Web is an online typing tutorial that provides instant feedback after every free typing lesson. Typing Web offers beginner through advanced typing lessons for free. You can register to track your progress or you can use Typing Web without registering.

Listen and Write is a great way for students to improve their typing skills and hear about the news. Listen and Write plays short audio clips of news stories and users type what they hear. The audio clips are relatively short, come in a few different levels, and registered users can track their progress.

Power Typing hosts a small collection of five typing games that students can use to develop their typing skills. Power Typing also offers typing lessons for Qwerty and Dvorak keyboards. The two games that I found easiest to access are Alphabetic Rain and See Don't.

Typing Club is a popular website offering free online touch typing lessons for students of all ages. Whether you use the Typing Club website or the free Chrome Web App the lessons work the same way. Typing Club provides 100 free activities that begin with the basics and progress in difficulty until you can touch type on your entire keyboard including the use of lesser-used keys like "<" and "{." As you type during each lesson you are given instant real-time feedback about your accuracy and speed. Unlike other typing lessons that make you wait until an activity is completed to determine your accuracy or speed, Typing Club recalculates that information with each keystroke.

Disclosure: Typing Club and ABCya are advertisers on Free Technology for Teachers. 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

More Than 500 Political Cartoons and 100+ Political Cartoon Lesson Plans

For the next few days I'm taking some time off to relax, play with my dogs, and ski with friends. Rather than leave the blog dormant for a few days, I'm re-running some of the most popular posts of the year. 

The Library of Congress hosts an online collection of more than 500 political cartoons and caricatures from U.S. History. You can search the collection by keyword and image type. Along with the images you will find links to related resources from the Library of Congress. You could use these public domain works to help students understand the political perspectives surrounding significant political events in U.S. History. A good model for political cartoon-based lesson plans can be found on Cartoons for the Classroom.

Cartoons for the Classroom is a service of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists. Cartoons in the Classroom offers more than one hundred lesson plans based on editorial cartoons created by the members of the AAEC. Each lesson plan is available as free pdf download. As you might expect, most of the lessons deal with current political and economic topics, but you will also find some lessons that are not time sensitive.

How to Use Haiku Deck on the Web

For the next few days I'm taking some time off to relax, play with my dogs, and ski with friends. Rather than leave the blog dormant for a few days, I'm re-running some of the most popular posts of the year. 

In November the popular iPad app, Haiku Deck, became available as a web app too. The new web version of Haiku Deck brings all of the awesome features of the iPad app to your web browser. With the web version of Haiku Deck you can create beautiful slideshows and share them on the web.

Haiku Deck offers a variety of themes and templates to use in your presentations. The best aspects of Haiku Deck are the integrated image search and the automatically resizing text. On each of your slides you can add images of your own or search through Haiku Deck's library of images. As you type text on each slide, the text automatically shrinks to fit in the space allotted. The shrinking text feature is great for encouraging students to minimize the use of text in their slide designs.

All Haiku Deck presentations created on the web can be shared through Facebook, Twitter, and email. All presentations can be exported as PPT files. And all of your presentations can be embedded into blog posts and web pages. Check out my presentation below.




To access the web version of Haiku Deck you may have to wait for a beta invite, but it seems that Haiku Deck is sending those out very quickly. 

Applications for Education
The thing that I've loved about Haiku Deck from day one is that its design tools help to focus students on telling a story with pictures and really knowing their material instead of relying on large chunks of text on slides. The integrated image search includes Creative Commons licensed images to help students find pictures that match their stories.


Click here if you cannot see the video.