Google
 

Sunday, June 30, 2013

MindMup - A Mind Mapping Tool That Saves to Google Drive

MindMup is a free mind mapping tool that can be used online, with Google Drive, and on your desktop. MindMup works like most mind mapping tools in that you can create a central idea and add child and sibling nodes all over a blank canvas. MindMup nodes can contain text and links.

When you're ready to save your MindMup mind map you can save it to Google Drive, save it to your desktop, or publish it online. If you publish it online, you can grab an embed code for it to post it in a blog post or webpage. 

Applications for Education
I've often had my students create mind maps as an exercise in making visual connections between important concepts, events, and people in a unit of study. MindMup can be used by any student without the need to create an account. That makes it suitable for students who don't have email accounts to use. MindMup mind maps that are published online can be made into collaborative exercises. Consider starting a MindMup mind map with a central idea and then share it with your students to complete as a group.

H/T to Lifehacker.

Tips for Securing Your WiFi Network

Google's Good to Know site hosts a lot of good information about web technology basics. Good to Know covers topics like preventing identity theft, securing your passwords, and keeping your computer virus-free. This week securing your wifi network was added to Google Good to Know. The three minute video embedded below outlines the steps that you should take to secure your wifi network at home.

June's Ten Most Popular Posts on Free Technology for Teachers

Good evening from Greenwood, Maine. This evening while sitting on my back deck enjoying the summer weather I've been thinking about the year so far. We're half-way through 2013 and I've been fortunate to be invited to speak at many schools and conferences. It's been a privilege to meet so many passionate teachers all over the United States. Thank you!

One of the things that I like to do when I visit a school is take pictures of the things that make that school unique. Last week I visited the University of Maine at Fort Kent and found the sign you see in this picture. UMFK might be the only college campus that has a sign like this one (click to enlarge).

Here are this month's most popular posts:
1. 25,000 Images of Art That You Can Re-use for Free
2. 18 Google Earth & Maps Lessons for K-12
3. What QR Codes Can Do For You
4. Using Images as Prompts to Teach Google Search Strategies
5. 5 Ways Students Can Create Audio Slideshows
6. 5 Benefits of Using Backchannels In Your Classroom
7. CNN Student News Reviews the News of the School Year
8. 372 Free Art History Books
9. Google Forms Become Printer Friendly
10. WatchDoc - A Chrome Extension for Monitoring Google Docs Changes

Would you like to have me visit your school? 
Click here for information 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.
Typing Club offers free typing lessons for students.
Discovery Education & Wilkes University offer online courses for earning Master's degrees in Instructional Media.
Vocabulary Spelling City offers spelling practice activities that you can customize.
MasteryConnect provides a network for teachers to share and discover Common Core assessments.
ABCya.com is a provider of free educational games for K-5.
Lesley University offers quality online graduate programs for teachers.
The University of Maryland Baltimore County offers graduate programs for teachers.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology.

How to Subscribe to Free Technology for Teachers
Join more than 57,000 others who subscribe via these links.
Subscribe via RSSSubscribe via Email.
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Brain Stuff - Videos Answering Fun Science Questions

Brain Stuff is a new YouTube channel featuring short explanations to fun science questions like "how much oxygen does a person breath in a day?" and "why do feet stink?" Yesterday, I shared their explanation of how to decaffeinate coffee. The Brain Stuff channel is just one month old and it has nine videos in it. I've embedded the playlist below.

Last Chance to Move Your RSS Subscriptions Out of Google Reader

The last day of Google Reader has arrived. Tomorrow, it will be shut-down by Google. If you haven't moved your RSS subscriptions to another feed reader yet, do it today. Here is a list of seven Google Reader replacements that I've tried over the last three months. I've put the list in order of how frequently I use each one. My recommendation is to import your Google Reader settings into at least two of these other services just to be certain that you have them saved.

Feedly is a great service for reading your favorite RSS feeds on your iPad, Android device, or in your web browser. Feedly will import all of your Google Reader subscriptions for you with just one click. I enjoy using the visual layout of Feedly which I feel enables me to browse through my RSS subscriptions more efficiently than if they were just in a list like in Google Reader. I also find it very easy to share from Feedly to Google+, Evernote, Twitter, and many other services.

Flipboard is an iPad and Android application that allows you to read your RSS subscriptions in a magazine-style format. This spring Flipboard introduced the option to collaboratively create iPad and Android magazines by sharing items from your feeds to your magazines.

The Old Reader is a free service that you can use to subscribe to RSS feeds and read all of the latest content from those sources in one place. So that you don't have to re-subscribe to the blogs that you love, The Old Reader will allow you to import your Google Reader subscriptions. You'll notice that The Old Reader looks and acts very similarly to Google Reader. The Old Reader will allow you to share posts, write notes about posts appearing in your account, and organize your subscriptions into folders.

Feedspot is a simple Google Reader replacement. It doesn't have any of the visual effects of Flipboard or Feedly. What it does have is a clean interface that may remind you a lot of Google Reader. In fact, it even uses some of the same keyboard shortcuts as Google Reader. Learn more about Feedspot in this Tekzilla video.

FlowReader is a free RSS reader that I tried earlier this week. I have to say that they couldn't make it easier to import your Google Reader subscriptions. To start using FlowReader just visit the homepage and click "Import Your Google Reader Feeds Now." After clicking that button authorize FlowReader to access your Google Reader feeds and all of your feeds will be imported into FlowReader. If you are using categories in Google Reader, those will be imported too. After importing your feeds you can connect your social media accounts like Twitter, Google+, and Facebook. You can also connect Evernote, Instapaper, and many other bookmarking services to your FlowReader account. FlowReader lets you read your feeds in full article view or in a headline-only view.

EldonReader is a free service for organizing and reading your favorite RSS feeds. The display of your RSS subscriptions is very similar to that of Google Reader. You can import your Google Reader feeds into EldonReader with just a couple of clicks. To import your Google Reader feeds just click the "Import Google Reader" link in the left hand column of your Eldon Reader homepage then authorize Eldon Reader to access your Google Account.

With Digg Reader you can import your Google Reader subscriptions with just one click. All of the category folders that you have in Google Reader will be imported into Digg Reader too. Digg Reader has a simple interface that is currently missing a couple of features that I must have including the option to see how many unread items I have in a category. The other feature that I would to see is the option to add other social networks to my sharing menu. Currently, Digg Reader only supports sharing to Twitter, Facebook, and Digg.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

What's Inside Coffee? And How Do You Decaffeinate It? - Videos

Earlier today Open Culture shared a video titled What's Actually Inside an Average Cup of Coffee? The video, produced by Wired, gives us a short run-down of the chemical contents of brewed coffee. After watching the video I went looking for related videos on YouTube. I found How Do You Decaffeinate Coffee? published by Brain Stuff. In How Do You Decaffeinate Coffee? viewers again learn about the chemicals in coffee and how how to remove the caffeine from coffee. Both videos are embedded below.



Applications for Education
After watching How Do You Decaffeinate Coffee? I contacted my brother-in-law who is a professor of organic chemistry at Cedarville College and a friend of mine who is a chemist at Boeing to see if this process is something that could be done by high school chemistry students. Both of them think it is.

Google+ Is Two, Have You Tried It Yet? You Should

Google+ turned two this week. Many teachers (and many others) have ignored it even though it has some great features. I outlined my favorite things about using Google+ in this post back in May. The short version of that post is that the connected nature of conversations and the Communities feature make it easy to connect and follow conversations. Using the Communities feature in particular can be a great way to connect with a group of like-minded professionals.

If you haven't tried Google+ yet, here are four videos to help you get started.

Instagram, Food, and Regional Differences

I'm not likely to be accused of being a hipster anytime soon, but this evening I did Instagram a picture of part of my dinner. Brown bread from a can is a central part of a "traditional Maine suppah" of baked beans, red hot dogs, and brown bread. Some folks wash it down with Moxie too (I forgot the Moxie today). My Instagrammed picture sparked a bunch of questions on Twitter. This got me thinking about how much fun it could be to learn about various parts of the world through pictures of food.

Applications for Education
You wouldn't have to use Instagram or Twitter to spark your students' questions about foods from different parts of the world, but it might be a more authentic method than simply Googling "foods from place X." Reach out to your personal learning network on Twitter, Google+, or Facebook and ask people to share a picture of a "traditional meal" or "traditional ingredient" from their region. You might be surprised what your students ask and what they find out about other parts of their countries and the world. This activity could pair nicely with these maps of 128 dialect differences in the United States.

Digg Reader - Another New Google Reader Alternative

This weekend is the last weekend that Google Reader will work. If you haven't found a replacement for Google Reader yet, here's another option. Digg has just released a new RSS reader called Digg Reader. You can import your Google Reader subscriptions with just one click. All of the category folders that you have in Google Reader will be imported into Digg Reader too.

Digg Reader has a simple interface that is currently missing a couple of features that I must have including the option to see how many unread items I have in a category. The other feature that I would to see is the option to add other social networks to my sharing menu. Currently, Digg Reader only supports sharing to Twitter, Facebook, and Digg.

If you're looking for other Google Reader alternatives, here are my five favorite Google Reader alternatives.

You can also subscribe to this blog by email

Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good morning from rainy Maine. This week I had the privilege of speaking at the University of Maine at Fort Kent and at the AAFCS conference in Houston. Thank you to everyone that came to my presentations. It was great to be able to connect with many of you this week.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Using Images as Research Prompts to Teach Search Strategies
2. Search Tips and Strategies Tip Sheet
3. 18 Google Earth & Maps Lessons for K-12
4. Learn a Language On the Go With Duolingo Mobile Apps
5. Learn Art History with Smarthistory

Would you like to have me visit your school? 
Click here for information 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.
Typing Club offers free typing lessons for students.
Discovery Education & Wilkes University offer online courses for earning Master's degrees in Instructional Media.
Vocabulary Spelling City offers spelling practice activities that you can customize.
MasteryConnect provides a network for teachers to share and discover Common Core assessments.
ABCya.com is a provider of free educational games for K-5.
Lesley University offers quality online graduate programs for teachers.
The University of Maryland Baltimore County offers graduate programs for teachers.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology.

How to Subscribe to Free Technology for Teachers
Join more than 57,000 others who subscribe via these links.
Subscribe via RSSSubscribe via Email.
Like Free Technology for Teachers on  Facebook.
Find me on Twitter, on Google+, or on Pinterest.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Snap! - Drag and Drop Coding for Kids

Snap! is a drag and drop programming interface designed to help students learn to program. Snap! uses a visual interface that works in your browser on your laptop as well as on your iPad. To design a program in Snap! drag commands into a sequence in the scripts panel. The commands are represented by labeled jigsaw puzzle pieces that snap together to create a program. You can try to run your program at any time to see how it will be executed. After previewing your program you can go back and add or delete pieces as you see fit.

Applications for Education
Snap! may remind some people of Scratch. That is because the Snap! developers call their program "an extended re-implementation of Scratch." The potential benefit of Snap! over Scratch is that teachers who have a mix of iPads, Android tablets, and laptops in their classrooms can have all of their students use the same programming interface.

H/T to Danny Nicholson.

Join Me in Sunny Arizona for 3 Days of Learning Fun

For the second year in a row, Pearson Online Learning Exchange has invited me to speak at their Authentic Learning Workshop in Scottsdale, AZ July 16-18th.

During this 3-day workshop, educators will collaborate with innovative thought leaders about transformative ideas and practical tips for creating authentic learning experiences. This is a small event with plenty of time planned for collaborating to develop outstanding learning experiences for our students. I’ll be presenting keynotes that will be broadcasted virtually so if you’re unable to attend in person, be sure to register for the morning webinar sessions.

Why you should join me:
  • Meet and collaborate with other passionate educators like yourself who could become lifelong collaborators
  • Learn about new tools and best practices for creating authentic learning experiences
  • Participate in interactive sessions both in person and virtually
  • Receive a free 1-year subscription to Online Learning Exchange for in-person registration and a free 30-day trial of Online Learning Exchange for virtual participation
  • Opportunities to win great door prizes, including two $100 Amazon giftcards and an iPad mini.

This is a limited seating event so be sure to reserve your spot today for the 2013 Authentic Learning Workshop. Hope to see you there!


I know that sometimes when people think of Pearson they instantly think about it as a massive publishing company, it is one. That said, the Pearson OLE team that is running the Authentic Learning Workshop is not "corporate" at all. They are a fun bunch of people who are genuinely interested in helping teachers create better learning experiences for their students. I wouldn't work with them if they weren't.

40 Free and Open Course for Learning a New Language

When I was in high school we had the choice of studying Spanish or French to meet our foreign language requirement. I distinctly remember telling my guidance counselor that I wanted to take Japanese. She said that wasn't an option. I took Spanish.

Today, if a student wants to study a language that his or her school doesn't offer, that student can find lots of online options for learning a new language. Open Culture has a long list of places where you can find free online courses for learning a new language. The list covers forty languages including Japanese which I just might study now. The courses listed are a mix of iTunes U courses, YouTube channels, and assorted MOOCs.


Fair Use, Copyright, and Educational Blogging

Last night someone on Twitter asked me for advice about how to respond to discovering that his blog posts were being re-used without permission. This morning I read Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano's post No! You Can't Just Take It. In that post Silvia expresses her frustration with teachers who take articles and graphics from her blog without permission, without giving attribution, and then use those materials as their own. Unfortunately, these are situations that I've dealt with a lot over the last five plus years. If you find yourself in a similar situation in which you discover someone taking and using your materials without permission, I have a couple of pieces of advice on how to handle it. You can find all my advice on the topic in my post What To Do When Your Work Is Plagiarized.

At the end of her post No! You Can't Just Take It Silvia asks what can be done to stop the practice of people taking materials from blog under the belief that Fair Use means teachers can just take and use things they find online. My response is to first educate people about what Fair Use really means. Two good sources of information on this topic are Copyright On Campus and Wes Fryer's Copyright for Educators.

Fair Use does give educators more liberty to use copyrighted materials than the general public has. However, it doesn't mean that you can just take anything or copy anything. Think about how a book publisher would respond if you made fifty copies of a book, distributed those to your students, and just said "well it's for education so it's Fair Use." Publishers make money by selling books. Likewise, many education bloggers make money through advertising and through supporting their written materials with workshops. When you copy and paste their materials and redistribute them without permission, you're negatively impacting that blogger's earning potential. And even if the blogger isn't trying to make money, you still can't copy and paste without permission. A practice that I see a lot is copying and pasting entire posts then placing a small link to the original. When done without permission that practice isn't okay either. In short, unless it's clearly labeled as public domain or labeled with a Creative Commons license, ask permission before using someone's materials.

Google Alerts and Your Organization's Digital Reputation

Earlier this week I facilitated a workshop about social media for leaders of schools and organizations. Two of the questions that I posed to the group at the beginning of the day were; 1. What happens when someone Googles your organization? 2. What is being said about your organization without your knowledge?

After presenting those questions I gave folks time to try to find some answers to those questions. There were a few people surprised by what they found. My suggestion to everyone in the room was to create a set of Google Alerts for the names associated with their organizations. I encouraged people to create Google Alerts for not only the proper names of their organizations but also the nicknames and abbreviated names that people use for their organizations. Google Alerts makes it easy to find out when someone publishes something new about your organization online.

Another suggestion that I often make in workshops about social media is to look at popular social networks like Facebook and see if there are groups formed about your school or organization. And while Myspace is no longer popular with kids, the story that Clay Shirky shares in the video below (start at 2:15 into the video) is a good example of why you want to know what is happening in social media.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Digital Explorer - Follow Expeditions and Learn About Science

Digital Explorer is an organization that helps students learn about science and geography through the study of expeditions around the world. Digital Explorer publishes educational materials that are connected to expeditions. The organization has also connected classrooms to expeditions through live video conferences. Whether or not your classroom follows expedition you can still find useful materials to use in your lessons.

Applications for Education
Take a look at the Digital Explorer resources bank to find materials like Google Earth-based science and geography lessons, marine life fact cards, videos from expeditions, and ideas for experiments to try in your classroom. There are materials in the resource bank that are appropriate for middle school and high school students. You can filter your search in the resource bank according to topic, student age, and material type.  

You will need to register on Digital Explorer in order to download materials from their resources bank.

TED-Ed Lesson - How Big Is the Ocean?

Anyone who has stood on a beach looking out on the ocean has probably wondered, how big is the ocean? The TED-Ed lesson How Big Is the Ocean explains some of the answers to that question by putting the size of the ocean into perspective compared with well-know landforms. The lesson is suitable for students in grades three through eight.


Three Google Sheets Scripts That Help Teachers Save Time

One of the great things about technology is that it can help use do things more efficiently which in turn means we get to spend more time on the more enjoyable parts of teaching, like working with students instead of working with paperwork. If you're a Google Apps user there are three Google Sheets (spreadsheets) scripts that I recommend trying. These scripts can help you save time on on sorting, grading, and assessing students' work.

Flubaroo is an easy-to-use script that will grade multiple choice quizzes for you. You can even set-up the script to email all of your students their grades with just one click. Complete directions for using Flubaroo can be found here.

gClassFolders is a script that will create folders for you for as many course sections as you need. The concept behind it is this; students have a "dropbox" folder in their Google Drive accounts that you have shared with them. To submit work students drag files into that "dropbox" folder. From there gClassFolders sorts submissions to the correct folder for each student. You can find complete directions for gClassFolders here.

Doctopus is a Google Spreadsheet script that can help teachers manage the flow of shared work in in their Google Drive accounts. The basic concept behind the script is to enable teachers to quickly share documents with all of the students on a roster, monitor usage of shared documents, and give students feedback within that roster spreadsheet. Find directions for Doctopus here or watch the videos embedded below.


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Social Media in 2013 - Questions for School Leaders to Consider

This morning at the AAFCS conference in Houston, Texas I facilitated a workshop about social media for leaders of organizations. We started the morning by watching the latest version of Erik Qualman's Social Media Revolution then talked about a few questions to consider while thinking about using social media as the leader of an organization.

The questions we considered were:
What happens when someone Googles your organization?
What is being said about your organization without your knowledge?
Who represents your organization?
What will you share about your organization?
How will you handle negative feedback on social media?

Some resources to look at when planning social media policies for your organization: 
Edutopia - How to Create Social Media Guidelines for Your School 
Online database of sample social media policies

School leaders who have experience crafting social media policies, please feel free to add questions to consider in the comments below.

More Ideas for Using ThinkLink In Your Classroom

Last week I shared Donna Baumbach's great Google Presentation of 65+ ways to use ThingLink in your classroom. This spring ThingLink ran a contest in which students submitted their ThingLink creations. The contest is over now, but you can still see the submissions on the contest page. Some of the examples that jumped out to me were interactive diagrams of the human digestion system, an interactive version of Van Gogh's Starry Night, and a cute interactive image titled Puppies Count As Family Too. I didn't count all of the images on the page, but I'm confident in saying there is well over 100 interactive images created by students on the page. Take a look at the contest page and get ideas for your own use of interactive images in your classroom.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

K-5 Rocks - Lessons About Fossils and Rocks

The American Geosciences Institute produces K-5 GeoSource which is a site that hosts lesson plans and other educational resources for teachers. K-5 GeoSource has a very Web 1.0 look to it, but if you do a little digging you'll find some helpful materials. A few of the resources that I looked at were this free chart about types of rocks (link opens PDF), a science fair project guide, and a short Earth scientist career guide.

Applications for Education
As I mentioned above, K-5 GeoSource isn't the fanciest site you'll find on the web and it lacks any kind of interactive element for students. If you just need to find some ideas to use in your classroom, K-5 GeoSource could be worth bookmarking. The most useful aspect of the site might be the science fair project guide that you and your students could work through to plan a hands-on Earth science project.

EldonReader - Another Google Reader Alternative

The space created closure of Google Reader (just five days left before it's gone for good) is quickly being filled by lots of companies trying to be the "best" Google Reader alternative. EldonReader is the latest entry into this market that I've tried. EldonReader is a free service for organizing and reading your favorite RSS feeds. The display of your RSS subscriptions is very similar to that of Google Reader.

You can import your Google Reader feeds into EldonReader with just a couple of clicks. To import your Google Reader feeds just click the "Import Google Reader" link in the left hand column of your Eldon Reader homepage then authorize Eldon Reader to access your Google Account.

EldonReader makes it easy to discover new content to subscribe to. EldonReader features suggested content in a digital magazine rack display in your laptop's web browser or on your Android tablet (not available as an iOS app, yet). You can also discover new content by simply entering a search term in the EldonReader search box.

EldonReader isn't the slickest alternative you'll find to Google Reader, that prize goes to FlipBoard, but it could be good for folks who want a simple interface like that found in Google Reader.

Math Chimp Presents Freddy's Fractions - A Fractions Game for Kids

Math Chimp is a free site full of math games, videos, and other math review materials for elementary school and middle school students. Recently, Math Chimp released a new game called Freddy's Fractions. In Freddy's Fractions students help a sea turtle named Freddy find fractions that are larger or smaller than the one that is presented at the beginning of each level. Freddy's Fractions is available to play in a web browser. Freddy's Fractions is also available as a free Android app and as a free iPhone app.

Applications for Education
Freddy's Fractions is just one of many activities available through Math Chimp. Like most educational games the games could be used as fun review activities, but they don't offer much in the way of instruction. That said, the nice thing about Freddy's Fractions is that it is available on three platforms which is handy in a BYOD environment or any classroom environment in which you have a mix of devices being used by students.

Free Tiiu Pix - Hundreds of Free Pictures for Student Use

Free Tiiu Pix is a site maintained by a retired teacher, Tiiu Roiser. The purpose of the site is to provide students with hundreds of free, high resolution images that they can use in their presentations. In addition to the free images Ms. Roiser provides some good advice to students about designing and delivering better PowerPoint presentations.

Free Tiiu Pix has a good system of categories and labels that will help students quickly find images that are suitable for their presentations. There are sixteen main categories on the site and dozens of subcategories. The two largest categories are the plants and animals categories.

Applications for Education
Finding free, high resolution images for a presentation can sometimes consume as much of a student's time as drafting the outline of a presentation. Having a resource like Free Tiiu Pix bookmarked could save students a lot of time. If you have a "resources" section on your class blog or website consider putting Free Tiiu Pix on it.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Learn a Language On the Go With Duolingo Mobile Apps

On the first day of the year I reviewed the free language learning service Duolingo. To learn a new language on Duolingo you read, listen to, and translate words and phrases. For example if I want to learn Spanish I'll be shown Spanish words with translations. I can can hear the words pronounced too. Then to practice I type and or speak translations. The activities start out with simple words and phrases. As I become more proficient, Duolingo gives me more challenging phrases. To help me track my progress Duolingo awards me point and virtual badges.

In addition to using Duolingo in your web browser you can also use the free Android and iOS apps. Tekzilla provides a short demo of the app in the video below.

Search Tips & Strategies Tip Sheet

On Friday I shared my strategy of using images as question prompts to teach Google search strategies. In that post I mentioned that the strategy is based in part on what Daniel Russell does in his Search ReSearch challenges. This afternoon Dr. Russell shared a great list of tips and strategies that will help you be a better user of Google search. The search tips and strategies are used in eight key lessons outlined on the same page. Those eight key lessons are:

1. Know what’s possible to ask.
2. Use more than 1 resource.
3. Understand their language.
4. Understand terms / concepts / genre.
5. Know the capabilities of their tools (operators).
6. Know the structure of their information space.
7. Search for tools when you need one.
8. Know how to use different media types.

See Daniel Russell's Search ReSearch blog for the complete list of tips, strategies, and the complete presentation that goes with the list.

H/T to Fred Delventhal on Google+.

Learn Art History With Smarthistory

One of the most popular posts of the last week was 372 Free Art History Books. Writing that post reminded me of a resource that I reviewed three years ago, Smarthistory.

Smarthistory is a free online alternative to expensive art history textbooks. Smarthistory features more than just images of notable works of art. The combination of video lessons, text articles, and audio lessons about eras and themes in art history is what makes Smarthistory a valuable resource. Students can browse all of the resources of Smarthistory by artist name, style of work, theme, or time period. Smarthistory was originally developed by art history professors Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker. Smarthistory is now partnered with Khan Academy to deliver lessons via video.

Week in Review - Home Again

Good morning from the Free Technology for Teachers world headquarters in Greenwood, Maine. I'm home after 11 days on the road during which I spoke at four conferences. As I mentioned when I posted this picture on Instagram, I'm fortunate to be able to visit so many places, but it is always nice to be home and watching the view from my porch with my dogs. Yesterday, was the official first day of summer for those of us in the northern hemisphere. I'm looking forward to some summer fun and I hope that you are too. And for my friends in the southern hemisphere, I hope that the winter is good to you too.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. 25,000 Images of Art That You Can Re-use for Free
2. WatchDoc - A Chrome Extension for Monitoring Google Docs Changes
3. MyStudyLife - A Student Planner on the Web and Windows 8
4. Create Multimedia Presentations and Quizzes in Edmodo
5. 372 Free Art History Books
6. Get Healthy With Google
7. 18 Google Earth & Maps Lessons for K-12

Would you like to have me visit your school? 
Click here for information 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.
Typing Club offers free typing lessons for students.
Discovery Education & Wilkes University offer online courses for earning Master's degrees in Instructional Media.
Vocabulary Spelling City offers spelling practice activities that you can customize.
MasteryConnect provides a network for teachers to share and discover Common Core assessments.
ABCya.com is a provider of free educational games for K-5.
Lesley University offers quality online graduate programs for teachers.
The University of Maryland Baltimore County offers graduate programs for teachers.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology.
EdTechTeacher.org is hosting workshops in Atlanta, Chicago, and Boston this summer.

How to Subscribe to Free Technology for Teachers
Join more than 57,000 others who subscribe via these links.
Subscribe via RSSSubscribe via Email.
Like Free Technology for Teachers on  Facebook.
Find me on Twitter, on Google+, or on Pinterest.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Short Lessons On the Reason for Seasons

Good evening from Maine where I just watched the sunset on the longest day of the year (in terms of amount of sunlight). Earlier today on Google+ I shared National Geographic's article about the significance of the summer solstice. The article is an interesting read with a bunch of links to more interesting information sprinkled throughout it. Reading the article prompted me to look at a few resources that could be helpful in teaching students about seasons. 

On National Geographic's Education page there are two resources worth noting. The first is a simple illustration of the position of Earth relative to the sun throughout the year. That illustration could support your use of this hands-on activity designed to help students understand the changes in intensity and duration of sunlight on their part of the world throughout the year. Both resources are appropriate for elementary school students.

Mechanism Of The Seasons is a YouTube video that I found. The six minute video could be helpful in a flipped classroom environment as it covers the same information that your students will review in the National Geographic materials mentioned above.

MyPermissions - Keep Track of the Apps That Access Your Online Accounts

Many services allow you to register and use their services by logging-in with your Facebook, Twitter, or Google credentials. If you use that option a lot, you might forgot just how many services have access to your Facebook, Twitter, and Google accounts. MyPermissions is a handy tool that will show you all of the services that you have authorized to access your social media accounts. The service can be used in your web browser or you can download the free MyPermissions iOS and Android apps.

Using Images as Research Prompts to Teach Google Search Strategies

Over the last month I've shown the picture that you see to the left during a number of presentations and workshops. I've used the picture to model using pictures to spark students' minds at the beginning of lessons on search strategies. This is a strategy that I've developed by borrowing ideas from Daniel Russell's Search ReSearch activities and Dan Meyer's strategy of using videos and pictures to prompt students to ask math questions.

When I show the picture to the left during my workshops (click it to enlarge it and feel to use it yourself) I simply ask people to share the questions that come to mind when they see it. Then I give people time to try to use various Google search strategies to find the answers to their questions. Sometimes people find the answers and other times they don't. It's okay if they don't find the answers because the point is to try a variety of search strategies.

Some of the questions that are frequently asked about the picture are:
Where was this picture taken?
How big is the truck?
How much fuel does the truck consume?
How big are the tires?

All four of the questions above can be answered by using various search strategies and tools. Using the "similar images search" in Google Images will help you answer these questions. Google Maps Street View will help you answer the questions too. And while not essential to answering the questions, refining your search to a specific top-level domain could help too.

Create your own image-based search lessons.
Besides taking your own pictures and putting them online, a good strategy is to use Creative Commons-licensed images from Flickr. I recommend Flickr because many of the images are tagged with locations and some have captions that can give your students a few clues to work with. Fotopedia is also a good place to find Creative Commons-licensed images that have location tags.

For pre-made search lesson activities, take a look at the Google Search Education page

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Two Fun Ways to Learn About Cows

I like to end my Best of the Web presentations with fun sites. Lately, I've been ending my Best of the Web presentations with Who Pooped? Who Pooped? is an interactive site in which students learn about various animals by guessing which animal created which pile of poop. Believe it or not, there is actually some good information about the animals that follows each round of guessing who created which poop. Cows are one of the that animals you can learn about on Who Pooped?

This week Larry Ferlazzo shared a neat video about the digestive tract of cows. In the video below a Rube Goldberg machine is used to show how a cow's digestive tract works.



Cow from Nova Jiang on Vimeo.

18 Google Earth & Maps Lessons for K-12

This afternoon in Kettering, Ohio I gave a short presentation on using Google Maps and Google Earth across multiple grades and content areas. One of the things that I shared during that presentation is the following collection of resources.

Science
- Climate Change, Flooding, Volcanoes
- Google Earth Outreach
- Projects by Subject
- Shark Tracking
- Wildlife Tracking
- KQED Science Maps
- U.S. Watersheds (complete directions for working with watersheds)

English/ Language Arts
- Google Lit Trips
- Projects by subject

Math
- Maths Maps
- Real World Math
- Google Earth Walks

Social Studies
- Social Studies Central
- Projects by subject
- Great Explorers and more
- 10 US History Tours
- Culture and History
- GE Teach

Places We Can Connect

Over the last two weeks I've given four presentations about building personal learning networks online. In all of those presentations I've encouraged people to give Google+ a try. I have come to believe that Google+ has a number of advantages over Twitter. Perhaps most important to folks just starting to develop online PLNs is that it is easier to follow conversations in Google+ than it is in Twitter. If you want to connect with me on Google+, you can do so right here.

While I'm putting more time into Google+ than anywhere else, I am still active on other networks and we can connect on those too.
You can find me here on Twitter at @rmbyrne
You can find me on Facebook here.
You can find me on Pinterest here.

65+ Ways to Use ThingLink In Your Classroom

Last year Donna Baumbach created a Google Slides presentation titled 26+ Ways to Use ThingLink In the Classroom. Yesterday, I received an email from Donna in which she shared the updated version of that presentation. The presentation now contains more than 65 tips and ideas for using ThingLink in the classroom. The presentation is open to contributions from others. If you have ideas to add to the presentation, you can do so here. Big thanks to Donna for creating and sharing this excellent resource about one of my favorite web tools. By the way, ThingLink is now available as an iPad app too.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

372 Free Art History Books

Over the weekend I shared 25,000 free images of art that anyone can download. In that post I suggested that the images may be useful in art history lessons. This afternoon I discovered that The Metropolitan Museum of Art hosts 372 art history books online. All of the books can be read online or downloaded as PDFs (warning, some of them are massive files). You can search through the catalog of books by thematic category, format, and publication type. And, of course, you can search through the books by title, author, and keyword.

Applications for Education
The Metropolitan Museum of Art's collection of art history books could be a great resource for art teachers and their students. Students who are researching artists and or art movements could consult the collection to find reference materials.

A Billion Pixel View of the Surface of Mars

NASA's Google+ page is a great place to find neat imagery, videos, and articles about all things space. One of the things that I found on NASA's Google+ page today is this billion pixel imagery of the surface of Mars.  The imagery is the result of stitching together pictures taken by the Curiosity Rover between October 5 and November 16, 2012. You can explore the imagery in a panoramic or cylindrical display

Applications for Education
Use NASA's new imagery of Mars in conjunction with the Mars view in Google Earth to give your students a better sense of what the surface of Mars looks like. Tie that activity into a creative writing activity in which students explore what life on Mars could look like in the future.

Google Forms Become Printer-friendly

Creating quizzes in Google Forms is one of the things that I usually teach people how to do during my Google Apps workshops. Google Forms are very useful for delivering short quizzes online. However, if you need to have a paper copy of that quiz printing the Google Form was less than elegant until today. This afternoon on the Google Drive Google+ page it was announced that now when you print a Google Form it is generated in a printer-friendly format.

Applications for Education
If you need paper copies of your Google Forms for students who cannot complete the form online for one reason or another, the new printer-friendly version of forms will be useful to you and your students.

My Five Favorite Google Reader Alternatives

The final countdown to the end of Google Reader is on. In eleven days Google Reader will be closed. I've tried a bunch of alternatives to Google Reader over the last few months. These are the five that I recommend using.

Feedly is a great service for reading your favorite RSS feeds on your iPad, Android device, or in your web browser. Feedly will import all of your Google Reader subscriptions for you with just one click.
I enjoy using the visual layout of Feedly which I feel enables me to browse through my RSS subscriptions more efficiently than if they were just in a list like in Google Reader. I also find it very easy to share from Feedly to Google+, Evernote, Twitter, and many other services.

Flipboard is an iPad and Android application that allows you to read your RSS subscriptions in a magazine-style format. This spring Flipboard introduced the option to collaboratively create iPad and Android magazines by sharing items from your feeds to your magazines. Watch the video below to learn more about collaboratively creating digital magazines with Flipboard.


The Old Reader is a free service that you can use to subscribe to RSS feeds and read all of the latest content from those sources in one place. So that you don't have to re-subscribe to the blogs that you love, The Old Reader will allow you to import your Google Reader subscriptions. You'll notice that The Old Reader looks and acts very similarly to Google Reader. The Old Reader will allow you to share posts, write notes about posts appearing in your account, and organize your subscriptions into folders.

Feedspot is a simple Google Reader replacement. It doesn't have any of the visual effects of Flipboard or Feedly. What it does have is a clean interface that may remind you a lot of Google Reader. In fact, it even uses some of the same keyboard shortcuts as Google Reader. Learn more about Feedspot in this Tekzilla video.

FlowReader is a free RSS reader that I tried earlier this week. I have to say that they couldn't make it easier to import your Google Reader subscriptions. To start using FlowReader just visit the homepage and click "Import Your Google Reader Feeds Now." After clicking that button authorize FlowReader to access your Google Reader feeds and all of your feeds will be imported into FlowReader. If you are using categories in Google Reader, those will be imported too. After importing your feeds you can connect your social media accounts like Twitter, Google+, and Facebook. You can also connect Evernote, Instapaper, and many other bookmarking services to your FlowReader account. FlowReader lets you read your feeds in full article view or in a headline-only view.

Applications for Education
I've always believed that as educators we have a responsibility to continue to read and learn about ideas shared in our field. Creating a set of blogs and websites that you subscribe to is a great way to read and learn about new ideas in our field. These Google Reader alternatives make it easy to create a set of subscriptions and read them on your favorite device. 


I have also tried Zite, Netvibes, NewsBlur, and Pulse. You might also want to take a look at MyLinkCloud's support for RSS feeds.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Icelandic & 17 Other Languages Added to Google Drive

This afternoon on the Google Drive blog it was announced that 65 languages are now supported in Google Drive. That total includes 18 languages that were added today. You can switch between languages by opening the gear icon in the upper-right corner of your Google Drive home screen and selecting "language" under the "settings" menu. Click here for more directions.

The announcement on the Google Drive blog also reminded me that you can share documents, slides, and sheets with people who use a different language in their Google Drive accounts.