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Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Most Popular Posts of the Month on Free Technology for Teachers

Shells on a beach in Maine.
It is the last day of July and I'm wondering where the summer has gone. I bet that some of you are wondering the same. And my friends in the southern hemisphere are probably ready for summer by now. As I do at the end of every month, I have put together a list of the most popular posts of the month.





Here are the most popular posts of the month:
1. Ten Popular Ed Tech Tools That Were Updated This Summer
2. 7 Free Edmodo Apps to Try This Summer
3. How to Use Google Slides to Organize Research
4. Three Things to do With QR Codes On Back-to-School Night
5. Ten Resources for Helping Students Learn to Code and Program
6. A Handful of Google Calendar Tutorials for Teachers
7. Storyboard That Releases New Teacher Guides
8. Maker Camp is Back for 2014 - Online Camp Starts Monday
9. Plickers - The Student Response System for Classrooms That Aren't 1:1
10. Six Uses for Evernote in the Classroom

Would you like to have me speak at your school or conference? Click here to learn about my keynote and workshop offerings. 

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, Chicago, and Atlanta.
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.

NPS Digital Image Archives - Find Public Domain Images and Videos of National Parks

In a post earlier today I shared the news that Fotopedia is shutting down. Fotopedia was a good place to find great images of U.S. National Parks. The National Parks Service's Digital Image Archive is an alternative place to find images of U.S. National Parks. You can search the archive by park and or subject. All of the images are free to download as they are in the public domain.

The National Parks Service also offers a b-roll video gallery. The videos in the galleries are in the public domain. The b-roll video gallery can be searched by park, monument, building, or person. All of the videos can be downloaded. Some files are quite large so keep that in mind if your school has bandwidth limits and you have all of your students searching for videos at the same time.

Applications for Education
The NPS Digital Image Archives could be a good resource for students to access when they need scenic imagery to use in slide presentations, in video projects, or in image-based stories created with tools like Pic-Collage, PicMonkey, and ThingLink.

Design and Development of Educational Technology - An edX Course

Design and Development of Educational Technology is a new edX course starting this fall. The six week course is part of the EdTechX series from the MIT Education Arcade. The course is designed for people who are interested in learning about the history and principles of designing educational technology. The course presents a framework for thinking about the development of educational technology, not the nuts and bolts of building an app or website. The culminating project for the course is to design a Kickstarter style pitch for a new educational technology.

Design and Development of Educational Technology begins on October 8th. You can register here. I am already registered and I hope to see many of you in the course too.

Fotopedia Is Shutting Down - A Few Alternatives

Since its launch in 2009 Fotopedia has been one of my favorite places to see beautiful picture stories about national parks and natural wonders. Unfortunately, Fotopedia has just announced that it will shut down on August 10. The web service and all of the beautiful Fotopedia iPad apps will stop working on August 10th. If you have any pictures stored on Fotopedia, download them before August 10th.

Storehouse is a nice possible replacement to the Fotopedia reporter app.

To find other imagery of national parks and natural wonders, visit Google Street View Special Collections and the World Wonders Project.

Ocenaudio - A Free Audio Editing Tool for Windows, Mac, and Linux

Ocenaudio is a free audio editing tool available to use on Windows, Mac, and Linux computers. The free software enables you to create audio recordings from scratch and or edit existing audio files.

Once the Ocenaudio software is installed on your computer (no registration is needed to download or install the software) you can start recording spoken tracks by pressing the red record button. After making your recording you can click and highlight any section of it to delete it or adjust its sound qualities. If you're looking to adjust the sound qualities and effects of an audio file, you will like the option to preview adjustments before applying them to a file. All files created and edited in Ocenaudio are saved to your computer.

Applications for Education
Ocenaudio runs on your computer and does not require any kind of registration to use. This makes it a good option for schools that don't have the bandwidth to support cloud-based editors. It is also a good option for students who cannot create online accounts to use cloud-based editing tools. The program offers the features that students need for most classroom media projects while remaining fairly intuitive to use.

H/T to Lifehacker

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Sketch Notes and Slides from Ed Tech Teacher Summit

Yesterday at the Ed Tech Teacher Summit in Chicago I gave an updated version of my popular presentation Discovery, Discussion, Demonstration. Douglas Kiang was kind enough to share his sketch notes of my presentation. A screenshot of Doug's notes is posted below along with a PDF of my slides.


Haiku Deck Now Offers Syncing of Edits

Haiku Deck, the popular slideshow creation tool, has recently added a long-request feature. You can now sync edits to your slideshows between your iPad and the web version of Haiku Deck. In the updated version of the iPad app all of your presentations will automatically save to your online Haiku Deck account. You can publish your slides publicly or privately. It is important to note that all new presentations will be public by default, so make sure you change the setting if you don't want your slides to be public. Learn more about privacy settings here. The slideshow below provides an overview of the latest Haiku Deck features.


Just Tap EDIT: A Guide to Syncing Existing Decks with the New Update - Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

Applications for Education
Haiku Deck has been a favorite app of mine and many others since it launched because of two key features. First, Haiku Deck has an integrated Creative Commons image search that helps students find appropriate images for their presentations. Second, Haiku Deck limits how much text a student can put on a slide. Without the option to create big blocks of text to rely upon, students have to know their material well before they present to the class.

Eject Guests from Google+ Hangouts

Last week Google removed the need for a plugin to participate in Google+ Hangouts. This week another feature was added that makes Google+ Hangouts a little more school-friendly. Now you can eject guests from Google+ Hangouts. Participants who are in the same domain as the creator of the hangout can eject guests. If a guest from outside of the domain is ejected from the Hangout he or she can only rejoin by invitation.

Blendspace Joins Wikispaces and TES - Premium Features Now Free!

Blendspace, formerly known as EdCanvas, is now a part of Wikispaces and TES. The Blendspace service will continue to run as a stand-alone service. The aspect of the merger that has the most immediate impact on teachers is that the premium features of Blendspace will now be free. The premium features allow you to collaborate with other teachers to creation of lessons.

Blendspace makes it easy for teachers to organize and share educational materials in a visually pleasing format. On Blendspace you arrange videos, links, images, and files around any topic of your choosing. Blendspace has built-in search tools so that you do not have to leave your Blendspace account in order to locate resources.

When you share a set of Blendspace materials with your students they can give you feedback to show that they understand the materials or they can ask questions about the materials. You can also see if your students actually looked at all of the materials that you have shared with them.

Learn more about Blendspace in the video below.


Applications for Education
Using Blendspace can be a good way to create and deliver flipped lessons. In fact, Blendspace offers a recorded webinar about that topic. The recording is embedded below.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Three Things to do With QR Codes On Back-to-School Night

At back-to-school night parents usually end up with collection of papers that they may or may not be saved for reference throughout the school year. Use QR codes to put the odds in your favor of the information in those papers being saved. I figure that if parents and or students scan and save information on their mobile devices, they are far more likely to retain it that way than if I gave them pieces of paper. So create QR codes and paste them on the door to your classroom or on a bulletin board in your room.

I use QR Droid's free QR code generator to create QR codes that lead to all kinds of valuable information. Here is some of the information that you can share through QR codes created with QR Droid's free QR code generator.

1. Links to websites and Google Documents (provided you have set sharing permissions to "anyone with the link").

2. Your contact information. Fill in the short form under "contact" on QR Droid's free QR code generator and the code created will give parents access to your preferred contact information.

3. Calendar events. QR Droid's free QR code generator has field for calendar events. Complete the form to create the QR code for an event. When parents scan the code the event can load in their preferred calendar apps.

Three Elements I Always Add to Classroom Blogs

As the new school year approaches many of us will be setting up new classroom blogs or revamping the ones we've used in the past. If you're setting up a classroom blog for the first time, here are the three elements that I always add to classroom blogs.

1. Google Calendar: I embed a Google Calendar into the right column of my blog. It doesn't matter where you place it as long as it is prominent. I'm a big fan of using Google Calendar as a place to write agendas for each class. I write the agendas into the events on the calendar so that students and their parents can see them. I also attach any documents or other files needed for that day's lesson to the calendar event. In this post you can learn how to create Google Calendar events, how to add attachments to them, and how to embed Google Calendars.

2. Static pages for frequently referenced materials: I like to have a static page rather than a post about classroom norms. The page is linked in either the header or the top of a side column where students and their parents can easily find it. As the year goes on, I may add pages for things like review guides and assessment rubrics.

3. An easy way to contact me: Over the years I've used SpeakPipe and Google Voice widgets to provide an easy for students and their parents to leave voicemail messages for me by simply clicking a widget on my blog. Both services provide text transcriptions of the voicemails left for me. I can read those transcripts in my email. Google Voice may soon be phased out by Google in favor of Google+ calling so at this point my recommendation is to use SpeakPipe. If SpeakPipe isn't your thing, at least put a direct link that students and their parents can click to email you.

I'll be covering these topics and much more in my next Practical Ed Tech webinar series Blogs and Social Media for Teachers and School Leaders.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Math Slicer - Fun Alternatives to Math Flashcards

Math Slicer is a game that offers a fun alternative to using flashcards to practice basic mathematics skills. Math Slicer is available as an Android app and as an iOS app.

In Math Slicer students are shown addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems that they have to answer by “slicing” the correct answer in half. The answer choices jump up on the screen and students have to slice them before they disappear.

Before the start of each round of Math Slicer students can select the type of problems that they want to practice. Students can also select the speed with which the problems and answer choices appear on their screens.

The free version of the app contains advertisements. The paid version ($0.99) removes the advertisements.

Ten Popular Ed Tech Tools That Were Updated This Summer

During the summer the IT department at your school may have been working to update the technology infrastructure in your school. At the same time, the developers of many of your favorite apps and services were working hard to update what you can do with technology in your classroom. Here are ten popular services that were updated over the summer.

Remind 101, the popular service for sending text messages to students and parents, changed its name to simply Remind. The service itself has not changed and the your Remind 101 account was not affected by the name change. Click here to learn more about Remind.

Padlet, one of my favorite tools for sharing notes, introduced a couple of slick new offerings. In addition to the free-for-all and stream layout options, Padlet now offers a grid layout option. You can switch between the layouts at any time. Padlet also introduced Padlet Mini. Padlet Mini is a Chrome extension that you can use as a collaborative bookmarking tool. Click here to see a video demonstration of Padlet Mini.

TodaysMeet, a long-time favorite tool of mine for backchanneling in the classroom, this month introduced two long-requested features. First, you can now create an account on TodaysMeet. By creating an account you can keep track of all of your chatrooms in one place, restrict access to your rooms, and close rooms early if the conversation gets too far off track. The second feature added to TodaysMeet is the ability to moderate comments in a chatroom. Click here for more information about these updates.

Storyboard That, a tool for creating cartoons, introduced new teacher guides. The teacher guides are complete lesson plans with examples of using cartoons created on Storyboard That to teach classic literature lessons. Storyboard That also added posable characters to its catalog of more than 40,000 pieces of clip art to use in your projects. (Disclosure: Storyboard That is an advertiser on Free Technology for Teachers).

Classtools.net, a site that offers dozens of free tools for teachers, introduced a slick new classroom timer. The Classtools timer allows you create multiple timers on one page and set each timer to music. Hit this link to see an example.

Thinglink, a service for creating interactive images, added the option to create interactive videos. ThingLink Video is still in beta, but it looks promising. To create an interactive video you simply paste the URL of a YouTube video into ThingLink Video then add pinmarks to it in the same way that you add pinmarks to ThingLink Images. You can see an example of how ThingLink Video works by visiting this page.

Socrative, a popular tool for polling audiences through mobile devices and laptops, was acquired by MasteryConnect over the summer. MasteryConnect plans to keep Socrative running as a stand-alone service. A new Socrative user guide was released this summer. The new user guide is based on Socrative 2.0 which all Socrative users have now been migrated to. Click here to learn more about MasteryConnect’s acquisition of Socrative. (Disclosure: MasteryConnect is an advertiser on Free Technology for Teachers).

ClassDojo introduced a long-awaited feature this summer. You can now share classes and students in ClassDojo. This means that more than one teacher can record behavior information about a student. This update also means that you can transfer a student between teachers without having to start a new record for that student. You can read more about this important update by clicking here.

Kaizena, a free Google Drive app, introduced the option to give voice comments on Google Slides in addition to giving voice comments on Google Documents. Learn how to use this valuable add-on in this post.

Kahoot, a classroom polling tool that is quickly becoming popular, has added the option to moderate user names in activities. In the past students could use funny aliases and if the aliases they choose were inappropriate you would have to restart the activity. Now you can simply kick that alias name out of the activity all together.

Bonus Item: This just in...
Watch2Gether, a service for sharing and chatting about videos in real time, added a couple of frequently requested features. Watch2Gether now supports using videos from Vimeo as well as YouTube, The other frequently requested feature added to Watch2Gether is the option to moderate comments in the discussions.

What about Google Apps for Education/ Google Drive/ Google Classroom?
So much has happened with Google’s offerings over the last few months that they deserve a post of their own. That post is coming up soon.

Join the Edublogs Class List to Find Other Classroom Blogs

As I mentioned in Saturday's post about QuadBlogging, getting enough visits and comments on your students' blog posts is one of the biggest challenges to keeping students engaged in blogging. QuadBlogging matches classroom blogs to help generate comments on blogs. The Edublogs class list is another good place to find other classroom blogs.

The Edublogs class list is organized by grade level and subject area. Complete the form on this page to submit your own blog for inclusion in the list. You do not have to Edublogs in order to be included in the list.

Get Organized for Back-to-School with Trello

This is a guest post from Beth Holland of EdTechTeacher.org, an advertiser on this blog.

With Back-to-School ads starting to crop up all over the place, and summer hitting its blissful stride, that can only mean one thing: it’s time to start prepping for Fall. For years, a myriad of ideas, plans, and to-do lists plagued me for the entire month of August. I tried a number of different tools to keep track: iCal, Google Tasks, a paper planner….

However, a few things made each of these items completely ineffective for me:
  1. I needed to seamlessly access my to-do lists from anywhere and at any time - this ruled out paper as I often left my notebook on the kitchen counter, at my desk at school, on someone else’s desk, etc.
  2. Some items needed due dates and some didn’t. The old iCal let me use a combination of tasks and events, but I had to remember to sync devices.
  3. Google Tasks worked great - as long as I had Internet.
  4. Having never worked in isolation, I also needed a way to keep track of everything and share all of my tasks and ideas with colleagues.
Last spring, I discovered my solution: Trello! Not only does it work on all devices, allow me to choose whether or not I need due dates, permit me to collaborate with others, and let me work offline when on a mobile phone or tablet, but Trello also gives me a simple visual for organizing all of my tasks: 3 columns - To Do, Doing, and Done - as well as the ability to attach files from either my device or the cloud (Drive or Dropbox).

Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 4.50.32 PM

Best part of all, with the iOS app, Android app, or Chrome Extension, Trello removes the need to email collaborators. Simply assign a colleague to a card in Trello and the system alerts members to new tasks.

While it’s still necessary to enjoy these last few weeks of summer, start adding cards to your Trello boards so that you won’t forget all of your ideas when it comes time to get back to school. Besides, you might even be able to use it to organize your students next fall.

Looking for last minute learning opportunities this summer? EdTechTeacher still has space available in their Austin and Los Angeles Summer Workshops in August.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

MultCloud Provides a Single Dashboard for All of Your Cloud Storage Accounts

If you're like me you probably have accounts on more than one cloud storage service. I have accounts on Box, Google Drive, Dropbox, and SugarSync that I use regularly. MultCloud is a service that allows me to tie them all together in one place. MultCloud does more than just provide a single log-in for all of the cloud services that I use. It also allows me to move files between services with a simple drag-and-drop.

By connecting your cloud storage services through MultCloud you create a single dashboard page on which you can view and access the files within all of your cloud storage accounts. To move a file between the services you just select a file from one service and drag it to the other.

Applications for Education
If your school hasn't adopted a standard cloud storage platform for all teachers and students, MultCloud could be a great tool for organizing files strewn across multiple cloud storage services.

H/T to Lifehacker

Blogs and Social Media for Teachers and School Leaders - A Practical Ed Tech Webinar Series

In a few weeks I am again offering my popular series of PracticalEdTech.com webinars about blogs and social media for teachers and school leaders. If you have been thinking about blogging or thinking about joining Twitter or another social network, then this course is for you. If you have tried blogging and social media in the past, but just didn't get into it, then this course is for you too.

Blogs and Social Media for Teachers and School Leaders is designed to help teachers and school leaders develop an understanding of the many ways they can use blogs and social media (Twitter, Google+, Instagram, and more) to enhance communication between school and home. After learning about how each of the tools works we'll dive into developing strategies for implementation.
Blogs and Social Media for Teachers and School Leaders is a three week webinar series during which teachers and school administrators will learn the how to choose the best blogging platform for their situations, how to set-up a blog for classroom and school-wide use, and learn about strategies on how to manage blogs in classroom and school-wide settings. Participants will also learn how to avoid the mistakes that often lead to blogging endeavors being abandoned.  After establishing blogs we'll jump into using social networks like Twitter, Google+, and Instagram to reach out to parents, students, and other members of school communities.

Blogging isn’t new and it isn’t as flashy as say iPads in the classroom, but it is a very valuable activity for students, teachers, and school leaders. In fact, I think that too often it is under-utilized by teachers and school leaders. One cause that under-utilization is due in part to not having a clear strategy for implementation. Another reason for under-utilization of blogs is a lack of understanding of just how many ways blogs can be used by students, teachers, and school leaders. I developed this course to address all of those issues and help teachers and school leaders develop an understanding of the many ways they can use blogs and social media to improve communication between school and home. 
Blogs and Social Media for Teachers and School Leaders will meet at 7pm Eastern Time on August 19, 26, and September 2. All sessions are recorded for participants to watch as many times as they like.

 Click here to register today!

Who is this webinar series for?
Teachers, school administrators, media specialists, and teacher-librarians who:
  • Have never created blogs... or…
  • Have have tried blogging but didn’t get the results they hoped for...or…
  • Have wondered what all the fuss is about Twitter and Google+...or...
  • Are planning to lead PD sessions about blogs and social media and want to learn how to structure their trainings as well as access hand-outs they can use in their own training sessions.
Cost:
  • This webinar series costs $97 per seat. (There is a $15 processing fee for registering with a purchase order. That fee is waived for those who register and pay online).
  • Click here to register today!
Participants receive:
  • Three hours of live instruction with Q&A opportunities.
  • Access to recordings of each session (recordings can be downloaded for unlimited personal use).
  • Digital hand-outs to download and re-use for personal use as well as re-use within their school districts.
  • A dedicated discussion forum to access throughout the three week course.
  • Certificate of completion.
Course Dates:
The live webinar sessions will be held at 7pm Eastern Time on August 19, 26, and September 2. 

Nice Things People Have Said About My Webinars and Presentations:
I am finding your GAFE webinar so helpful!! 
K. Sloan
Your keynotes were spot on and your professionalism was extremely appreciated.
Lindsay Bellino, Director of Online Communities, Pearson OLE
Your keynote was excellent and set a great tone for the whole conference.  
Gary Seastrand, Brigham Young University

About the costs and my decision to advertise these opportunities on my blog:
Sometimes when I advertise one of these webinars I get messages from people who are upset that I am advertising it here and or that I am charging for it. I understand why some people feel that way. I thought long and hard about how to offer these opportunities. In fact, I thought about it and talked about it with trusted advisors for a year before offering the first webinar series last year. The purpose of this blog and my goal for years has always been to help people use free technology in their classrooms. The tools and strategies featured in my webinars and at the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp are free to use. However, my time for teaching isn't free. Further, I pay licensing fees to GoToTraining and to Wistia for hosting all of the media content of the courses.

The Week In Numbers Could Be a Good Way to Get Students to Ask About the News

Go Figure: The Week In Numbers is a weekly feature on the BBC News Magazine Monitor. Similar in nature to the Week in Pictures, Go Figure: The Week In Numbers highlights interesting statistics from news stories. The statistics are presented with interesting pictures or drawings as backgrounds. Each statistic is linked to a corresponding news article.

Applications for Education
Getting students interested in reading news articles is one of the challenges that social studies teachers often face. I have found that visual prompts like those found in The Week In Numbers and The Week In Pictures can often be good for sparking students' curiosities about news articles.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good morning from the Free Technology for Teachers world headquarters in Woodstock, Maine. It's a perfect summer morning for going out for a bike ride. Wherever you are this morning, I hope you have fun things planned for the day too. Before I head out on my bike ride, I have this week's list of the most popular posts of the week.



Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Ten Resources for Helping Students Learn to Code and Program
2. The New Classtools Countdown Timer Offers Multiple Timers Set to Music
3. How to Use Google Slides to Organize Research
4. Finally! TodaysMeet Now Offers Chat Moderation for Teachers
5. 7 Free Edmodo Apps to Try This Summer
6. Climate Kids - Online and Hands-on Activities for Learning About Climate Change
7. FluencyTutor for Google - Students Listen and Practice Reading Aloud

Would you like to have me speak at your school or conference? Click here to learn about my keynote and workshop offerings. 

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, Chicago, and Atlanta.
StoryBoard That is a great tool for creating comics and more.

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

QuadBlogging Will Help You Find an Audience for Your Students' Blog Posts

The challenge teachers face when starting new classroom blogs is getting enough comments on students' posts to keep them excited about writing blog posts. QuadBlogging can help teachers tackle that challenge.

QuadBlogging is a free service that matches four classrooms together to follow and comment on blog posts. Register your class for QuadBlogging and you will be matched with three other similar classrooms. After being matched, it is up to you and other teachers in your quad to continue the blogging relationship for as long as you would like. Learn more about the QuadBlogging concept in the video below.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Try Using ThingLink to Create Visual Prompts for Blog Comments

ThingLink is one of my favorite tools for playing with media. ThingLink allows you to add links, text, videos, and audio recordings to images. If you embed a ThingLink image into a blog post and allow editing you can have anyone add comments to the image. The comments can include links, text, videos, and audio recordings.

One of the things that I often do to spark students' curiosities and questions about a topic is to present them in an interesting image. To allow students to comment directly on the image I will put it into ThingLink then embed the ThingLink image into a blog post. See the example below.



By using ThingLink in this way I can have students and more than just text comments in response to the visual prompt. To extend the activity I can have students look for YouTube videos and or websites that will help to explain answers to the questions generated by looking at the featured image.

Helpful guides to using ThingLink in your classroom.
Thinglink Edu - Your Students Can Use Thinglink Without Email Addresses, Here's How
How to Embed Interactive ThingLink Images Into a Blog Post
ThingLink Remix - Share One Image and Let Your Whole Class Make It Interactive

Why Is It Hot Underground? - A Short Video Lesson

Why Is It Hot Underground? is a short video lesson recently released by MinuteEarth. The video examines the accurate and inaccurate aspects of Lord Kelvin's theory of why the center of the Earth is hot.

FutureLearn Offers a Wide Range of Free Online Courses

FutureLearn, a subsidiary of The Open University, offers a wide range of free online courses. FutureLearn offers online courses on academic topics in history, science, literature, and political science. You will also find FutureLearn courses on topics like public speaking, developing a resume, and digital marketing. Courses range in length from two weeks to eight weeks. Some of the courses, like this public speaking course, require you to submit assignments to participate.

One of the FutureLearn courses that I am interested in taking is this six week course on Hadrian's Wall. The complete list of scheduled courses is available here.

Applications for Education
FutureLearn could be a good place to find a course to help you meet your professional development needs. For example, the Hadrian's Wall course will help me further my knowledge in that area which in turn should help me develop better lessons for my students.

FutureLearn could also be a good place to find courses for students who have an interest in a topic that your school doesn't offer courses in.

How to Create and Publish Audio Recordings With SoundCloud

In my previous post I shared directions for creating and publishing audio recordings with Vocaroo. Vocaroo is a web-only application. In response to that post a couple of people asked for suggestions on creating recordings with mobile devices. My suggestion is to use SoundCloud.

SoundCloud works on Android, iOS, and as a web app. Recordings created with the mobile apps are saved to your online SoundCloud account. From your SoundCloud account you can grab the embed code for any of your recordings. In the video below I demonstrate how to use SoundCloud to create recordings and publish them in your classroom blog.

How to Use Vocaroo to Make Voice Recordings to Post On Your Blog

Vocaroo is a free service that you can use to create short audio recordings. Creating a recording on Vocaroo is a simple process that does not require you to create an account or have any special browser plugins. Just go to the site and click record to get started. In the video below I demonstrate how to use it to create a recording and post in on your classroom blog.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

What is Fat? - A Health and Science Lesson

What is Fat? is a TED-Ed lesson that explores the differences between the types of fats that we find in food. The video lesson goes on to explain how hydrogenated fats are created, what the term "partially hydrogenated" means when it is on a nutrition label, and how different fats affect our health. Overall, it's a nice little lesson to use as a flipped lesson in a health class.

Climate Kids - Online and Hands-on Activities for Learning About Climate Change

Climate Kids is NASA's climate change website for kids. On Climate Kids you will find a nice selection of online games and hands-on activities for students. Some of the topics that the Climate Kids online games address include recycling, renewable energy, and climate history.

Some of the hands-on activities featured on Climate Kids include re-purposing old clothing to make re-usable shopping bags, creating your own paper, and garden projects.

Before students jump into the games or hands-on activities featured on Climate Kids students should work through the guided big questions wheel. The guided questions wheel walks students through the basic concepts and issues related to climate change. Six questions are featured in the wheel. Students select a question to discover the answers through the exploration of a series of smaller questions. Each question is addressed with a mix of image, text, and video explanations.

Applications for Education
Climate Kids includes a page for teachers. On that page you can find a directory of resources aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards. Besides the directory, the page for teachers offers galleries of media that you can use in your climate change lesson plans.

Add an Infographic Design Tool to Your Website With the Canva Button

Canva is a service that makes it easy to create beautiful slides, flyers, posters, infographics, and photo collages. The latest development from Canva is the introduction of Canva Button.

Canva Button will allow owners of websites to add a design tool to their websites. To implement the Canva Button you will have to add some lines of code to your website. In order to do that you will have to be using a self-hosted website or blog.


Applications for Education
Schools or teachers that are self-hosting their websites should be able to add Canva Buttons to their sites in the near future (Canva is slowly rolling out the tool). By adding the Canva Button to your website you will be able to give students access to Canva's great design tools without having to leave your site. Click here for a crowd-sourced list of ideas for using Canva in the classroom.

If adding the Canva Button to your website is not an option, you should still take a look at the Canva design tools.  Creating graphics on Canva is a drag-and-drop process. Start by selecting a template then dragging and dropping into place background designs, pictures, clip art, and text boxes. Canva offers a huge library of clip art and photographs to use in your designs. You can also upload your own images to use in your graphics. Your completed Canva projects can be downloaded as PDF and PNG files. You can also simply link to your online graphic.

Using Google+ Hangouts? You No Longer Need the Plugin In Chrome

Google+ Hangouts can provide teachers and students with some great ways to connect. Teachers can use G+ Hangouts to take students on virtual field trips, to connect with expert speakers, or to connect with other classrooms in a digital penpal environment. Students can use it to connect with each other to host online peer tutoring sessions.

Recently, Google removed the need for the Hangouts plugin in the Chrome web browser. This isn't a major update to Hangouts, but it is a helpful update. As long as you're using the latest version of the Chrome web browser you won't need to install anything to host or participate in a Google+ Hangout.


Watch2Gether Adds Support for Comment Moderation and Additional Video Sources

Watch2Gether is a neat site through which you can watch YouTube videos and host text chats about them at the same time. I've written about the service in the past. Some new features have recently been added that are worth noting.

The first update of note is that you can now use more than just YouTube videos in Watch2Gether. You can now use videos from Vimeo and Dailymotion. If audio is all that you are concerned about sharing, you will be happy to know that Watch2Gether now supports using media from Soundcloud.

The second update, probably the most significant update for teachers, is the option to moderate discussions and ban participants who are not participating appropriately.

It is to start using Watch2gether. To get started enter a nickname for yourself (it could be your real first name) then search for a video or enter the URL of a video that you have previously bookmarked. When you have found the video you want a chat column will be present on the right side of your browser. You can invite others to chat with you by sending them theURL assigned to your chatroom.

Applications for Education
Watch2gether is a nice tool to use to have students share observations, ask questions, and answer questions while watching video clips in your classroom or as part of a flipped lesson they're completing at home.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Wikia Maps - Create Online Maps on Almost Any Image

Wikia Maps is a new map creation tool from Wikia. Wikia Maps has two map creation options. You can use Wikia Maps to create maps in a manner similar to those that you may have previously created in Google Maps. Wikia calls those maps "real maps." The truly cool feature of Wikia Maps is the option to create maps on pictures that you upload. Wikia calls those maps "custom maps."

Custom maps are created in Wikia Maps by uploading a picture or selecting a picture from the Wikia Maps gallery. You could upload a picture of a historical map, a picture from a place that you visited (I'm thinking of my pictures taken from the top of the Empire State Building), or you could upload a picture of a drawing that you made. You can add map placemarks to the image that you upload to use as the basis of your custom Wikia Map.

Applications for Education
My first thought when I saw the custom option in Wikia Maps was that it could be a good tool for students to use to create maps about fictional places they have read about in their favorite books. To do this students would draw a map of what they think a fictional town or fantasy world looks like. After completing the drawing, students would take a picture of it and upload it to Wikia Maps where they can add multimedia placemarks to their maps of fictional places.

H/T to Google Maps Mania

Finally! TodaysMeet Now Offers Chat Moderation for Teachers

Yesterday, I shared the news that TodaysMeet now offers the option to create accounts and close TodaysMeet discussions early. Today, TodaysMeet added the option to moderate comments in a discussion.

To moderate comments in your TodaysMeet room simply place your cursor over the lower-right corner of the box in which an inappropriate comment was written. When place your cursor over that corner a "delete" link will appear. Click delete and the comment is gone.

Applications for Education
The ability to moderate comments has long been the feature that teachers have wanted to see in TodaysMeet. The moderation feature along with the new options for creating accounts and closing discussions early make TodaysMeet a better option than ever for hosting classroom backchannel discussions.

As I mentioned yesterday, I have used TodaysMeet to provide my students with a place to ask questions throughout the day. By using a backchannel tool like TodaysMeet my students who have a lot to say don't dominate the classroom conversation. At the same time my shy students are given a place to comfortably ask questions.

ClassDojo Adds Support for Sharing Classes and Sharing Student Reports

ClassDojo, the popular student behavior recording service, has added two frequently requested features. The first new feature allows teachers can to share classes with each other. This allows lets multiple teachers record information about students in the same class. Being able to share classes will be great for teachers who have assistants working with students.

The second new feature allows teachers to share reports with other teachers or school administrators. Teachers in the same school can share students across different classes and view their student reports. Individual students can now move between different teachers and classes, but still build on their progress over time. In other words, you can keep the records moving from year to year.

Lingua.ly Launches an iOS App for Learning a Language on the Go

Lingua.ly is a free service that is designed to help its users learn a new language while browsing the web. The service initially launched as a Chrome app then added an Android app. Now Lingua.ly is available as an iOS app.

The Lingua.ly iOS app creates flashcard activities based on the words that you select from a dictionary or from articles that you read through app. To get started select the language that you're studying (Lingua.ly's iOS app supports English, French, Spanish, Russian, Arabic and Hebrew) then enter words by typing them or pasting them into your account. After entering your words Lingua.ly creates flashcards with pictures. The app will read the words to you. After studying your flashcards you can use the app to search for web articles that utilize the words you're learning.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Clarisketch - Take a Picture, Talk, and Draw

Cross-post from one of my other blogs, Android4Schools.com

Clarisketch is a free Android app that has great potential for classroom use. The app allows you to take a picture or pull one from your device's camera roll then add your voice to it. While you are talking about your picture you can draw on it to highlight sections of it. Completed projects are shared as links to the video file hosted on Clarisketch. You can share the link to your Clarisketch video and have it play on nearly any device that has a web browser. See my sample here.

Applications for Education
Clarisketch could be a great app for teachers to use to create short tutorials. Students could use the app to create short stories about their pictures. You could also have students use Clarisketch to explain things like how to solve a math problem or the significance of a place featured on a map.

A Visual History of the Last 100 Years

Earlier this month I declared that Made From History is a must-bookmark for history teachers. Today, the Made From History team published another fine example of why history teachers and students should bookmark their site.

A Graphic History of the Last 100 Years provides an good summary of major political and military themes of the last one hundred years. The page begins with WWI and concludes with Arab Spring. Along the way the graphics cover WWII, the Cold War, Vietnam, Civil Rights Movement, the Iranian Revolution, the Gulf War, and 9/11. As the name implies, A Graphic History of the Last 100 Years is heavy on visual aids like graphs and timelines to accompany pictures and text.
Screenshot of part of A Graphic History of the Last 100 Years
Applications for Education
A Graphic History of the Last 100 Years doesn't cover every important event and theme of the last 100 years, but it does provide a good overview. The content is shared in a manner that makes it accessible to most students. The graphics, particularly the graphs and timelines, could be helpful in prompting questions from students.

I've Joined Best Keynote

Update: On September 14, 2015 I terminated my relationship with Best Keynote. If you would like to have me speak at your event, please email me directly at richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com or call me at 1-207-890-6922.

Earlier this year I was flattered when Kevin Honeycutt invited me to join his Best Keynote speakers bureau. This month I officially joined. Best Keynote is a collection of  thirty speakers, consultants, and writers. Each person has something different and great to share about education and technology. Click here to learn more about Best Keynote and my presentation offerings.

I still offer my webinar services through PracticalEdTech.com. And I can always be reached directly at richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com (if you're reading this in email, just click the reply button to get in touch with me).

FluencyTutor for Google - Students Listen and Practice Reading Aloud

FluencyTutor for Google is a new offering from Texthelp. FluencyTutor for Google is a Chrome web app (works on Chromebook, PC, Mac) that allows teachers to share selected reading passages with their students. Students can hear the passages read aloud. The text being read aloud is highlighted to help students follow along with the reading.

After hearing passages read aloud through FluencyTutor, students can create recordings of themselves reading the passages. Those recordings can be downloaded.

FluencyTutor offers a 47 page list of passages that teachers can share with their students. The passages are labeled with lexile scores and suggested grade levels. Teachers share the passages through Google Drive.


The video above includes demonstration of premium (paid) features. The text of this post deals only with the free aspects of FluencyTutor.

Now You Can Create Accounts on TodaysMeet and Close Rooms Early

TodaysMeet is a backchannel tool that I have promoted for years. Recently, I discovered that you can now create an account on TodaysMeet. By creating an account on TodaysMeet you can manage multiple rooms from one screen. You can now require people to sign-in with verified Google Accounts before they post in your TodaysMeet room. Perhaps the best benefit of creating a TodaysMeet account is that doing so allows you to close your rooms before their planned expiration dates.

Important tip: I was not able to create a TodaysMeet room when I was using Chrome as my browser. I switched to Firefox and TodaysMeet worked perfectly.  This issue has been resolved.

Applications for Education
I have long used TodaysMeet to provide my students with a place to ask questions throughout the day. By using a backchannel tool like TodaysMeet my students who have a lot to say don't dominate the classroom conversation. At the same time my shy students are given a place to comfortably ask questions.

The new TodaysMeet option to close a room before its scheduled expiration is a feature that teachers have wanted for a long time. Being able to close a room early will be helpful in case the conversation in the backchannel starts to go too far off course.