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Monday, September 30, 2013

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

The end of September has arrived and I hope that everyone has settled into the routine of the new school year. As I do at the end of every month I've created a list of the most popular posts of the month.



Here are this month's ten most popular posts:
1. Tools for Creating Screen Capture Images and Videos
2. How to Insert Videos Into Google Forms
3. A Snappy Visual Dictionary and Thesaurus
4. On YouTube You Can Now Find Music to Legally Download and Re-use
5. 25 Geography Games for Kids
6. The History of Design In a Nutshell
7. Class Charts Adds Handy New Features
8. Two Online Forensic Science Games
9. Updated 90 Page Guide to Using Blogger In School
10. How to Create Image-based Quizzes in Google Forms

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.
ClassCharts is a free attendance and behavior recording tool.
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.
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.

How to Subscribe to Free Technology for Teachers
Join more than 57,000 others who subscribe via these links.
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Build HTML5 Sites and More With Google Web Designer

Earlier today Google launched the public beta of Google Web Designer. Web Designer is a desktop application for creating interactive HTML5 sites and advertisements. The tool was built for the purpose of creating advertising units, but it can be used for building webpages and other non-advertising materials.

Web Designer allows you develop pages that contain drawings, animations, and 3D objects. Web Designer includes galleries of pre-made objects to drag, drop, edit, and compile in the creation of animations. The animations come together through a layered timeline.

I gave Web Designer try this afternoon. It is not a tool that most people will master quickly unless they've prior web design experience. Fortunately, Google has produced a lot of tutorials on how to use it. You can read tutorials here and watch tutorials on YouTube. If you decide to try Google Web Designer, you will probably want to try it on a screen larger than 13 inches. I tried it on my 13' MacBook Pro and would have liked to have some more screen space in which to work.



Applications for Education
Using Google Web Designer could be an excellent progression for students who are ready to move beyond the basics of building webpages in Google Sites and other free website builders.


How to Receive an Email Alert When a Google Form Is Updated

This morning I answered an email from a reader who was looking for a way to be alerted whenever a student entered new information into the Google Form that she shared with them. There are a couple of Google Sheets scripts that can be used to accomplish this task. The easiest script to use is called "form_alert." This simple script will send you an email alert whenever someone enters new information into your form. The email that you receive will contain a timestamp along with the information that was submitted through your Google Form. The spreadsheet attached to your Google Form will still update as usual too. Directions for using "form_alert" are included in the screen captures below (click the images to view them in full size).

Step 1:

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Step 4: 

After clicking configure you will begin to receive alerts in the email account that is attached to your Google Drive account.

Quickly Compare Two or More Things in Wolfram Alpha

In their 15th anniversary blog post last week, Google mentioned that you can now compare things by simply typing "compare" between the things that you want to compare. Google used the example of comparing butter with olive oil. I tried the new function and it wasn't terribly effective beyond the basic examples that Google provided.

Wolfram Alpha has had a comparison function for years and it works very well. To compare biographical information about two or more people, just type their names into the Wolfram Alpha search field (use commas between names). To compare other things just type them into the search field (again, use commas to separate them) and Wolfram Alpha will provide data for comparison. You can even compare apples, oranges, and bananas (Wolfram Alpha will provide nutritional information for the fruits).

Applications for Education
One of the aspects of Wolfram Alpha's comparison function that can be of use to students researching the lives of famous people is the timeline comparison. The timeline will show students where the lives of two or more people overlap. In social studies classes the comparison function is useful for creating a quick guide to the party affiliations of a set of politicians. In a health class the comparison function is great for helping students quickly see the differences in the nutritional qualities of various foods.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Shape of Life - Dozens of Biology Videos and Other Lesson Materials

The Shape of Life was an eight part television series developed by the Sea Studios Foundation, National Geographic, and PBS. The Shape of Life website contains dozens of segments from the series. The video segments are arranged according to eight animal phyla. The segments can be downloaded or viewed online. Lesson plans and or worksheets are available along with the video segments.


Using Google Image Search to Solve a Flea Market Mystery

Image credit: Becky White.
This afternoon my friend Becky White posted on Facebook some pictures of the tea set that she found at a flea market. She was curious about the meaning of the lettering on the bottom of the cups. My suggestion was to take a close-up picture of the lettering and upload it to Google Image search to try to find some matches that could lead to an answer to her question. I tried it myself by using a screenshot of Becky's picture and it didn't get me too far (I couldn't zoom-in enough on the lettering) until I combined the use of the image with some text in the search field. Then I was able to find that the lettering meant "long life."

Watch the short video below to learn how to combine image upload with text to improve your Google Images search results.

America's Credit History and a Credit Card Debt Story

Earlier this week I was having a conversation with a friend of mine when somehow our conversation turned to the topic of credit cards. She wondered when credit cards became so prevalent in the U.S. I knew that I had seen a video about the history of credit cards at one point. This morning I found it. Here's America's Credit History produced by CBS News.


Earlier this month I shared a couple of videos to educate students about credit card debt. Here is another one to share with high school and college students.


Applications for Education
America's Credit History could be a good resource to use as part of lesson on the U.S. economy.
The student's credit card debt story is a good cautionary tale for students. One of the first challenges that new college students encounter is the temptation to register for credit cards offered to students. Unfortunately, a lot of students don't understand just how quickly they can rack-up huge debts with these credit cards. Education can be the best prevention when it comes to debt.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Week In Review - Apple Picking

Good morning from Maine where we have reached the prime apple-picking season. I going to pick some myself and perhaps make a pie (yes Mom, I can cook) today. Wherever you are this weekend, I hope that you get all of the fun and relaxation that you deserve. Before I head out with my dogs to enjoy a gorgeous autumn day, I have this week's list of the most popular posts of the week to share.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Two Online Forensic Science Games
2. A Snappy Visual Dictionary and Thesaurus
3. On YouTube You Can Now Find Music to Legally Download and Re-use
4. 27 Topographic Maps Lessons
5. Collaborative School Project Idea - Create a Book Review Site
6. 5 Warm-up Activities for Brainstorming Sessions
7. A Short Guide to Creating and Sharing Google Calendars

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.
ClassCharts is a free attendance and behavior recording tool.
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.
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.

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, September 27, 2013

Word Sense - See the Connections Between Words

Word Sense is a neat little service that is one part dictionary and one part thesaurus. When you enter a word into Word Sense it will show you the definition(s) for the word as well as the connections to associated and similar words. You can see any of the definitions of the connected words by simply clicking on them to pop-up a definition.

Applications for Education
What I like about Word Sense in comparison to a typical thesaurus or dictionary is that students can see the connections between the words they started out with and the words they end up using. I also like that students can get clear examples of the words being used in context.

Explain 3D - 3D Animations of Simple Machines

Explain 3D is a free site that offers a small of collection of 3D animations of simple machines. While the animations are free to view, you do have to register in order to see them. The animations use the Unity web player which enables viewers to zoom-in, zoom-out, and rotate animations 360 degrees.

As you can see in the screenshot above, there are eight Explain 3D animations. I'm not too keen on the machine gun animation, but the rest could be useful explanatory aids.

Seven Alternatives to iGoogle

As I mentioned in a post earlier this week, on November 1st Google will be discontinuing the iGoogle service. I was never a frequent user of iGoogle, but I have met many elementary school and middle school teachers that had their students using it as the launching point for many of the online activities that they had students complete on a daily basis. If you are looking for a replacement for iGoogle, give one of the following services a try.

My Link Cloud allows you to create start pages with your favorite links.Within your account you can create multiple start pages. Each start page can have a different color scheme. Organizing the links on your pages is a simple drag and drop process. To delete a link just right click on it then confirm that you want to delete it from your start page. My Link Cloud allows you to add sticky notes to your start pages. You can add frames to your My Link Cloud pages too. The frames allow you to group items on your pages.

Wibki is a free service for creating personalized start pages. To create your start page with Wibki register with an email address or Facebook account. Wibki's three step tutorial will quickly guide you through the process of add your email service and social media profiles to your Wibki start page. After adding your email and social media profiles to your Wibki page you can add sections of recommended content to your page. Wibki offers a browser bookmarklet that you can also use to add any website to your Wibki page.

Start Me is a free start page / home page service that puts all of your most-used bookmarks and most-read RSS feeds on one clean page. Start Me even offers an option to import all of your bookmarks and RSS feeds from iGoogle. Click here for the directions on how to migrate from iGoogle to Start Me.

Symbaloo is probably the most recognized alternative to iGoogle. Symbaloo allows you to bookmark your favorite websites and arrange them into tile boards that you can share or keep private. Symbaloo calls the tile boards webmixes. You can create multiple webmixes arranged according to topics of your choosing. Symbaloo offers a free iPhone app and a free Android app that you can use to access your webmixes whenever and wherever you connect to the web. Symbaloo does offer an education version, but the education version is not free except for individual use which doesn't make it different than signing up for a regular Symbaloo account.

OneFeed is a Chrome extension that uses Chrome's "new tab" page as your start page. With OneFeed installed when you open a new tab you will see a page of feeds from your favorite blogs and social networks. You can also have your Gmail inbox displayed on the start page.

Backstit.ch is a service that allows you to organize and display information from your favorite websites and services. Your start page can be constructed of information from Backstit.ch's suggested sites or from RSS feeds that you specify. I created a simple start page of information from TechCrunch, CNN, my Twitter feed, and Free Technology for Teachers. While it was easy to add content from Backstit.ch's suggested sources, adding content from a non-featured source like Free Technology for Teachers required entering the feed URL rather than just the site URL.

Proto Page is a service that Colleen Terrill recommended to me. Proto Page is probably the service that is most similar to iGoogle in terms of features. Proto Page allows you to add all kinds of widgets, RSS feeds, and search tools to one page. You can add widgets for weather, news, bookmarks, and productivity. Proto Page has lots of recommended content, but you can also add your own favorite RSS feeds to your pages.

The Sights and Sounds of Autumn

Earlier this month I shared a collection of resources for teaching about the changes in the seasons and the reason for leaves changing colors. This afternoon on The Adventure Blog I found another nice video to add to my collection. Autumnal Colors is a short video produced by Thomas Rasel. The two minute video highlights the sights and sounds of autumn. A bugling elk and a squirrel preparing for winter are a couple of the sights and sounds included in the video.


Autumn from Thomas Rasel on Vimeo.


Autumn Stars and Planets is a short PBS video that explains why the stars and planets that we see from Earth change with the seasons. The video is embedded below.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Right to Food - An Interactive Story About Hunger

The Right to Food is an interactive story about the challenges of feeding the world's people. The story, produced by feedingminds.org, takes students to eight locations around the world. At each location students read about how people get food and the challenges that people can face in getting adequate food for themselves and their families.

Applications for Education
The Right to Food isn't the slickest website that you'll see today, but it does contain excellent information for students. As students read each part of the story they are asked to think about a series of "is it fair?" questions. Those questions could be used as the starting place for classroom discussions.

Right to Food is available in six languages; English, Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, and Arabic.

Science Take - Short Science Videos from The New York Times

Thanks to Peter Vogel I recently learned about Science Take from The New York Times. Science Take is a new series of videos short (60-90 seconds) videos that quickly explain the unique aspects of various animals including dolphins, jaguars, and sharks. Science Take is part of the larger collection of science videos hosted on the science page on the The New York Times.


Applications for Education
These videos aren't long enough to be the basis for a full flipped-classroom lesson, but they could be useful as supplementary material in a lesson. If you're creating webpages to replace your science textbook, the Science Take videos could be good clips to include in those webpages.

Video - Wikispaces Online Workshop

Last Friday I shared a idea for collaboratively creating a book review site with your students. On Monday Jenny Murphy Tweeted me to share what she has done with Wikispaces to create a book review site with her students.

If you would like to create a site like Jenny's, the Wikispaces back to school kit provides all of the directions you need to get started. Wikispaces hosted a bunch of webinars this summer. In those webinars they demonstrated everything that you see in the back to school kit. One of the webinar recordings is embedded below. The rest of the recordings can be found on the Wikispaces YouTube channel.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

On YouTube You Can Now Find Free Music to Legally Download and Re-use

For the last couple of years Vimeo has offered free music to download and re-use in your video projects. Now YouTube is offering the same thing through the YouTube Audio Library. This library is slightly different than the free music available when you use the YouTube slideshow creation tool. The music in the YouTube Audio Library is music that you can download to use in projects online and offline. You can search the library of music according to genre, mood, instrument, or duration. You can listen to the tracks before downloading them as MP3 files.

Applications for Education
The next time your students are developing multimedia projects for your class, have them take a look through the YouTube Audio Library to see if they can find a tune to enhance the messages of their productions.

How to Enable or Disable Google+ Settings in Blogger

If you use Blogger and or your students use Blogger, you may have noticed that Blogger is now automatically posting to Google+ whenever you publish a new blog post. You can disable this feature in the Google+ menu on Blogger. In that same menu you can also enable or disable Google+ comments. The two screenshots below provide directions on how to enable or disable Google+ settings in Blogger.

(If you're Google+ profile is not connected to Blogger then this isn't relevant to you. If you're in a Google Apps for Edu domain and Google+ is not active for you then this is also not relevant to you).





Ten Educational Games from Taking IT Global

Taking IT Global is an organization with a mission to empower youth to understand and act on the world's greatest challenges. I've written about some of their programs in the past. One of the things that they offer is a collection of online games designed to help students learn about economics, politics, and health in the context of a broad global perspective.

In Taking IT Global's games section you will find ten games that are appropriate for elementary school and middle school students. A couple of the games that I've tried are Flags of the World and Ayiti: Cost of Life.

Flags of the World asks students to match flags to their respective countries. After matching each flag to its country students can click the "learn more" link to find more information about that country.

Ayiti The Cost of Life is an educational game designed to teach students about the cost of living and the struggles to improve life in rural Haiti. (Ayiti is the Haitian Creole word for Haiti). In the game students have to help the "Guinard Family" improve their lives in terms of finances, health care, education, and general happiness. The game plays out over a timeline of four years and sixteen seasons. Each season brings a new challenge.

What Colors Communicate - A Visual Guide

Whenever I talk to students or teachers about slide design, digital portfolio design, or any other visual project one of the things that I talk about is color choice. Using the right combination of colors can make your project stand out. On the other hand, the wrong combination can make your project stand out for the wrong reasons. Dustin Stout recently published a handy guide to colors and what they communicate. The guide was created for blog designers, but the concepts can be applied to lots of other formats. The guide is posted below. I encourage you to visit Dustin's blog post for more information about colors and visual design.
Click image for full size. 

Applications for Education
Before your students start designing their next sets of slides, have them take a look at this guide and consider the impact of their color choices. If you have access to a color printer, you might make a couple of copies to hang in your classroom.

H/T to Randy Krum at Cool Infographics

123D Circuits - Collaboratively Design Electronic Circuits

123D Circuits is a free tool from Autodesk and Circuits.io (reviewed here) for collaboratively designing electronic circuits online. On 123D Circuits you can design your circuits and test them on the simulator in your browser. You can create circuits from scratch or use and modify templates and other publicly shared projects. All projects are public unless you pay a subscription fee to make your projects private. Watch the video below to learn more about 123D Circuits.


Applications for Education
123D Circuits could be a great tool for students to use to design and test circuits before moving on to creating them with real components in your classroom.

Click here for seven other resources you can use to teach students about electricity and circuits.

Problem Attic Expands Again - Quickly Create Practice Assessments

Problem Attic is a service that I reviewed when it launched last year. Since then it has continually expanded to the point that you can now quickly create practice assessments and flashcards for social studies, language arts, mathematics, and science from a collection of more than 85,000 questions from past state assessments given in New York, Hawaii, Kentucky, Minnesota, Ohio, New Jersey, Delaware, Mississippi, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

To create your practice tests on Problem Attic you simply create a new document then browse through questions and pin them to your document. After you have pinned all of the questions that you want in your document you can arrange the order in which they appear in your document. Finally, before printing your document you choose and set the page formatting.

Applications for Education
Years ago one of my colleagues used old exam questions as review activities with his students. Problem Attic takes that concept and makes it easy for any teacher to build review activities based on problems from actual tests that students have taken. Students can also use Problem Attic to find a big collection of questions that they can use to help them prepare for tests in mathematics, social studies, language arts, and science.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Start Me - A Clean Start Page to Replace iGoogle

If you have been searching for a service to replace iGoogle (it will be shut down on November 1), you might not have to look any farther than Start Me. Start Me is a free start page / home page service that puts all of your most-used bookmarks and most-read RSS feeds on one clean page. Start Me even offers an option to import all of your bookmarks and RSS feeds from iGoogle. Click here for the directions on how to migrate from iGoogle to Start Me.

Applications for Education
I was never a frequent user of iGoogle, but I have met many elementary school and middle school teachers that had their students using it as the launching point for many of the online activities that they had students complete on a daily basis. Start Me could be used in the same manner.

5 Warm-Up Exercises for Brainstorming

Before your next brainstorming session with students or colleagues try one of the warm-up activities suggested in this slideshow from Ethos 3. Explanations of each activity are available in this corresponding Ethos 3 blog post.

After doing the warm-up exercises your students can use one of these ten tools to organize their thoughts as they brainstorm together.



The Halloween Tooth and Other Halloween-themed Resources from Scholastic

The chill in the air and the shorter days means that autumn is here and before too long kids will be thinking about Halloween costumes. Scholastic recently published a set of thirteen Halloween-themed writing and mathematics activities. I tried three of them this morning.

The Halloween Tooth: Max's Math Adventure is a math activity for K-2 students. In the activity students read and listen to a poem about Halloween candy then complete a set of activities in which they make patterns and count candy.

Halloween Web Hunt is a simple web quest for students in grades three through five. The activity has students visit a virtual museum and online libraries to answer questions about mummies, bats, and Halloween history.

Writing Mysteries provides a template and walks elementary school students through the process of writing mystery stories.

Click here for a list of other Halloween resources that I've reviewed. 

Videos - What If You Stopped Sleeping or Going Outside?

AsapScience recently released a couple of short videos that could fit well in middle school and high school health courses. What If You Stopped Sleeping? explains the effects of sleep deprivation as well as the effects of sleeping too much. What If You Stopped Going Outsides? explains why humans need to spend time in sunlight and the effects of not getting outside often enough. Both videos are embedded below. AsapScience includes links to the references used in the production of the videos. Those links are included below the videos.



Research regarding the effects of nature on the brain.

Sleep Duration, Sleep Deprivation, Sleep Purpose.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Constitute - Search, Read, and Compare Constitutions

Google and the Comparative Constitution Project have launched a new site called Constitute. The site hosts the constitutions of 160 countries. You can search the site according to country and or constitutional theme. Searching by constitutional theme is the best aspect of the site. More than 300 themes are outlined on the site. Select a theme then a country and the element of that country's constitute addressing your chosen theme will be highlighted. You can pin parts of the constitutions to compare them to each other.


Applications for Education
Constitute could be a fantastic resource for lessons in comparative government. You could have students work in groups to compare and evaluate a set of constitutions thematically. To go a little deeper the students can look at the history of a country and the events that influenced the formation of its constitution.

Six Resources to Help Students See the Effects of Climate Change

This month's issue of National Geographic includes a feature on glacial meltdown. Part of the online complement to that article is the interactive map of estimates of coastline changes based on glacial meltdown that I posted last week. That map is fairly basic and I had received a few requests for more resources for teaching about climate change. Here are six other resources through which students can see the effects of climate change.

Google, NASA, USGS, and TIME host timelapse imagery that depicts how the Earth's surface has changed over the last 25 to 30 years. Using the TIME Timelapse powered by Google you can see how shorelines have changed, cities have grown, and glaciers have shrunk. Start out with some the featured imagery on the homepage then search for other places around the world. The first place I searched for was Cape Cod.

Climate Commons is an interactive map developed by the Earth Journalism Network. The map features weather data and emissions data related to climate. The map allows you to compare baseline weather data with anomalies and extreme weather events. The map also features articles about climate change. The articles are displayed on the map according to location.

NASA's State of Flux image collection features before and after pictures of more than 200 locations worldwide. The satellite images show the effects of climate change, natural disasters, and land use on places all over the globe. For some examples from the State of Flux collection take a look at the impacts of dam building in Brazil, drought along the Mississippi River, or volcanic activity in Iceland. You can browse for images by clicking placemarks on the State of Flux Google Map or by scrolling through the image gallery.

Surging Seas, produced by ClimateCentral.org, is an interactive map of the potential impact on the United States of rising sea levels. The map allows you to click along coastal areas on the east coast and west coast to see how high the sea level could rise. The Surging Seas maps also project the number of people, homes, and land area that could be affected if the projections are correct.

Glacier Works is a non-profit organization studying the shrinking glaciers of the Himalaya and the impact of glacier melt on the people of the region. One of the neat features of the Glacier Works website is the panoramic before and after images. The panoramas show images of the glaciers from the 1920's side-by-side with recent images. You can quickly compare the two views by sliding your cursor across the panoramas.

ARMAP is a comprehensive resource of interactive, online maps of Arctic research. ARMAP's resources include files for use in Google Earth as well as ArcGIS explorer. You can also access 2D maps directly on the ARMAP website. ARMAP provides map layers and placemarks about a wide range of topics related to Arctic research. Before opening the general ARMAP map, visit the map gallery for a primer on the type of resources that can found on ARMAP. You should also check out the links section of ARMAP to visit the sources of much of the ARMAP content.

Learn Anatomy & Physiology With Study Jams

Earlier today on iPad Apps for School I reviewed an app that teaches children about human anatomy and physiology. If your students don't have iPads take a look at the Human Body Study Jams from Scholastic. Study Jams are slideshows and animations that provide a short overview of various topics in science and math. There are six human body Study Jams; skeletal system, nervous system, digestive system, respiratory system, muscular system, and circulatory system.

Applications for Education
The Human Body Study Jams from Scholastic could be useful resources for elementary school or middle school students to review prior to a lesson that you teach to them. The Study Jams could also be good review materials for students.

A Short Guide to Creating and Sharing Google Calendars

Creating a public Google Calendar and embedding it into your classroom blog is a great way to keep your students and their parents informed about what is happening in your classroom. I often included my lesson plan outlines and important handouts in the events on the public calendars on my classroom blog. If you would like to do the same thing, just sign into your Google Calendar account and follow the directions included below.



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Step 8: (The embed code can be pasted into a Blogger or Wordpress-powered blog).