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Thursday, October 31, 2013

How to Create Google Scholar Alerts

Google Scholar, like Google Books, is one of the research tools that high school students often overlook. Searching on Google Scholar is not like searching on Google.com or searching in any other public search engine.

Google Scholar indexes scholarly, peer-reviewed academic papers, journals, theses, books, and court opinions. These are materials that students usually won't find through Google.com, Bing, or Yahoo search. Just they can do for Google.com searches, students can create Google Scholar alerts. Google Scholar alerts notify students when new materials related to their search queries appear on Google Scholar. The screenshots below offer directions for creating Google Scholar alerts. (Click the images to view them in full size).

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Mentimeter Adds Open-ended Responses to Online Feedback Tool

Mentimeter is a free service that allows you to pose a question to your audience and get instant feedback on that question through cell phones, tablets, and any other Internet-connected device. I reviewed the service back in February of this year. Since then Mentimeter has add a new open-ended response format.

Mentimeter allows you to create an unlimited amount of questions and collect unlimited responses. The user interface is clean and simple and your students don't need to create accounts in order to respond to your questions.

A demo of Mentimeter's basics is included in the video below.


Applications for Education
Mentimeter, like Socrative and Poll Everywhere, is a good tool for collecting informal feedback from your students. You could use Mentimeter to ask students simple questions like, "do you feel ready for the quiz on Friday?" then use that information to formulate your next lesson plan. Tools like Mentimeter are also good to use as exit ticket systems at the end of a class meeting. Again, you can use the information collected through those exit tickets to influence how you design your next day's lesson plan.

Curriki Presents Six PBL Geometry Projects

Of all of the math courses that I took in high school and college, geometry was the only one that I enjoyed and aced (the others were a massive struggle for me, remember those Mom?). I attribute some of that to my teacher who in hindsight did a masterful job of making geometry interesting. Curriki has recently 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.

In reading over the project descriptions the one that intrigues me the most is the House of the Future project. In the House of the Future students watch a short TED Talk about the future of housing then formulate their own predictions for the future of housing design. After making predictions students use geometric modeling to design a building that supports their predictions.

Populr - A Nice Tool for Building Simple Webpages

Populr is a service for creating simple webpages to advertise events and promotions. The service reminds me a bit of the popular Smore platform. On Populr you can quickly create a stylish webpage with pictures, text, and document uploads. Populr offers a selection of templates that you can modify or you can build your page from scratch. All of the editing (aside from typing text) is done through a drag and drop interface. See how it works in the video below.


Applications for Education
Populr, like other services that are similar to it, could be a good tool for creating promotions for school dances, club activities, or to advertise good news from your classroom.

Populr offers a variety of pricing plans. The free plan should be more than adequate for most school settings.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Short Guide to Using Google Books for Research

Google Books is one of the research tools that Google offers, but a lot of students overlook. Google Books can be a good place for students to look for books and look within books that can help them with their research projects. In the short guide below I provide updated directions for the basics of Google Book search.

For directions on publishing your own PDFs to Google Play, click here.

Why With Nye - Bill Nye Explains Jupiter and More

Why With Nye is a series of nine videos featuring Bill Nye. This series is based around NASA's Juno mission to Jupiter. In the series Bill Nye explains things like whether or not Jupiter has a core, if water can be found on Jupiter, and how Juno stays on course. I've embedded the playlist below.


Nanoogo - A Fun Creative Writing Platform for Kids

This resources has gone offline (May 11, 2015). 

Nanoogo is a newer site designed to get kids interested in creative writing projects. At first glance Nanoogo reminded me a bit of Glogster without video and audio elements. On Nanoogo students can write stories and add pictures and other clipart to their stories. The writing takes place on a blank canvas that students decorate.

Applications for Education
Nanoogo has some excellent options for teachers. On Nanoogo teachers can create class groups and distribute writing prompts to students. Teachers have the power to create student accounts, maintain student identifications on the site, and re-set passwords. Writing prompts that teachers create can have an expiration date assigned to them. Teachers can log into their accounts to see what their students have created. Watch the video below for a complete overview of teacher side of Nanoogo.


nanoogo cropped final from Nick Urrea on Vimeo.

QuizBean - Quickly Create and Distribute Online Quizzes

QuizBean (formerly known as QuizPoo) is nice platform for creating simple image-based quizzes that your students can complete online. The service recently received some updates that teachers will appreciate. First, you can now add more than two answer choices to each question. Second, you can now assign quizzes to students on a class-by-class or individual basis. Third, quiz results are automatically sent to your teacher dashboard when students have completed a quiz.

Try my sample QuizBean quiz to get a better sense of how students will see a quiz that you distribute to them. .

Applications for Education
One of the things that I like about QuizBean is that students get immediate feedback on each question that they answer. Before moving to the next question students are told if they got the previous question right or wrong. The new option of having your students' results sent directly to your dashboard will save you a lot of time grading quizzes. The option to include pictures makes QuizBean a good platform for asking questions that include diagrams and equations.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Wikispaces Adds GeoGebraTube to Their Widget Library

Math teachers who use Wikispaces may be happy to learn that Wikispaces has just added GeoGebraTube to their education widget library. GeoGebraTube is a large gallery of models and animations created by GeoGebra users. The gallery currently has more than 48,000 submissions.

To add a GeoGebraTube element to your wiki just open the editor on any of your wiki's pages, select "widget," then choose "education" to find the GeoGebraTube widget. You can browse through the GeoGebraTube gallery while still in Wikispaces. You can preview the widget before it goes live on your wiki.

Calendly - Conveniently Schedule Meetings Through Google Calendar

Last week I shared directions for creating and scheduling appointment slots in Google Calendar. Today, I discovered a tool that makes it easier to create appointment slots in Google Calendar. Calendly integrates with your Google Calendar and makes it easy to create appointment slots with just a click or two. More importantly, people who want to schedule an appointment with you just have to click a time on your calendar and enter their names in order to reserve an appointment. Visitors do not have to have a Google Account to view or enter information into an appointment slot. Visitors who make appointments with you through Calendly can sync the appointment to their own Google Calendars, iCal, or Outlook calendars.

Applications for Education
Calendly could be a great tool to use to schedule parent conferences. I like that appointments will sync with non-Google calendars as that makes it accessible to parents who are dedicated iCal or Outlook users.

5 Fantastic Apps for Digital Storytelling on iPads

This is a guest post from Samantha Morra of EdTechTeacher.org

Computers, and the digital tools on those computers, brought video editing to the classroom years ago. As those tools became easier to use, more and more students were given opportunities to share and demonstrate knowledge using video. iPad continues to transform the process by integrating the key elements of digital storytelling - capturing photos, videos, and audio - all in one mobile device. Through apps, iPad provides a variety of options for how to compose or combine those key elements to create an effective demonstration of learning.

Digital storytelling is a powerful tool in the classroom. It is engaging for students and teachers of all grade levels and can be used across the curriculum. Most of all, digital storytelling gives students a voice and a way of communicating information in an authentic manner. One of the great things about digital stories is that there are no “cookie cutter” answers. Each student creates a unique piece that demonstrates their understanding. Digital storytelling on iPad can empower, motivate and engage students, helping them to make deep connections to learning.

So, grab your iPad and check out some of the best free apps for digital storytelling:

With Tellagami, students can create quick animations that liberate them from the physical world and remove concerns about appearance and general physics. Tellagami allows them to create an avatar and custom background, as well as to have the avatar speak with the student’s voice or via text-to-speech. Students can place their avatars in all sorts of interesting places like a plant cell or next to George Washington. They can have their avatar sit on a library book shelf or stand on the ocean floor. You can read more about Tellagami in a previous post on FreeTech4Teachers.

Videolicious allows students to shoot, do short quick edits in a matter of minutes, and easily share their videos. The app is being used by reporters from newspapers, like the Washington Post, to have their reporters capture and report news quickly. Students can use this app like the experts, quickly and easily creating videos.

ScreenChomp is an awesome way to use screencasting for storytelling with our youngest learners. Just put up a picture and have your student talk about it, draw on top of it, and record. This app allows for authentic communication of learning as students are able to show process and understanding.

Animoto has been around a long time on the computer. The app is even more powerful because of how quickly and easily images and sound can be strung together, helping. Additionally, this app helps students understand the power of images, requiring them to think critically about the images they choose and what information, tone and emotions are conveyed by those images. Captioning and choice of music add to the impact of each student’s work.

If you hand an iPad to a student with Puppet Pals on it, just be prepared for a little fun. This highly engaging app allows you to move “puppets” and record your voice to create a story. It's fantastic for all sorts of things such as public service announcement, telling a story from different characters’ points of view, and sharing information. There is a paid version which gives you more characters and more options, but even the free version allows for a great deal of flexibility and an authentic expression of writing.

Digital stories help students to become creators of content for the Internet, not just consumers. They give students a voice and allow them to express themselves at a higher lever. iPad takes digital storytelling to a new level by making the process easier and mobile. When paired with great apps, digital storytelling is the perfect tool to unleash student creativity.

Samantha will be presenting Digital Storytelling with iPads at the upcoming November 13-15 iPad Summit in Boston.

CK-12 Adds Group Q&A Options

CK-12 recently added a new Q&A feature that you can use in your class groups. The new feature allows you to post questions and answer questions about the content of your shared CK-12 materials. This feature can be used by students to ask questions of you and their classmates. Classmates as well as the teacher can reply to questions and comments posted in the group. Group Q&A essentially creates a message board within your group. Watch the video below to learn how to use the new CK-12 Groups Q&A feature.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Pit and the Pendulum Rap

With Halloween just a few days away a lot of students may be getting acquainted with Edgar Allan Poe's classic The Pit and the Pendulum. The Simpson's brought the story to animated life in the 90's and that is still a good go-to resource if you have access to a licensed copy of it. Another way that you might introduce the story to students is through Flocabulary's rap of the story. That rap video is embedded below.

EDPuzzle - Add Your Voice and Text Questions to Educational Videos

EdPuzzle is a neat tool that I recently learned about from David Kapuler. EdPuzzle allows you to add your voice and questions to educational videos. On EdPuzzle you can search for educational videos from Khan Academy and Learn Zillion. Once you've found a video you can insert your own voice comments. You can also create a series of questions to go along with your chosen video. Questions are inserted along a timeline that matches the video. That means that your students don't have to wait until the end of a video in order to answer the questions. In that regard the EdPuzzle is similar to Blubbr.tv.

Applications for Education
EdPuzzle could be a good tool to use to create short review videos or flipped lessons for your students. You could also have students use EdPuzzle to annotate videos by pointing out important aspects of videos by using the voice comments option and or the question building option.

Do You Have a Google Jockey in Your Classroom?

Two weeks ago I gave the opening keynote at WLMA 2013 in Yakima, WA. During my keynote I mentioned the term "Google Jockey." It got a laugh when I described the "Google Jockey" as the student who seems to Google everything anyone says. You can leverage that student's habit into a force for good in your classroom.

I first discovered the term Google Jockey when I read Curtis Bonk's The World Is Open: How Web Technology Is Revolutionizing Education. In The World Is Open I came across the idea for having a "Google Jockey" in my classroom. The idea is that you have one or two students in the room who are responsible for looking up terms or phrases that come up during the course of classroom discussion. Combining the use of a back channel along with a Google Jockey could become a good avenue for drilling deeper into the content of the day's lesson.

Form+ Adds More Flexibility to Your Google Forms

Google Forms has received some nice enhancements over the last few months. Still there are times when I've wished that Google Forms could do more. That's where Form+ comes into the picture. Form+ is a third party service that adds features to Google Forms. Probably the best aspect of Form+ is that through it you can create forms that can accept file uploads. Form+ offers pre-made form templates for you to use. You can also create your own form templates through Form+'s drag-and-drop interface.

Randy Rodgers shared a Form+ tutorial on Google+ earlier this month. I encourage you to watch his tutorial to see Form+ in action.


Applications for Education
If you have been looking to expand your use of Google Forms, Form+ might be the tool for you. Using the option to collect files through upload could be a good way to organize students' assignments. Simply create a form for each assignment and post it on your classroom blog to have all of the uploaded files go into a folder. Form+ has an upload form template ready for you to use and re-use as often as you like.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Packrati.us Lets You Tweet and Bookmark Simultaneously

One of the great things about Twitter is the wealth of links that teachers share with each other. Packrati.us is a service that makes it easy for you to bookmark your favorite links that you share and that others share with you on Twitter.

Packrati.us will bookmark any link that you share, any link in a Tweet that you favorite, or any link that is shared with you in an "@" reply. Packrati.us works with Delicious, Diigo, Instapaper, Pocket, Historius, and Pinboard (not to be confused with Pinterest). Once you've authorized Packrati.us to work with one of your bookmarking services, you're ready to start bookmarking while you Tweet. If you are a Four Square user, you can tell Packrati.us to ignore those links from your check-ins.

Applications for Education
If you have students using Twitter to share resources, Packrati.us could be a great tool to help you and them keep track of what everyone is sharing.

Bulb - Create and Share Collections of Educational Media

Bulb is a new service through which you can create, share, and browse through collections of educational materials. On Bulb you can create your own collections of text, images, and videos. You could create collections of materials about an academic topic or about a skill that you want to help others learn.

You can browse Bulb and view the collections without registering on the site. To create your own collections you will have to create an account. Once your account is created you can develop collections of materials. Each of your collections can have multiple chapters. For example, this collection of materials about digital literacy has seven chapters. As you create your collections on Bulb you can write text, upload or link to pictures, and upload or link to YouTube videos. All collections can be shared via email and through popular social networks like Twitter and Google+.

Applications for Education
The basic idea of creating collections of educational materials could be accomplished on any number of wiki and website services. The appeal of Bulb is that you and your students wouldn't have to worry about managing layouts, controlling editor permissions, or any technical work. The other nice aspect of Bulb is that you and your students can browse through the collections created by others.

Huzzaz - Embed Galleries of Educational Videos Into Your Blog

Huzzaz is a new site (still in private beta although you can request an invitation) for organizing and sharing collections of educational videos. I tried the site for the first time back in August. At that time I thought that it had some excellent features for creating and sharing collections of educational videos.

Today, I learned through this post on the Huzzaz Blog that the service a new sharing option. The new option allows you to embed your collections of educational videos into your blog or website. The difference between creating the collection on Huzzaz versus on YouTube is that Huzzaz collections can include YouTube and Vimeo videos whereas YouTube playlists only have YouTube videos.

The basic purpose of Huzzaz is to help you create and organize collections of videos. In your account you can make as many thematic collections as you like. To add a video from YouTube or Vimeo to your collections you can search within Huzzaz, use the Huzzaz browser bookmarklet, or copy and paste video URLs into your collections. Once you have some videos in a collection you can organize them by simply dragging and dropping them into a sequence. Your collections can be shared with others. Likewise, you can share individual videos.

When you share an individual video from a Huzzaz collection you can host real-time discussions about it. To do this simply click the "comments" icon while the video is playing to open a live chat box.

Applications for Education
Teachers that are using the flipped classroom model could find Huzzaz to be an excellent tool for organizing the videos that they plan to share with students.
Students may find Huzzaz's real-time chat feature to be useful for holding online review sessions that are based around the videos their teachers have shared with them.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Week in Review - The Part Where I Become a Professional Athlete

Good morning from the Toronto International Airport. I'm currently on my way home from another great visit to the Grande Prairie, Alberta School Division. I've been to Alberta at least a half dozen times in the last year, but this trip was special because a Canadian customs agent flagged me for extra screening. While that was not what I wanted to go through at 1am after flying with a head cold, I did come out of the experience learning that I could be admitted under the same "performer" exemption used for musicians, professional athletes, and "internationally recognized experts." This is the closest that I'll ever come to being confused for a professional athlete.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. 7 Free iPad Apps for Science Lessons
2. 5 Free Apps and Sites for Creating Animations
3. PBS Math Club - Short Interactive Math Videos
4. How to Create a Linked Series of YouTube Videos
5. How to Create Audio Slideshows in YouTube
6. 5 Online Tools That Help You Align Lessons to Common Core Standards
7. A Search Engine for SMART Notebook Files

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.
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IXL offers a huge assortment of mathematics lesson activities.
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.
Metta is a great tool for creating multimedia presentations and quizzes.

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Friday, October 25, 2013

Figure This - Math Challenges for Families

Figure This is a website produced by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. The site presents viewers with a series of math problems designed to spark discussion and collaboration between parents and their children. The problems are based around objects and situations with which most students will be familiar. For example, there are questions about how movies make money, how far a paper airplane can fly, and when to buy block ice instead of crushed ice.

Applications for Education
Figure This could be a good resource for mathematics problems that you can send home with your elementary school students to discuss with their parents. Some of the challenges include a physical element that could be used in a fun classroom lesson.

Create and Reserve Appointment Slots in Google Calendar

One of the advantages of using Google Apps for Education rather than a generic, commercial Google account is that GAFE users have access to some settings and features that others cannot access. One example of this is found in Google Calendar. In Google Calendar, Google Apps for Education users can create appointment slots. The appointment slots can be used to show people when you are available and allow them to sign-up to meet with you. The Google Guru video below provides an overview of the process.


Applications for Education
This is the time of year when a lot of schools start to schedule parent-teacher conferences. If you're using Google Calendar inside GAFE, the appointment slots option could be a great way to have parents register for meetings. Another use case is showing parents when there is a need for a "room parent" volunteer.

Add Voice Comments to Google Documents With Kaizena

Back in May I shared a handy tool for adding voice comments to Google Documents. That tool was called 121 Writing. Over the summer 121 Writing was renamed as Kaizena. Whatever you call it, it's a good tool for giving audio feedback to your students.

To use Kaizena you do have to authorize it to access your Google Account. With the authorization step completed you can open any document, highlight a selection of text, and record your comments for students to listen to. John Hardison offers a good overview of the process in the video below.


Applications for Education
I showed Kaizena to a group of teachers today. The conclusion that a few of us came to is that Kaizena may not save you time in giving feedback to students. However, for students who need audio support Kaizena could be an excellent way to provide that support to students while giving them feedback on their written work.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Notegraphy - Write, Style, and Share Text

Notegraphy is a new service that was described on Lifehacker as "the Instagram of words." Notegraphy is a free service for stylizing small pieces of text and sharing them with your friends (or keeping the private if you wish). The service can be used in your web browser or as an iOS app. The video below offers a short overview of the service.


Applications for Education
At first I didn't think much of Notegraphy. Then I tried it out and realized that it could be a neat tool for students to use to highlight their favorite parts of poem or a short story they've read for your class.

Create Virtual Chemical Reactions on Your iPad or Android Tablet

goREACT is a free iPad and Android app from the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago. This free iPad app allows students to virtually create chemical reactions. To create the reactions students simply drag elements from the periodic table to the “reaction area.” The app features suggested reactions to help students get started. In all there are nearly 300 chemical reactions supported on the app. The app includes pictures and videos related to the reactions that students can virtually create on goREACT.

Applications for Education
goREACT could be a great app to use in a science classroom in which you cannot access (for good reasons in some cases) some of the materials needed to make chemical reactions. And because the app is available for Android and iPad, it is a good option for BYOD environments.

Android version here.
iPad version here.

Shutterbugs Wiggle & Stomp - A Smithsonian Game for Kids

Shutterbugs Wiggle and Stomp is a new educational game produced by the Smithsonian. The purpose of the game is to help children recognize the movements of animals. In the game children move through a virtual zoo with a zoo keeper. As they go through the virtual zoo the zoo keeper will ask students to take pictures of animals who are demonstrating running, jumping, stomping, and other movements.

Shutterbugs Wiggle and Stomp can be played online. The game is also available as a free iPad app.

Applications for Education
Shutterbugs Wiggle and Stomp could be a fun little game for pre-K and Kindergarten students. The game reads the commands displayed on the screen to help students learn to read the words they're seeing. At the conclusion of the game students can print out coloring pages of animals they took pictures of during the game.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A Search Engine for SMART Notebook Files

Google Custom Search allows anyone to create his or her own search engine. The benefit of this is that you can create a very subject specific search environment. One such use that I found through The Whiteboard Blog is a SMART Notebook search engine. As you would expect from the name, the SMART Notebook search engine is designed to help you find resources designed for teaching with SMARTBoards.

You can access the search engine here or try it out as embedded below.

Applications for Education
Even though interactive whiteboards seems to be losing the popularity they enjoyed a few years ago, there are still in classrooms all over the world. To get the most out of that investment it's important to help teachers locate resources that can help them make the best use of interactive whiteboards. The SMART Notebook search engine could help teachers find resources to include in their IWB lessons.

A Fun Twist On Name Tags - Ice Breaker Tags

Ice Breaker Tags is a neat service for designing simple yet unique name tags. To use the service just enter your desired display name, upload an image to display on your name tag, and type your ice-breaker question or statement. If you need help developing a creative ice-breaker question or statement, Ice Breaker Tags offers some suggestions to get you going. You can print your name tag directly from Ice Breaker Tags.

Applications for Education
In my school district in the spring before they come to high school the 8th grade students go for a visit to meet high school teachers and students. Ice Breaker Tags could be a nice way for students to create unique, personalized name tags for events like that.

Space Math - Math Lessons from NASA

Space Math is a NASA website containing space-themed math lessons for students in elementary school through high school. You can search for lessons according to grade level or mathematics topic. The bulk of the materials seem to be PDFs of directions for carrying out the lesson plans. The exception to that pattern being the middle school (grades 6-8) resources which include the use of some of NASA eClips videos.

Applications for Education
Each of the Space Math lessons align to different NASA missions. The NASA missions provide the context for the math lessons. That alignment makes Space Math lessons a good option for an integrated science and mathematics lesson.

How to Automatically Close Google Forms at Specified Times

Google Forms can be very useful for collecting all kinds of information from students and others. Two of the more common uses of Google Forms in schools are creating quizzes and conducting surveys (click here for a guide to creating quizzes in Google Forms). In both of those cases you may have a need to limit the number of responses, limit the length of responses, or set a cut-off time at which the form will stop accepting responses. While you can simply click "stop accepting responses" in your Google Form, you do have to remember to do it. FormLimiter solves that problem and two others.

FormLimiter is a script that you can install in the Google Spreadsheet in which you are collecting responses from a Google Form. The script allows you to limit the number of responses to a form, limit the number of characters in a response, and set a time at which the form will automatically stop accepting responses. The images below will walk you through the process of installing FormLimiter. (Click the images to view them in full size).

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