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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Use Your Web Browser toTake a 3D Tour of the Universe

NASA's Eyes on the Solar System offers 3-D tours of the solar system in your browser. You can put the tours on auto-play or go through them manually. You also have the option to explore the Solar System without the guidance of a tour. I tried it both ways and found it much easier to use the tours as a guide for exploring the Solar System. The tours have some multimedia elements included in some of the stops as you move along. I used the tours on my Lenovo Yoga laptop and found them to be well-suited to touch screen use.

Applications for Education
Eyes on the Solar System could be a great way for students to see how far apart the planets, moons, and stars are in terms of kilometers and time.

Three Ways to Create Screencasts on Chromebooks

One of the questions I'm often asked about Chromebooks is about creating screencast videos. The following three options allow you to create screencast videos on a Chromebook.

With ScreenCastify installed in Chrome you can record everything happening in a tab in your browser. Voiceovers are supported and a pointer is included by default. Completed recordings can be saved to your computer or uploaded directly to YouTube. There are a few things to note about ScreenCastify before you get too excited about it. First, your Chromebook and or Chrome browser must be up to date (that shouldn't be a problem in most cases) as Chrome version 32 or higher is required. Second, while recording the desktop is an option it is an experimental option and may not work as you hope it will. Third, your microphone is turned off by default so you will have grant ScreenCastify access to your computer in order to record a voiceover.

TechSmith recently launched a new beta version of Snagit for Chrome that supports creating screencasts that you can save into your Google Drive account. To use the new screencasting option in Snagit for Chrome you will have enable the "beta" version of both the Snagit for Chrome extension and Chrome app.  The Snagit Chrome extension is what allows you to capture your screen. The Snagit Chrome app allows you to save your screen captures in your Google Drive account. You do have to install both the extension and the app for Snagit to work correctly. The video below provides directions on how to enable the beta mode of Snagit for Chrome. The video also shows you how the screencasting works.



A Google+ Hangout On Air allows you to broadcast your screen (you can do this even if no one else is in your Hangout). The broadcast is automatically recorded and saved to your YouTube account. Brian Bennett posted detailed directions on the process here. There is a video demonstration at the end of Brian's post.

Mark Jenkins also produced a short video on the process. That video is embedded below.

Ten Good Online Tools for Creating Mind Maps

Creating mind maps or webs is one of my favorite ways to organize ideas and information. I've often had my students create mind maps as an exercise in making visual connections between important concepts, events, and people in a unit of study. The following free tools offer good options for creating mind maps online.

MindMup is a free mind mapping tool that can be used online, with Google Drive, and on your desktop. MindMup works like most mind mapping tools in that you can create a central idea and add child and sibling nodes all over a blank canvas. MindMup nodes can contain text and links. When you're ready to save your MindMup mind map you can save it to Google Drive, save it to your desktop, or publish it online. If you publish it online, you can grab an embed code for it to post it in a blog post or webpage.

Lucidchart offers a simple drag and drop interface for creating flow charts, organizational charts, mind maps, and other types of diagrams. To create with Lucidchart just select elements from the menus and drag them to the canvas. You can re-size any element and type text within elements on your chart. Arrows and connecting lines can be re-sized, repositioned, and labeled to bring clarity to your diagrams. Google Chrome users can use Lucidchart offline through the Lucidchart Chrome app. Lucid Chart offers the option to include interactive tables and notations to your charts. You can right-click on any shape in your mind map to write and add a note about it.

Coggle is a collaborative mind-mapping service that is very easy to use. To create a Coggle mind map just sign-in with your Google account and click the "+" icon to start your mind map. After entering the main idea of your mind map you can add branches by clicking the "+" icons that appear next to everything you type. To re-arrange elements just click on them and drag them around your screen. Coggle is a collaborative tool. You can invite others to view and edit your mind maps. You can also just invite others to view by sending them an email through Coggle. All Coggle mind maps can be downloaded as PDFs or PNG image files.

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

Sketchlot is a free collaborative whiteboard service that works on any device that has a web browser. I tested it on my MacBook, my iPad, and my Android tablet. Sketchlot is designed for teacher and student use. Teachers create their own accounts and then inside that account they can create a list of students. Each student is assigned his or her own password to use to join a drawing shared by his or her teacher. Teachers can create as many drawings as they like and share them on an individual basis. Teachers can share their drawings to one or all of their students at a time. Students can create their own sketches to share back to their teachers through Sketchlot.

Realtime Board is a nice tool for hosting online, collaborative brainstorming sessions. I've featured the service a couple of times since its launch last fall. The service allows to work with any information and visual content on one board individually or with the team. You can draw, work with images, post videos, post and mark PDFs, write notes, and comment on materials through the use of colorful post-it stickers. Realtime Board supports importing files from your Google Drive account. Realtime Board offers a free education version. The education version provides schools with all of the features of the Pro version for free. That means you can create unlimited private and public boards, have an unlimited number of collaborators, and 3GB of storage space.

Text 2 Mind Map offers a great way to turn your typed outlines into mind maps. To create a mind map on Text 2 Mind Map type out an outline in the text box. After typing your outline click "draw mind map" to have your mind map created for you. If after creating your mind map you need to add more elements to just add them into your outline and click "draw mind map" again. Your mind map can be downloaded as a PDF or PNG file. The mind maps that you create on Text 2 Mind Map can also be shared via email, Facebook, or Twitter.

Stormboard is a slick new service designed for hosting collaborative online brainstorming activities. Stormboard allows you to create an unlimited amount of "idea boards" or Stormboards with up to five collaborators on each one. Each of your Stormboards can include sticky notes, images, videos, drawings, and word documents. Moving items around on your Stormboard is a simple drag and drop process like the one you may have used on services like Padlet. Each item that you add to your Stormboard includes a commenting option that your collaborators can use to give you feedback on your ideas.

Connected Mind is a free mind mapping tool that you can find in the Google Chrome Web Store. Using Connected Mind you can create free-form mind maps or use a template. A lot of mind mapping tools lock you into using straight lines between elements, but Connected Mind is not one of them. Connected Minds allows you to create mind maps in any configuration that you like. As it is a Chrome Web Store app, Connected Mind allows you to save your work online using your Google Account credentials.

Spider Scribe is an online mind map creation service. Spider Scribe can be used individually or be used collaboratively. What jumps out about Spider Scribe is that users can add images, maps, calendars, text notes, and uploaded text files to their mind maps. Users can connect the elements on their mind maps or let them each stand on their own. You can embed your interactive SpiderScribe mind map into your blog or website. If you would like to see how SpiderScribe works, check out Russell Stannard's series of how-to videos or watch this two minute demo.

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