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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Google Slides Goes Widescreen - New Theme Options Too

If you opened Google Slides today, you may have noticed a couple of new options available to you. Earlier today Google announced the addition of widescreen settings and new theme customization options for Google Slides. Widescreen is the new default setting for Google Slides. You can change this setting by opening the the drop-down menu in the theme chooser (see the image below for directions). 
Click to view full size. 

The other new addition to Google Slides is the option to edit the master slides for your presentations. Open the "slide" drop-down menu to edit your master slides and apply format changes to all of your slides in a presentation. See the GIF in Google's blog post for directions. 

Map Your Recipe Shows Students Where Their Food Really Comes From

Map Your Recipe is a neat use of Google Maps that I recently learned about through Larry Ferlazzo's excellent blog. Map Your Recipe allows you to enter a recipe and find out where the vegetables in that recipe were first domesticated. According to the creator of the site the purpose of doing this is to show how few truly local ingredients go into many of our favorite meals. You can try Map Your Recipe with one of the sample recipes or you can enter a recipe of your own.

Applications for Education
As Thanksgiving approaches in Canada this month and in the U.S. next month, Map Your Recipe could be a fun tool to have students use to see where their favorite Thanksgiving foods originally came from. To extend the activity you could have students use The History of Harvest to see the process that takes place to get food their dining room tables.

Backstit.ch Updates and Becomes a Better iGoogle Alternative

Backstit.ch is one of the seven iGoogle alternatives that were recently featured here on Free Technology for Teachers. In the time since that post was published Backstit.ch has had a few enhancements that make it quite a bit better than it was before.


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. In the past you had to add feeds to Backstit.ch either through their suggested feeds or by looking up the RSS feed of a source and adding it to your startpage. That is no longer the case because Backstit.ch now offers a browser bookmarklet that allows you to quickly add content to your startpage. Backstit.ch no longer limits you to just one startpage. You can create multiple pages according to your interests.

Applications for Education
My first thought when I learned that Backstit.ch now allows you to create multiple pages is that it could be a great tool for social studies students to use to track developing news stories. By creating multiple pages in their accounts students will be able to quickly see the latest news about a story from a variety of news outlets. And because they will have a variety of news sources on one page they'll be able to see how different news outlets report the same story. That could lead to some good classroom discussions about bias in the media.

Simple Surface - A Simple, Collaborative Online Whiteboard

Simple Surface is an online whiteboard tool that I initially reviewed a couple of years ago when it was known as My Simple Surface. The "my" was dropped from the name because the tool is now a collaborative tool. With Simple Surface you can collaboratively create outlines and mind maps.

To get started with Simple Surface just click on "use for free now," double click on the surface, and then start typing. To create an additional thought box just double click anywhere on your board. To make sibling and child thought boxes use the enter and tab keys. You can edit the color and size of fonts. Your boxes can be linked to URLs too. Right-click on your surface to open the full menu of editing options.


Applications for Education
Simple Surface could be a great tool for students to use to create webs and mind maps to plan creative stories, draft outlines for research reports, or diagram a set of concepts they're trying to connect.  You could also have students use Simple Surface as a storyboard tool to plan video projects.

Hello Sign Puts an End To "Print, Sign, Scan"

Hello Sign is a tool that I've featured in the past, but I've used it so much lately that I feel like I need to share it with everyone again. For a variety of reasons over the last couple of weeks I have received a ton of email attachments that I've needed to sign and return to their senders. Every time that I've received one of an attachment needing my signature I haven't printed or scanned one piece of paper. Instead, I've used the Hello Sign Chrome app.

On your computer you can use Hello Sign to record your signature by using your mouse or by importing a picture of your signature. Then whenever you need to sign a document just upload it to Hello Sign and apply your stored signature. You can email your newly signed document directly from Hello Sign.

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