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Monday, June 30, 2014

The Month In Review - June's Most Popular Posts on Free Technology for Teachers

Good evening from the Free Technology for Teachers World Headquarters in Woodstock, ME. The month zipped past as I was busy presenting at schools and conferences all over the U.S. It was great to meet so many of you in person this month.

Now that I'm home for a few weeks I am looking forward to enjoying some summer activities like grilling dinner on my deck. I hope that now that school year is over, you're doing some fun things too.

Here are the most popular posts of the month:
1. How to Send Emails from a Google Spreadsheet
2. How to Flip Your Classroom With eduClipper and PixiClip
3. Find Primary Sources from All Over the World on the World Digital Library
4. 30,000+ Images of Art and Artifacts to Download and Re-use for Free
5. Use This Extension To See Your To-do List Every Time You Open a New Tab
6. Essay Map - Provides Step-by-Step Help for Constructing Essays
7. I Tweeted a Google Document and a Neat Thing Happened
8. Zaption - Video Based Quizzes and More
9. Why Book Trailers Are Great Alternatives to Traditional Book Reports
10. Students Can Create Nice Explanatory Videos on Shadow Puppet Edu

Three seats are left at the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp. Seats are still available for my online course Getting Ready for GAFE (start dates in July and August). 

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
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.
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 offers professional development workshops in Boston and Chicago.
StoryBoard That is a great tool for creating comics and more.

How to Subscribe to Free Technology for Teachers
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A Crash Course on the History of the 4th of July

The 4th of July is this Friday. In the United States the 4th of July marks Independence Day. In the video below John Green offers a short overview of the history of Independence Day and the ways in which Americans have celebrated the holiday since 1776.


As always, Green includes plenty of sarcastic comments throughout the video so if your students have trouble recognizing sarcasm then this won't be an appropriate video for them.

Mocomi Offers Hundreds of Short Video Lessons for Kids

Mocomi is a nice website featuring educational and entertaining content for elementary and middle school students. The main feature of Mocomi is their collection of more than 300 educational videos. The animated videos provide short lessons on everything from the history of Greek language to explanations of how car engines work.

Applications for Education
Mocomi videos don't offer enough content to be the basis of a flipped lesson, but they could be good to use as introductions to a topic. The videos also provide good model of animated informational videos. Middle school and high school students could follow the model to create their own short videos to demonstrate their understanding of a topic.

Videos - How Fireworks Work

This coming Friday the United States will celebrate Independence Day. Cities and towns all over the country will feature fireworks displays to celebrate the day. I'm sure that many of you will be enjoying a fireworks display (I will be at home keeping my dogs calm because they hate fireworks). If you or your children are wondering how the fireworks actually work, take a look at the following videos from National Geographic and Discovery News.

Create Interactive Videos On ThingLink Video

ThingLink is a popular tool for collaboratively creating interactive images. Now, you can use ThingLink to create interactive videos too. ThingLink Video (still in beta, but you can register for early access here) allows you to select any public video on YouTube and add interactive pinmarks to it. Each pinmark can contain embeds of other videos, maps, text, and links to other pages of information. Learn more about the ThingLink video in the video below.

I received early access to ThingLink Video and tried it today. The first thing that I tried was taking the video of John F. Kennedy's inaugural address and adding pinmarks to it. I added a pinmark over Lyndon Johnson so that students could click to learn more about the Vice President. Then I took my newly annotated video and added it to a picture of JFK giving his inaugural address.

Applications for Education
ThingLink Video could be a great tool for students to use to add additional information to Animoto videos or other audio slideshow videos that they publish on YouTube. Animoto and similar tools are nice for creating short presentations but they don't offer much in the way of opportunity for sharing additional information about each image in a video. Putting their audio slideshow videos into ThingLink Video is one way that students could enhance their video projects.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Create Word Clouds on Your iPad With ABCya's Word Clouds App

ABCya’s Word Clouds iPad app makes it easy to quickly create word clouds on your iPad. To create a word cloud with Word Clouds by ABCya just type or paste text into the text field. After entering your text Word Clouds by ABCya will generate a visual representation of the most common words in your passage of text. You can customize the generated word cloud by choosing different fonts, different color schemes, and by excluding words from the word cloud. Your word clouds can be saved directly to your iPad’s camera roll.

Applications for Education
Using word clouds can be a good way to help students analyze documents. By copying the text of a document into a word cloud generator your students can quickly see the words that appear most frequently in that document.

Word clouds can also be used to help students see which words that they have frequently used in their own works. Have your students create word clouds of their work during the revision process of writing a story or essay. The word cloud will quickly show students which words they have used a lot. Then ask them to think about synonyms for the words that they have used most often in their writings.

Disclosure: ABCya! gives me money for groceries and dog food every month. Actually, they give me money for advertising. 

Earth Science and Socioeconomic Data Maps

The Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center publishes data sets and maps designed to blend the studies of socioeconomics and Earth science. One of the results of that work is the creation of some interesting mapped visualizations of data sets. Some of the more interesting maps illustrate correlations between climate zone and population density. All of the maps can be downloaded and printed for free use in your classroom. The data sets behind the maps are also freely available for classroom use.

Applications for Education
Maps can be a social studies teacher's best friend. But they can also be useful for science teachers and math teachers who wish to have their students take information from data sets and transform it into something new. These maps could provide a model for a project in which your students collect local data and display it on a map.

Five Fun and Free iPad Apps That Help Students Learn to Write

Jumbled Sentences is a series of five free iPad apps designed to help students learn to construct sentences. The apps provide students with drag and drop activities in which they sort jumbled words into sentences. The sound can be turned off and on in each app. When the sound is turned on students can hear the words read them by the narrator. The narrator also reads the sentences that students construct. The app provides students with immediate feedback on each of the sentences that they build. When students correctly create sentences they earn virtual coins that they can then use to buy virtual stickers to mark their progress.

Click here for Jumbled Sentences 1
Click here for Jumbled Sentences 2
Click here for Jumbled Sentences 3
Click here for Jumbled Sentences 4
Click here for Jumbled Sentences 5

Saturday, June 28, 2014

If This Then That - Automate Routine Tasks

If This Then That is a helpful website for automating many routine online tasks. If This Then That helps you automate tasks like saving your Pinterest pins to your Evernote account, setting text alerts for calendar events, and sending email attachments directly to your Dropbox account. There are thousands of formulas, "recipes" is what IFTTT calls them, available in the gallery of recipes. The recipes are all contributed by the community of IFTTT members and you can contribute too. You can browse channels of recipes that are based on the use of popular services like Gmail, Dropbox, Evernote, Instagram, and Google Drive. Click here to see the hundreds of recipes that incorporate Google Drive functions.

Applications for Education
I don't know of any teachers who couldn't use a little more time in their days. If This Then That won't give you more time in the day, but the recipes could help you automate some tasks and free up time for other things in your day.

The Week in Review - The ISTE Edition

Adam Bellow programming
a robot at ISTE 2014.
Good afternoon from the ISTE conference in Atlanta, Georgia. I've had a great couple of days connecting with educators from all over the world. The best aspect of conferences like this is getting to learn from other educators. Yesterday, I shared a cool idea that I picked up from Jen Roberts at the conference. Next week I'll share some other ideas that I picked up here at ISTE 2014. If you would like to see what others at ISTE 2014 are sharing, check out #ISTE2014 on Twitter and or Google+.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. How to Send Emails from a Google Spreadsheet
2. Find Primary Sources from All Over the World on the World Digital Library
3. Why Book Trailers Are Great Alternatives to Traditional Book Reports
4. Students Can Create Nice Explanatory Videos on Shadow Puppet Edu
5. 19 Educational Games About U.S. Civics
6. Google Announces a New Version of Google Drive
7. A Few Widgets To Consider Adding To Your Classroom Blog

Three seats are left at the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp. Seats are still available for my online course Getting Ready for GAFE (start dates in July and August). 

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
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.
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 offers professional development workshops in Boston and Chicago.
StoryBoard That is a great tool for creating comics and more.

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

Create and Share Short Stories With Story Builder from Google

Here's another neat thing that I learned about from Jen Roberts. On Back in March on her blog, Literacy, Technology, and Policy she shared how she has students use Google's Story Builder tool to create short stories. Through Story Builder you can create a short story that appears to be written by multiple editors but is really written by just one person. I used it to create a short story about conversations in my house. On her blog Jen shared examples of her students' stories including a neat demonstration of using Story Builder to tell a story about using proper punctuation. I encourage you to read her post in which she includes some helpful planning tips for teachers.

Applications for Education
I used Story Builder to create a story that had three characters typing instead of talking. In this manner the Google Story Builder tool could be useful for illustrating short sections of dialogue in a larger story that your students are developing.

A Tour of CDW and an HP EliteBook

Last month CDW invited me to tour their facilities just outside of Chicago. Actually, they bribed me to attend by promising a free HP product. The product was an HP EliteBook. This is this is my summary of the experience. In other words, this is a sponsored post.

As someone who used to work in FedEx facilities I found touring the CDW warehouse an interesting experience just from an industrial engineering perspective. The aspect of the facilities that will matter to school districts is the department that handles imaging of computers for customers. Customers (schools, businesses, non-profits) can have CDW handle all of their computer imaging for them. CDW will keep a record of the image on file for customers so that they can call, order a new computer, and have it shipped out with an image installed and ready to run. Customers can even order separate images for different user groups. For example, a school district could order an image for teacher computers and an image for student computers. This service could free up IT staff in a district to do other tasks instead of imaging or re-imaging computers over the summer.

The HP EliteBook that I have been using for the last month is the Folio 1040 model with an i5 processor and 128GB solid state drive. The display is a 14" low-glare matte display. The track pad is a multi-touch track pad that you can use to pinch and zoom on objects on your screen.

With the exception of a couple of keynote presentations (I did not want to bother converting my Keynote files to PPT) and a few webinars, I have made the HP EliteBook my primary computer for the last month. The battery life has been outstanding on the EliteBook. I took it on four transcontinental flights and used it for the entire flight with plenty of battery life to spare. Yesterday, I used it all day at Hack Ed 2014 and then used it for two more hours in the evening before having to plug it in. Granted, I was mostly using it for web-based tasks and not doing heavy video editing which would suck up more battery life, but I still find the battery life impressive.

The back-lit keyboard makes the EliteBook easier for me to type on than my Lenovo Yoga of similar size and hardware specs. The matte display is not as crisp as what I find on the Yoga or on a retina display MacBook. That said, the matte display is easier on my eyes when typing for a long a period of time. Speaking of the Lenovo Yoga, the EliteBook is a more rugged machine as I found out when I dropped it off of an airline tray and again when it got squished by someone reclining her seat on a flight to Chicago last week. Why am I comparing it to the Yoga? Because that is the other Windows laptop that I have in the "ultrabook" category.

My bottom line on the HP EliteBook is that if you're in the market for a Windows-based ultrabook, you can't go wrong with the EliteBook. Will it stand-up to the physical torture a middle school student puts a computer through? Probably not. Would a college student, teacher, or perhaps a high school teacher like the EliteBook? Definitely.

DISCLOSURE: CDW paid for my travel and lodging during this event. I received a product for consideration from CDW. All opinions within this article are my own and not subject to review or edits by CDW or its partners.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Kids Create Talking Pictures With ChatterPix Kids

As I mentioned on Wednesday, this week I spoke at the Catholic Schools Foundation Summer Tech conference at Boston College. After my presentation I watched a panel discussion about technology in K-2 classrooms. One of the neat examples that I saw (and Tweeted about at the time) was students using ChatterPix to create short stories about animals. My favorite example was a student talking about how gorillas adapt to their environments.

ChatterPix Kids is a free iPad app that students can use to turn pictures into talking pictures. To create a talking picture just snap a picture with your iPad or import a picture from your iPad’s camera roll. After taking the picture just draw in a face and tap the record button to make your picture talk. Your recording can be up to thirty seconds in length. Before publishing your talking picture you can add fun stickers, text, and frames to your picture. Finished Chatter Pix projects are saved to your camera roll and from there you can export it to a number of services including YouTube.

ChatterPix Kids doesn’t require students to create an account in order to use the service. Using the app could be a great way to get students to bring simple stories to life.

81 Dash - A Nice Backchannel Tool for the Classroom

81 Dash is a nice backchannel platform that I learned about today during the "Smackdown" at Hack Ed 2014. 81 Dash provides a place for teachers to create chat rooms to use with students to host conversations and share files. Once you are registered you can begin creating rooms. In your chat room you can exchange messages and files. As the owner of a room you can delete messages written by your students.

Students join your 81 Dash room by going to the URL that is assigned to your room. When they arrive at your room for the first time they will be asked to register. There are two registration options. Registering as a "guest user" does not require students to enter email addresses.

Applications for Education
81 Dash resolves the complaint that teachers have about many backchannel tools. That complaint is not having a way to delete messages or delete a room if students write inappropriate things in the backchannel.

Backchannels in general provide a good way to hear from all of the students in a classroom. A backchannel allows shy students to ask questions and share comments. For your more outspoken students who want to comment on everything, a backchannel provides a good outlet for them too.

Use Google Voice or Speak Pipe to Hear Students Proofreading Their Papers

This morning at Hack Ed 2014 I heard Jen Roberts share a good proofreading activity for students. The idea that Jen shared was having students call into her Google Voice number to record themselves reading their papers aloud. The intent of this is to have students provide proof that they have read their papers aloud as part of the proofreading process. As Jen pointed out, you don't have to listen to the entire recording because you can view the transcript to make sure that your students have read through the entirety of their papers.

Google Voice provides you with a phone number for people to call. It masks your real phone number and you can choose to have all calls go straight to voicemail. The transcripts are not always accurate, but as Jen pointed out she was only using it for the proof of process. I have put my Google Voice number on my course syllabus in the past. Click here to read about why I did that.

SpeakPipe is an alternative to Google Voice to consider using for this same kind of activity. SpeakPipe is a service that allows visitors to your blog to leave you voice messages without picking up a phone. With SpeakPipe installed on your blog anyone can click on the "send voicemail" button and leave a message for you. When a visitor clicks the "leave voicemail" button she will be prompted to allow access to her computer. Then the visitor can start recording a message for you. Visitors can, but don't have to, enter their names and email addresses for you. You can listen to and download the messages left for you in your SpeakPipe inbox. SpeakPipe has easy-to-install plugins for Blogger, WordPress, and Tumblr. It took me about two minutes to install SpeakPipe on a Blogger blog. For use on other blogging platforms SpeakPipe has a script that you can install manually.

Admins Can Now Recover Lost Google Drive Files for Their Users

Google released a slew of updates to Google Drive and Google Apps this week. One of the updates that you won't notice unless you're a Google Apps domain administrator is the new option to recover files for your users. If your users delete items and remove them from their trash, you can search for the files and recover them if your users can give you an idea of when they think they deleted their files.

Applications for Education
Being able to recover files for students who accidentally remove files could make a student's or a teacher's day. Recovering a file will also be helpful in the event that you need to look for a file that a student deleted, but that you still need to review.

Students Can Create Nice Explanatory Videos on Shadow Puppet Edu

This is a partial cross-post from my other blog, iPad Apps for School.

Shadow Puppet Edu is a free iPad app that students can use to create audio slideshow videos. The app offers an integrated search tool that students can use to find pictures from the Library of Congress, to search for images from NASA, and to find Creative Commons licensed images from Flickr. Students can also import pictures and videos from the camera roll on their iPads.

After selecting a set of images students can arrange them into any sequence by simply dragging and dropping them into order. Then to create a story students press the record button and talk while flipping through the images. Shadow Puppet Edu allows students to add text and stickers to each image too. When they’re happy with their work students can share their Shadow Puppet Edu projects through a variety of methods including YouTube and email. Shadow Puppet Edu projects are automatically saved to the camera roll on a student’s iPad. Students do not have to register for an account or have an email address to use Shadow Puppet Edu.

Applications for Education
The integrated image search tool makes a Shadow Puppet Edu a winner in my book. I would have students use the Library of Congress image search to find images of historical figures, like George Washington, to create a short biographical video. You might have students use the NASA image search to find images to help them tell a story about space exploration. Of course, you could just have students take pictures of their own to tell a story about things that they observed on a field trip.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Why Book Trailers Are Great Alternatives to Traditional Book Reports

Yesterday, I gave the opening keynote for the Catholic Schools Foundation's Summer Tech Conference at Boston College. After my keynote I stayed in the same room and enjoyed a fantastic panel discussion on using technology in K-2 classrooms. One of the panelists talked about students creating book recommendations. What struck me most was not the apps (here are some for making book trailers) but this line from the panelist,

"You can tell kids how great a book is until you're blue in the face. But when their friends tell them, then they believe it." 

Applications for Education
After your students create their book trailers have them add their projects to a collaborative website. (With the youngest students you may have to do this step or turn teaching the process into a separate lesson). My choices for a site like this are Wikispaces or Google Sites. The ease with which you or your students can build pages and build navigation links is what makes Wikispaces and Google Sites my choice for a collaboratively created book review site. Wikispaces is probably a little easier to initially set-up, but if you're in a school that uses Google Apps for Education then your students will already have an account that they can use on Google Sites. The option to restrict students to editing specific pages in Google Sites is a nice option too. Click here for directions on how to do that.

In hindsight I should have asked for that panelist's name. If it was you, please send me an email so that I can give you credit. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Now You Can Create Google Slides Presentations on Android Tablets & iPads

Google released a number of updates to Google Drive today. The update that I'm most excited about is the new option to create slides on the Google Drive Android app. In the next couple of weeks you'll be able to create slides in the Google Drive iPad app too. Along with creating the slides you will be able to share them and collaborate on them as you can when using Google Presentations in your web browser.

Speaking of collaboration, Google Documents now has a feature called "suggested edits." Suggested edits work in a fashion similar to that of commenting on a Google Document. Suggested edits can be made by anyone who has commenting permissions on your document. A suggested edit will be placed in a document but won't become permanent until approved by you. See the Google's animated GIF below for a demonstration of this new function.


Google Announces a New Version of Google Drive

Today, Google announced the release of a new version of Google Drive. The new version, to be rolled-out over the next few weeks, features a new interface intended to offer simplicity of design and function. In the new interface you will be able to right click on any file to open it, share it, move it to a folder, or see the most recent activity on it. The video below provides a short overview of the new version of Google Drive.


Create Geo-located Comic Stories With Google Earth and Storyboard That

Disclosure: Storyboard That is an advertiser on Free Technology for Teachers.

Creating digital stories is one of my favorite uses of Google Earth and Google Maps in the classroom. In the past I've written about Google Lit Trips. I've also written about having students use Google Maps to tell a story about historical events. Last night I had a conversation with the developer of Storyboard That, Aaron Sherman. Aaron and I talked about the idea of using Storyboard That develop a comic story that is displayed in a Google Earth tour.

Storyboard That provides templates in which you can create your stories in a comic strip style. To help you create your story Storyboard That provides dozens of scenes, characters, and text bubbles to fill your storyboard's frames. Each element that you drag into your storyboard's frames can be re-sized, rotated, and re-positioned to your heart's content. Your completed storyboard can be saved as a comic strip, saved as a set of images (one image for each frame), or saved as a set of PPTX slides. Saving as images is the option to use if you want to use your comic strip's frames in Google Earth or Google Maps placemarks.

After saving your Storyboard That images then create your placemarks in Google Earth, Google Earth Tour Builder, or Google Maps Engine Lite. Add your Storyboard That images to your placemarks. If you use Google Earth for this activity you can record audio narration for your tour. Click here for directions on using Google Earth. Click here for directions on Google Earth Tour Builder. Click here for directions on Google Maps Engine Lite.

Applications for Education
Consider combining the ideas of Google Lit Trips with the idea of creating comics to write book summaries or book endorsements. After students have created their book summaries through Storyboard That they can then drop their comic images into Google Earth to create a comic Google Lit Trip.

TinyTap Adds Support for Creating Your Own iPad Games With Videos

TinyTap is one of my favorite iPad apps for pre-K and elementary school teachers. TinyTap allows you to create simple identification games based on the pictures that you take with your iPad. Today, TinyTap added support for using videos in the games that you create. In this post TinyTap offers a nice tutorial for using video. Watch the video below for an overview of the TinyTap concept.


Applications for Education
One of the ways for using TinyTap that I have shared in the past is to create games to help students learn about their classrooms and school building. You could use TinyTap to take pictures of hallways and rooms in your school then turn those pictures into identification games.

How to Use OpenEd to Create Practice Assessments Aligned to the Common Core

OpenEd is a free service that offers a huge catalog of educational videos and games that you can browse by topic, grade level, or Common Core standard. Last week OpenEd released a free tool for creating practice assessments aligned to Common Core standards. The following videos demonstrate how to create practice assessments on OpenEd.



Applications for Education
The best feature of the OpenEd assessment creation tool is the option to associate images and videos with specific questions. This option not only allows you to use media in your questions, but it also allows your students to see suggested review resources when they don't reach a standard on your assessment.

Monday, June 23, 2014

How to Send Emails from a Google Spreadsheet

Have you ever found yourself sending strikingly similar though slightly different emails to all of your students or all of their parents at the same time? If so, you may have entered the email address, copied and pasted a message into the message, modified it slightly, then pressed send before repeating the process for the next message. That can be time consuming. Instead, save yourself a ton of time by sending emails from a Google Spreadsheet. Doing this requires adding a script to a Google Spreadsheet containing email addresses. It might sound complicated, but it really isn't. Watch the short video below from the Google Developers team to learn the process.


Applications for Education
Using this Google Spreadsheet script could be a great way to send similar though slightly customized messages to students and their parents. I might use it to send feedback to students on things that don't necessarily fit into the school's LMS.

Use a Google Form to Keep Track of Student Blogs

One of the questions that I am often asked about using blogs in the classroom is, "how do you keep track of them all?" Even if you have all of your students contributing to the same blog it can be difficult to keep up with all of the posts. One strategy that I've used in the past is to have students enter their names and links to their most recent posts into a Google Form. All of their submissions will appear in a tidy spreadsheet. In that spreadsheet I can see a timestamp, name, and the link to go directly to a student's most recent post. I can also add a column in the spreadsheet for noting whether or not I have given them feedback.


I offer strategies like this one and many more in my Practical Ed Tech course, Blogs and Social Media for Teachers and School Leaders

Socrative Was Acquired by MasteryConnect - Here's What You Need to Know

Disclosure: MasteryConnect has been an advertiser on this blog for three years. 

Last week the popular student response service, Socrative, was acquired by MasteryConnect. This afternoon MasteryConnect sent out a message about the acquisition.

Prior to the announcement I asked MasteryConnect's CEO, Cory Reid, if the they planned to keep Socrative running. His answer was an unequivocal "yes." I also asked Cory if they planned to keep Socrative as a stand-alone service or roll it into the MasteryConnect platform. This was his response,

It will stand alone, for the foreseeable future with easy click access to MasteryConnect, and vice-versa. Eventually, it will merge into MasteryConnect as a product available on the platform.

The biggest question whenever a beloved web tool like Socrative is acquired by another company is "will it keep running?" The answer here is yes. The second biggest question is, "will it stay free?" The answer here is yes.

If you haven't tried Socrative in the past or you haven't tried the latest version, take a look at the video below to learn all about it.

19 Educational Games About U.S. Civics

iCivics is an excellent source of educational games that offer lessons in civics. Since its launch a few years ago, iCivics has steadily grown to the point that it now contains nineteen educational games for students. All of the games require students to take on a decision making role. To succeed in the games students have to apply their understanding of the rules and functions local, state, or Federal government. Some games require an understanding of the U.S. court system and or the Constitution.

A few of the iCivics games that I have tried and enjoyed are Law Craft, We The Jury, and Do I Have a Right?  Law Craft helps students understand how a bill becomes law by making them Representatives of a state of their choice. As Representatives students have to propose a bill that serves their constituents then see that bill all the way through to becoming a law.

In We The Jury students choose to be one of six jurors at a trial. Students then hear the facts of the case, hear closing arguments from the plaintiff and the defendant, and then go off to deliberate in the jury room. Students can deliberate for up to five days before handing down the verdict. During deliberations students examine evidence, listen to the opinions of other jurors, and try to reach a unanimous decision. Throughout the process students are reminded of the roles of jurors and to stick to only the evidence and arguments permitted by the judge.

Do I Have a Right? is a game in which students decide if a client has a right to sue under Constitutional Law. Students play the role of the head of a law firm specializing in Constitutional Law. To succeed in the game students have to review the claims of the potential clients and match them to a lawyer who specializes in the appropriate aspect of Constitutional Law. This game is also available as an iPad app called Pocket Law Firm.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Students Take Command of a Space Station on Moonbase Alpha

Moonbase Alpha is an online game developed by NASA to be played on the Steam online gaming platform. Moonbase Alpha is a game in which players assume the role of an astronaut working to repair equipment in order to restore oxygen delivery to a settlement on the moon. The game can be played by up to six players at a time who communicate using voice over communication.

See the trailer for Moonbase Alpha in the video below.


To play Moonbase Alpha you do need to install the Steam gaming platform on your computer.

Applications for Education
The right games in the right context can be great educational tools. One of the aspects that could make Moonbase Alpha a good learning tool is NASA's attention to presenting moon's surface in a truly accurate lunar moonscape. Moonbase Alpha could also be a good game to help students develop problem solving skills in a fun environment.

Find Primary Sources from All Over the World on the World Digital Library

Last week in Iowa I shared some good resources for teaching with technology and primary sources. One of my favorite resources that I shared is the World Digital Library.

The World Digital Library hosts more than 10,000 primary documents and images from collections around the world. Sponsored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the mission of the World Digital Library is to promote the study and understanding of cultures. The WDL can be searched by date, era, country, continent, topic, and type of resource. In my search of the WDL I noticed that roughly half of the resources are historical maps and images. The WDL aims to be accessible to as many people as possible by providing search tools and content descriptions in seven languages. The WDL can also be searched by clicking through the map on the homepage.

Applications for Education
The World Digital Library can be a great resource for anyone that teaches history and or cultural studies. The wealth of image based resources along with the document based resources makes the WDL appropriate for use with most age groups. 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Thinglink Edu - Your Students Can Use Thinglink Without Email Addresses, Here's How

Thinglink was a big hit in the workshop that I facilitated yesterday in Bettendorf, Iowa. Thinglink can be used to turn any static image into an interactive, multimedia image. Yesterday, we used PicMonkey and PicCollage to create collages about what a good learning environment looks like to us. After creating those collages we saved them as PNG files and uploaded them to Thinglink where we added videos, audio files, and links to articles to enhance our collages and make them interactive.

Thinglink can be used by students who are under the age of 13 and or do not have email addresses. To enable your students who are under 13 and or do not have email addresses you should register as a teacher on Thinglink Edu. As registered teacher on Thinglink Edu you can create and manage student accounts. In the screenshots in the slides below will walk you through the process of creating Thinglink accounts for your students.

The Week in Review - A Fun Week in Iowa

Good morning from Dallas / Fort Worth International Airport where I have a layover on my way home from a great week of presenting in Iowa. It is a privilege to get to speak to and work with so many teachers every year. I wouldn't have those opportunities without all of you who have supported me and my blog over the years by Tweeting, Pinning, and otherwise sharing my work with your friends and colleagues. Thank you.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Use This Extension To See Your To-do List Every Time You Open a New Tab
2. Zaption - Video Based Quizzes and More
3. I Tweeted a Google Document and a Neat Thing Happened
4. QR Codes & Augmented Reality - When and Where To Use Each
5. Free Course - Copyright for Educators & Librarians
6. Create Multimedia History Presentations With Digital Artifacts
7. Kaizena Adds Support for Giving Audio Feedback on Google Presentations

Three seats are left at the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp. Seats are still available for my online course Getting Ready for GAFE (start dates in July and August). 

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
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.
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 offers professional development workshops in Boston and Chicago.
StoryBoard That is a great tool for creating comics and more.

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Friday, June 20, 2014

Crowd Sourced Ideas for Using PicCollage, Canva, PicMonkey, and Thinglink in Education

Today, I facilitated a workshop for the Mississippi Bend Area Education Agency in Bettendorf, Iowa. To start the day we created some visual stories to represent what we thought good teaching and learning environments look like. We then took those visuals and dropped them into Thinglink to add video and audio media to the visuals. Finally, we shared our creations on this Padlet wall so that the whole group could see benefit from seeing each other's work and ideas about using visual story creation tools in their classrooms. The wall is embedded below. The tools we used include PicCollage, PicMonkey, Canva, and Thinglink. The outline from the workshop is available here.



Interactive Model Skeletons

eSkeletons is a great website produced by the Department of Anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin. eSkeletons features interactive models of mammal skeletons. Select a model from the menu on the home page then click on any bone in the model to view it in detail. After select a bone to view you can choose from a menu of viewing angles. In many cases eSkeletons offers a short video display of the bone you've selected from the menu.

Applications for Education
eSkeletons gives students the option to compare bones across models. Select two or more animals from the menu then select a bone and a small gallery of comparative images will be generated. eSkeletons offers a glossary of terms and a legend to help students understand what they are viewing. Even without the models, the glossary is a good resource for anatomy students.

Numbeo - Compare the Costs of Living in Cities Around the World

A few months ago I shared a couple of activities that are designed to help students gain a better understanding of the cost of living. Numbeo is a neat resource that could help students see the differences in the costs of living between cities.

Numbeo claims to be the world's largest database of user-contributed data about the costs of living in cities. Some of the sets of data that you can see find in Numbeo include property values, transportation costs, and healthcare costs.

Applications for Education
Numbeo's database is user-generated so you will want students to take the information with a grain of salt. That said, Numbeo could be good resource for students to use to compare the costs of living in two or more cities. After comparing the costs of living in two or more cities, ask your students to try to determine the things that account for the differences in costs of living between two cities.

How to Create Augmented Reality Layers of Information on Aurasma

Earlier this week I wrote a lengthy post that included ideas for using the augmented reality app Aurasma in the classroom. Today, I ran a workshop in which we created some of our own augmented reality layers through Aurasma. If you would like to learn the process, check out the short video embedded below.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Kaizena Adds Support for Giving Audio Feedback on Google Presentations

This is news that I have been waiting to announce for days! Kaizena now supports adding audio feedback on Google Presentations. Kaizena is a tool that integrates with your Google Drive account. With Kaizena authorized to access your Google Drive account you can highlight portions of your students' work and add voice or text comments to it. Until today you could only leave voice comments on Google Documents, now you can leave voice comments on Google Presentations too.

To use Kaizena to leave voice comments for your students your student should share their Documents or Presentations with you. Once they have shared their Documents or Presentations with you, open the shared file through Kaizena. With the shared file open you can highlight a portion of a slide then click the microphone icon to record your voice comment. Your students will see the comments after you have saved them. Greg Kulowiec outlined the process in this post. You can also watch the video below to see how the new feature works.

Some Ideas and Examples for Using Google+ Hangouts in School

This morning I virtually dropped into my friend Eric Cole's workshop on Google+. Eric was demonstrating Google+ Hangouts to teachers in his school and I was happy to say hello and share some ideas for using Google+ Hangouts in education.

The first example that I shared was Kern Kelley and his students in Newport, Maine producing the Tech Sherpas show. Every week during the school year Kern and his students host a Google+ Hangout on Air in which they share technology tips for teachers and students. One of their recent episodes was all about forwarding domains.

Jenn Scheffer and her students at Burlington High School in Massachusetts produce a Google+ Hangout on Air show that is similar in nature to that of Tech Sherpas. The BHS show is slightly different in that they will interview people on the show. I have been on twice to talk about blogging. Jenn outlined the process of producing the show in this guest post last month.

Connected Classrooms is a program sponsored by Google for the purpose of bringing experts into classrooms through Google+ Hangouts. Connected Classrooms uses Google+ Hangouts On Air to take students on virtual field trips to museums and zoos. In these Google+ Hangouts On Air students may have the opportunity to ask questions of the museum and zoo experts that are leading the virtual field trips. You can find a complete schedule of virtual field trips on the Connected Classrooms website.

Google+ Hangouts can be useful for hosting peer editing sessions and peer tutoring sessions. In a Google+ Hangout you can pull in a Google Document, Presentation, or Spreadsheet to have a conversation about the content within it.

Free Course - Copyright for Educators & Librarians

Copyright can be one heck of a confusing topic. There seems to be an endless number of nuances and exceptions to copyright rules. To help educators gain a better understanding of copyright as it relates to schools, instructors from Duke, Emory, and UNC Chapel Hill have created a Coursera course titled Copyright for Educators & Librarians.

Copyright for Educators & Librarians is a four week course beginning on July 21st. It is free to register and participate in this online professional development course. Attendees who desire a "verified certificate" can register for that option for a $49 fee.

The course will feature four units of study:

  • A framework for thinking about copyright.
  • Authorship and rights.
  • Specific exceptions for teachers and librarians.
  • Understanding and using fair use.
If you're looking for a primer on copyright issues, take a look at this collection of resources for learning about and teaching about copyright