Google
 

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Google Earth Pro is Now Free for Everyone

Google Earth Pro has been available for free to teachers with GAFE email accounts for quite a while. Now it is available for free to anyone who wants to upgrade to Google Earth Pro. Google announced this yesterday on the Google Lat Long blog. To get a license key for Google Earth Pro you just need to complete the form found here.

Google Earth Pro offers at least nine features that are not available in the standard version of Google Earth. Those features include importing GIS data, mapping multiple points at once, measuring areas of polygons and circles, and automatically geo-locating imported GIS images.

Applications for Education
While Google Earth is clearly a great fit in social studies classrooms, it can also be used in language arts, math, and science classes. In this post I assembled a list of some of my favorite uses of Google Earth and Maps for settings outside of social studies classrooms.

The Week in Review - A Blizzard of Popular Posts

Good morning from snowy Woodstock, Maine where we've had two snow storms in the last five days and school was closed was for three days. My dogs and I love to play in the snow so we're happy whenever it snows. In fact, as soon as this post is finished we'll be romping around in the snow. I hope that you have something fun planned for the weekend too.

Before I jump into this week's list of the most popular posts I want to remind you about the Practical Ed Tech weekly newsletter. I started the Practical Ed Tech weekly newsletter at about this time last year. On Sunday evening I send out an email with my favorite tip of the week along with a summary of the post popular posts of the week from FreeTech4Teachers.com. You can subscribe here.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. CommonLit - Thematic Discussion Questions Paired With Interesting Texts
2. How to Search Twitter for Educational Content
3. Three Platforms for Writing Choose Your Own Adventure Stories - A Comparison
4. Twine - An Open-source Program for Writing Choose Your Own Adventure Stories
5. Four Ways to Create Digital Records of Physical Items Your Students Create
6. Read and Download 250+ Art Books from the Getty Museum
7. What the World Eats - A Comparison of Diets

Would you like to have me speak at your school or conference this year? Click here to learn more about professional development services.

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
Versal is a great tool for building interactive online course components.
MidWest Teachers Institute offers online graduate courses for teachers.
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.
The University of Maryland Baltimore County offers graduate programs for teachers.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology.
EdTechTeacher is hosting iPad Summit San Diego in February.

Friday, January 30, 2015

I'm All About the Snow

If you live in the U.S. unless you've ignored the national news entirely, you're probably tired of hearing about the big snow storms that have hit New England this week. As as much as I dislike the hyped-up news reports about it, I love snow. Whether or not your students love the snow, hate the snow, or have no opinion about snow it provides an opportunity for a timely science lesson. Here are a few resources for learning about snow.


Scholastic's Interactive Weather Maker is an online activity in which students adjust temperatures and humidity levels to create rain and snow storms. Students simply move the temperature and humidity sliders until rain or snow begins to show up in the scene on their screens. Adjusting the settings in the Interactive Weather Maker could be a good way for students to see the correlation between humidity and temperature as it relates to creating rain and snow storms.

The episode of Bytesize Science embedded below explains how snowflakes are created.


The ski resort near my house hosts a full moon hike and ski event every month of the winter. The full moon appears brighter in the winter. The video embedded below explains why. (And if you're in Maine looking for something to do tomorrow night, Mt. Abram's full moon hike is a blast. I'll be there).

How to Find Other Educators on Google+

A couple of days ago I received an email from someone who was looking for help finding other teachers to connect with around the topic of leading a STEM or engineering club at his school. My suggestion was to take a look at some of the Google+ communities related to the topic of STEM. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to go about finding a Google+ community related to a topic that you are interested in.

Design and Launch Virtual Rockets in Your Web Browser

Ten days ago I published a post about NASA's Rocket Science 101 iPad app. What I didn't realize at the time was that the app is also available in an Android version an in an online version. Thanks to email from David Beaver I now know better.

All three versions of Rocket Science 101 work the same way. The app is designed to help students understand how rockets work. The app also helps students understand the differences between the four types of rockets most frequently used by NASA. In Rocket Science 101 students can build all four rockets in a jigsaw-like activity then virtually launch their rockets. When the rockets are launched students see the timing of each stage of the launch from surface to orbit.

After testing all of the rocket types students can try their hands at matching rockets to real NASA missions. In the challenges students read about a NASA mission then have to select the rocket that can carry the payload and travel the distance required to complete the mission.

Applications for Education
Rocket Science 101 could be a good app for students in grades five through eight to use to begin to understand some basic physics concepts associated with space exploration.

A Free Course on Developing iOS 8 Apps

In the past Stanford has offered free online courses on developing iPhone and iPad apps. Their latest offering is a free iTunes U course on developing iOS 8 apps.

Before you get too excited about the course, note that it is not for people who don't have any prior programming experience. The prerequisites for the course require that you have experience with C language and object-oriented programming. If you're up for the challenge, this course could be a good opportunity to learn to develop iOS 8 apps.

H/T to Open Culture

Clyp.it - Create Short Audio Recordings Online, on iOS, or Android

Earlier this week Larry Ferlazzo wrote a good post about how he is using Clyp.it to have his ELL students create and share short audio recordings. His post even includes an example from a student. I had not heard of Clyp.it prior to reading Larry's post so I had to try it out.

Clyp.it is the second easiest-to-use audio recording tool that I've used. The easiest to use is still Vocaroo. To record on Clyp.it you simply go to the website and click the big record button (you may have to allow pop-ups in your browser in order for Clyp.it to access your microphone). When you're done recording click the share button and you'll be taken to a page on which you can download your recording or grab an embed code to post the recording on a blog. In the video embedded below I provide a demonstration of how to use Clyp.it in your web browser.


Clyp.it is also available to use as a free iOS app or as a free Android app.

Applications for Education
I encourage you to read Larry Ferlazzo's post about how he is using Clyp.it with his ELL students. In that post he explains how his students are using Clyp.it to post audio comments on a classroom blog.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

PBS Learning Media Storyboards Offer a Good Way to Create Short Lessons for Students

PBS Learning Media offers a lot of useful tools for teachers and students. Two of their tools that I discovered today are their Storyboard and Lesson Builder tools.

PBS Learning Media's Storyboard tool allows you to create a collection of videos, text, and images organized around almost any topic of your choosing. The collection appears in a collage-like format. You can share your Storyboards directly with your students through the PBS Learning Media website (you have to create an account in order to do this). Storyboards can also be created by students. As a teacher you can assign topics to your students and have them develop storyboards around their assigned topics. When they have completed their assignments students can share their Storyboards with you through PBS Learning Media.

PBS Learning Media's Lesson Builder tool is similar to their Storyboard tool. The difference is that in the Lesson Builder you can include quiz questions for students to answer after watching a video that you have selected for them.

Applications for Education
Both the Storyboard and Lesson Builder tools could be good for creating short introductory lessons to larger units of study that students are undertaking in your classroom. The shortcoming of both tools is that you are limited to content that is hosted by PBS Learning Media.

PBS Kids Writers Contest for K-3 Students

PBS Kids recently announced the launch of a creative writing contest for students in Kindergarten through third grade. The contest asks students to create short fiction stories (50-200 words for K-1 students, 100-350 words for 2nd and 3rd grade students). The stories must be accompanied by at least five illustrations developed by students. Students submitting winning entries will receive a prize package that includes ARTHUR® books and a personal technology device (that's how PBS described it, what that device actually is is a mystery to me). Click here for the full contest rules and prizes.

Applications for Education
The PBS Kids Writers Contest itself doesn't get me too excited. The reason that I'm sharing it is that PBS Learning Media offers some good resources for helping students develop short creative stories. In the PBS Learning Media resources accompanying the contest you can find writing guides and brainstorming templates that students can use in developing short stories even if they're not planning to make submissions to the PBS Kids Writers Contest.

How to Create an Online Course on Versal

Disclosure: Versal is currently an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

Versal is service that you can use to create online classes that are bit more robust than your average flipped lessons. On Versal you can build online courses that incorporate text documents, images, videos, maps, slideshows, and more. When you build a course in Versal you build it lesson-by-lesson in an easy-to-follow outline. In the video embedded below I provide a demonstration of how to get started building your first course on Versal.


Google Docs users can embed content from their Google Drive accounts into their Versal courses. Take a look at the process in the video below.


Microsoft OneDrive users can embed content into Versal courses too. The video embedded below will show you how.

Three Platforms for Writing Choose Your Own Adventure Stories - A Comparison

Over the weekend I published a review of Twine, an open source program for writing choose your own adventure stories. In the past I've reviewed a couple of other tools for the same purpose. This post is a short comparison of the three.

Inkle Writer provides a platform on which you can write choose your own adventure style stories. On Inkle Writer you write each paragraph (or less) as an independent piece that you can connect to other pieces of your story. You can take the story into many directions then piece them together from your menu of paragraphs. What I like about Inkle Writer compared to the other tools in this list is that you don't have to plan every element of your story before you write. You can simply write out a few paragraphs then go back and connect the pieces as you like.

Playfic is a tool for creating text-based, choose your own adventure stories. Playfic is based on Inform7 which uses "if, then" logic to allow anyone to create their stories. When authors plan and write their stories they can include multiple paths for readers to pursue as they progress through their stories. Readers navigate through the stories by entering directional commands such as "go north" and "go south." Click here to try a sample story and learn a bit about the logic of Playfic. The aspect of Playfic that I like best is that while writing their stories students can click on a preview. If students have errors in the logic of their stories, when they click on the preview Playfic will point those out with an explanation of the errors.

Twine is an open-source program for writing choose your own adventure stories. You can use Twine online or you can download the software for Mac or Windows. To write a choose your own adventure story with Twine online start by giving your story a title. After titling your story you will be taken to a grid canvas on which you can write short passages in a series of sticky notes. Each sticky note should be given its own title. To link elements of your stories you place brackets around the title of note within a note. Each note can be linked to two or more other notes in your story. When your story is complete you can read through it and click through it in your browser. The aspects of Twine that I like the best is the sticky note nature of the story canvas. The sticky notes make it easy to see the connections between elements of your story. The downside to Twine is that like Playfic you really need to have a good outline before you start writing otherwise you will spend a lot of time going back to edit previous story elements.

How to Use Skitch to Blur Faces and More

On Monday I wrote a short post about using Skitch to protect students' privacy when sharing pictures of school events. A few people contacted me through the FreeTech4Teachers Facebook page for more information about how Skitch works. To answer those questions I created the video that you see embedded below.


This video has been added to my playlist of more than 50 practical ed tech tips.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Three Fun and Free iPad Apps for Learning to Spell New Words

Parts of this post originally appeared on my other blog, iPadApps4School.com

Manulife Word Hunter is a free iPad app designed to help children learn new words. The app features a board game that students move through by rolling dice and correctly spelling new words as they go. Kids can play the game alone or with up to two other players. To start playing the Word Hunter game students select avatars then roll the dice. The dice indicate how many spaces to move on the board. The spaces on the board contain new word challenges. Students see the word, see an object representing the word, and can hear the word read aloud before attempting to spell it on their own. If a student spells a word correctly he or she gets a bonus action that allows them to either skip ahead, skip another player’s turn, or move another player backwards.

Rocket Speller is a fun iPad app designed for students in Kindergarten through grade two. The purpose of the app is to help students learn to spell words simple words that are three to ten letters long. As students progress through the levels of the app they get stars. After they get three stars students pick out the parts they want to use to build a rocket ship. Rocket Speller has five levels for students to work through. The first level uses three to six letter words and gives audio and visual clues to students. The second level features words up to ten letters in length and offers audio and visual hints. The third through fifth levels have words up to ten letters in length but reduce the number of clues available to students.

Stumpy’s Alphabet Dinner is a fun app in which students feed letters and shapes to cartoon characters. The letters and shapes that students feed to the characters have to match the letter or shape displayed on the character’s stomach. If the child makes an incorrect match the character spits out the letter.

Socratica Offers a Good Selection of Educational Android Apps

Since the first time I used an Android phone Socratica apps have frequently popped-up when I search Google Play for educational apps. Socratica offers 21 free games and apps for Android users. Here are some of my favorite Android apps produced by Socratica.

The Periodic Table app offers reference information about each element. The app offers audio clips to help users learn pronunciations of the names of the elements. The app also includes a quiz mode.

Countries of the World and 50 States are geography apps for learning country and state locations and capitals respectively. The apps also offer some background information like population, flags, state mottos, and postal codes. An online version of 50 States also exists on the Socratica website.

The US Presidents app quizzes players about the presidents, their birthplace, years in office, and their vice presidents.

Words Words Words is a vocabulary and grammar app containing 1,000 words with audio pronunciations. The app quizzes players on the proper uses the words.

The Alphabets app is designed as a quiz to help you learn Greek, Russian, Arabic, Hebrew, Korean, and English. (I should note that some user reviews noted that the Hebrew and Arabic characters didn't display correctly on their phones).

Two Ways to Bookmark Favorite Links from Twitter

One of the best things about Twitter is the wealth of links that teachers share with each other. It can be hard to keep track of all of the links that you might find while watching a hashtag like #edchat or #edtechchat. I tend to open a link then bookmark it with Evernote's web clipper. My process involves opening a link in a new window then bookmarking it. It's not the most efficient process, but it works for me. If you want a more efficient way to save links from Twitter, try the following two methods.

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

If This Then That has been featured here in the past. If This Then That is a service that helps you automate tasks between services. Thousands of people have created If This Then That recipes for automating tasks like saving links from your Tweets to your Evernote account. If you're a Diigo user, you might want to try this IFTTT recipe for saving Tweeted links to your Diigo account.

What the World Eats - A Comparison of Diets

National Geographic Education is currently featuring an interactive infographic comparing the diets of people around the world. What the World Eats features a pie chart of six categories of food; sugars & fats, produce, meat, dairy & eggs, grain, and other. Click on the pie chart to see what percentage of the average person's diet is comprised of foods from each category. Clicking the chart will also show you a comparison of diets across countries. For example, you can compare the diets of people in China with those of people in the U.S.

Below the pie chart on What the World Eats you will see a play icon. Click the play icon to see how the composition of diets has changed since 1961. The playback will show the change in diets of the world as a whole and the change in diets in individual countries.

Applications for Education
What the World Eats is an interesting infographic to use in a lesson that incorporates elements of health education and social studies education. I would consider having students examine how the composition of diets has changed since 1961 then ask them to research some of the causes of the changes. For example, I would like to see if students can make the correlation between China's industrialization and its increase in meat consumption over the same time period.

Using TodaysMeet to Enhance Jigsaw Reading Activities

A few nights ago my friend Jess sent me a Facebook message in which she asked for my help in organizing a group discussion that she has to lead as part of a graduate course she's taking. She's a nurse, not a teacher so leading a group discussion is a bit out of her comfort zone. I quickly put together a little outline for her to follow. In that outline I recommended using TodaysMeet to provide people with a place to share ideas and respond to prompts associated with articles that she's distributing to the group. The exact outline is copied below.
  1. Provide the short readings to the group.
  2. Ask people to read and discuss with the person next to him/her.
  3. Have questions about the article for people to discuss.
  4. Ask people to go online to todaysmeet.com/yourtodaysmeetroom (obviously, change the room name to something appropriate for your situation) to enter comments about the article/ answer questions/ ask questions. That forum gives shy people a place to express themselves without having to speak to the whole group. The forum also gives you a place to find content to bring into the conversation.

A video of TodaysMeet's features is embedded below.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

eSkeletons - Online Comparisons of Mammal 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.

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.

The Math and Science of Football

In my previous post I featured Financial Football. That's a good game if you're looking for a social studies resource related to the Super Bowl. For math and science resources related to the Super Bowl, take a look at NBC Learn's Science of Football. NBC's Science of Football is a series of ten videos from NBC Learn explaining and demonstrating math and science concepts as they relate to football.

The list of topics covered in the Science of NFL Football includes Torque & Center of Mass, Pythagorean Theorem, Geometric Shapes, Projectile Motion & Parabolas, Vectors, Kinematics, Nutrition, and Newton's 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Laws of Motion.

Applications for Education
Every video in the Science of NFL Football is accompanied by a lesson plan appropriate for use in middle school classrooms. Click here to take a look at the lesson about Newton's 3rd Law.

Learn Money Management Skills by Playing Financial Football

The Super Bowl is just five days away. If you're looking for a football-themed lesson to use this week, take a look at Financial Football.

Practical Money Skills hosts a series of eight online games designed to teach students some money management skills. One of the games that is timely considering that the Super Bowl is just a few days away is Financial Football. Financial Football has students answer questions about budgets, savings, and spending to move their football teams down the field against another team. The games use real NFL team logos. Financial Football takes at least twenty minutes to play.

Educational Resources from the National Snow and Ice Data Center

There is at least 18" of fresh snow in my yard this evening so it feels like a good time to tell you about some educational resources from the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

The National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado, Boulder offers some good educational resources related to snow, ice, and environmental science. NSIDC's education center offers sections dedicated to educating students about glaciers, sea ice, snow, and arctic climatology. Most of the resources in the education center are text-based sequences of articles.

Outside of the education center NSIDC offers a large gallery of Google Earth files that you can use to learn about snow, ice, and climate change around the world. NSIDC offers an image gallery containing images captured from research expeditions around the world as well as satellite imagery. Some of the images from the expeditions are simply amazing.

Applications for EducationThe National Snow and Ice Data Center could be a good resource for students of environmental science. The education center is a good primer on snow, ice, and glaciers, but the real value for me lies in the Google Earth files gallery. Contained in the Google Earth files gallery are tours and time lapse imagery that puts the information found on NSIDC into a visual and geographic context that is easy to understand.

Crowd-sourced Advice About Twitter for Teachers

This evening as part of my webinar about blogs and social media for teachers I gave a short demonstration of the difference between an "@" message and a direct message. As a part of that demo I posted and "@" message to Steven Anderson in which I asked him to share a tip for teachers new to using Twitter. Steven replied quickly as did a few other folks who offered some good tips. I've embedded those Tweets below.





Monday, January 26, 2015

What Is the Jet Stream? - An Animation and Explanation

I'm about to board my flight home from the BETT Show in London. The flight home is going to be nearly two hours longer than the flight to London. That's the effect of the jet stream on air travel. The Department of Earth & Climate Studies at San Francisco State University offers a tool that anyone can use to create a simple animation of the jet stream based on current conditions. Prior to having students look at the animation, you might want to have them view this DNews video about the jet stream.


Consider using Zaption to build a longer lesson about wind and the jet stream. Zaption lessons are called "tours." A tour is a combination of videos, images, and text arranged into a sequence. To add a video to a tour you can search and select one within Zaption. Zaption pulls videos from YouTube, Vimeo, PBS, or National Geographic. After choosing your video, start watching it then pause it when you want to add a question. You can add questions in the form of multiple choice, open response, or check box response. When students watch the video they will see your questions appear in the context in which you set them.

Protect Student Privacy by Using Skitch

In yesterday's post about creating digital records of physical items I mentioned using Skitch to take pictures and annotate them. One of the things about Skitch that I failed to mention in that post is that along with drawing and typing on a picture you can crop and blur items in a picture.

You can use the Skitch mobile apps (Android and iOS) and the Skitch desktop apps (Mac and Windows) to crop any image that you have saved. Likewise all four versions of the app have an option to blur items in a picture. To blur something simply select the blurring tool and start scribbling on the item you want to blur out. Both the cropping and blurring tools are useful when you have a picture of a classroom activity that you want to share without sharing faces of your students. The blurring tool is also useful when you want to share exemplars of students' work without revealing the names of the students who created the work.

NASA Is On SoundCloud - Listen to Audio from Missions and More

Whether you have an interest in NASA from a scientific standpoint or a cultural standpoint, NASA's SoundCloud channel has something for you. On NASA's SoundCloud channel you will find audio from Apollo, Mercury, and Discovery missions. You'll also find audio of rocket sounds and space sounds. The set of recordings of most interest to me is the set of three audio recordings of President Kennedy which includes his famous "We Choose the Moon" speech.


Applications for Education
NASA's SoundCloud channel could be a good place to find audio to support lessons on the development and evolution of the space program. The recordings are in the public domain. You and your students can download the recordings to re-use in video productions about space. I might have students use the Kennedy recordings in a video project about American culture and the Cold War in the 1960's.

If you cannot access SoundCloud in your school, most of the recordings are also available on the NASA Sounds website.

H/T to Open Culture.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Four Ways to Create Digital Records of Physical Items Your Students Create

A couple of days ago I received an email from a reader who was looking for a good app to use to create digital portfolios of students' physical works like paintings, sculptures, or handwritten work. I had just reviewed Seesaw so that was my first recommendation. There are other good tools for creating digital portfolios of students' physical works.

Skitch is a free app for iPad, Android, Mac OS, and Windows. With Skitch installed on your mobile device you can snap a picture of a students' work and save it to a folder in your Evernote account. If you need to, you can draw on the picture and type on the picture. Drawing and typing on the picture of a students' work could be a good way to make notes for yourself and or the student.

Three Ring is a free service offering free Android and iPhone apps for digitizing and organizing student work. Using the app you can take a picture of a student's work and upload it to a free Three Ring account. Once a picture is uploaded to your Three Ring account you can add notes to it. You can organize artifacts by student name, class, date, or just about any other tagging system that works for you. You can share with parents and students your notes about the artifacts you've digitized through Three Ring.

Seesaw is a free iPad app through which students can create a portfolio to document the things they have learned. Students can add artifacts to their portfolios by taking pictures of their work (in the case of a worksheet or other physical item), by writing about what they've learned, or by shooting a short video to record something they have learned. Students can add voice comments to their pictures to clarify what their pictures document. To get started with Seesaw create a free classroom account. Students join the classroom by scanning a QR code (you will have to print it or project it) that grants them access to your Seesaw classroom. As the teacher you can see and sort all of your students' Seesaw submissions. Seesaw allows parents to create accounts through which they can see the work of their children. As a teacher you can send notifications to parents when their children make a new Seesaw submission.

WeLearnedIt is an iPad app and online service through which you and your students can build digital portfolios. Through the WeLearnedIt iPad app you and your students can create digital portfolios that contain files from Google Drive, Dropbox, links from the web, images and videos captured with your iPad, and whiteboard videos created within the WeLearnedIt app. You can mark-up and annotate pictures within the app. The best aspects of WeLearnedIt are found in the feedback and sharing tools. Teachers can assign grades to elements of students’ digital portfolios. Grading is not limited to assigning scores. Teachers can give written feedback on each submission. Rubrics for assignments are available through the app too.

Disclosure: I have a small advisory and equity interest in eduClipper which developed WeLearnedIt.

CommonLit - Thematic Discussion Questions Paired With Interesting Texts

The other day I received an email from Michelle Brown at Harvard University. Her email was about a new organization called Commonlit. Commonlit is an organization that is building sets of thematic discussion questions to use in conjunction with upper elementary school and middle school students.

Here's how Commonlit works. As a teacher I select a theme such as love, social change & revolution, or friendship & loyalty. Then within my chosen theme I select a discussion question. The choice of a discussion question will lead me to a set of passages for my students to read to support classroom discussion. For example, when I selected the question, "what drives a person to betray?" in the friendship & loyalty theme I was then able to choose the text of The Donkey, the Fox, and the Lion from Aesop's Fables. Commonlit provided me with a PDF of the text to download for free.

Applications for Education
Commonlit's thematic questions could be quite helpful in getting students interested in reading. I've always found that if I can get students engrossed in a conversation around a big question, I then have a much easier time getting them to read materials related to the conversation. My students tend to want to read so that they can find more ideas to bring into their arguments in the classroom conversation.

Twine - An Open-source Program for Writing Choose Your Own Adventure Stories

On Friday evening at TeachMeet BETT I saw Alan O'Donohue demonstrate a new-to-me writing tool called Twine. Twine is an open-source program for writing choose your own adventure stories. You can use Twine online or you can download the software for Mac or Windows. I used Twine online to create a short story.

To write a choose your own adventure story with Twine online start by giving your story a title. After titling your story you will be taken to a grid canvas on which you can write short passages in a series of sticky notes. Each sticky note should be given its own title. To link elements of your stories you place brackets around the title of note within a note. Each note can be linked to two or more other notes in your story. When your story is complete you can read through it and click through it in your browser.
click image to view full size

If you use Twine online there are a couple of things you should know before you start. First, there is not a log-in or registration option. Your work is saved in your browser. To save your work permanently, click the archive icon to download a Twine file. Your Twine file can be opened later in your web browser where you can edit it further or simply read through your story. Second, to share Twine stories you will have to email the file to the person you want to read your story.
The beginning of my Twine story. (click image to view full size)

Applications for Education
Writing choose your own adventure stories in Twine could be a great way to get kids interested in creative writing. Building a good choose your own adventure story requires a lot of planning around possible story turns and endings. The visual nature of Twine's sticky note interface could help students see how parts of a story work together.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Google Drive Updates You Might Have Missed This Week (I did)

If you're like me, you probably don't install every update to your iPad apps as soon as they are released. I usually do that once a week. When I updated the Google Docs app on my iPad this morning I discovered that it now offers real-time spell checking. In looking back at the Google Drive Blog I discovered that this feature has been out since Wednesday.

Other Google Drive for iOS and Android updates that you might missed this week include updates to Sheets that allow you to hide rows and columns. Google Sheets itself (the web version) has new options for locking a sheet or range and sharing it with only some of the collaborators on a file.

Applications for Education
If you're using Sheets with students, the option to lock them into only part of spreadsheet could be helpful in focusing them on a specific subset of data within a much larger data set.

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good morning from the BETT Show in London. I've been here for a couple of days meeting with developers of educational technology products. I've also been fortunate to spend time meeting with teachers and school leaders here to learn about their challenges and successes. Last night's TeachMeet BETT offered a great opportunity to see teachers talking about their successes with technology in their classrooms. The TeachMeet BETT event was kicked-off by Sir Ken Robinson giving a short talk to the crowd. If you haven't seen or heard Sir Ken Robinson talk in the past, take a look at one of his TED Talks.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. 10 Charts Comparing Popular Ed Tech Tools
2. Students Can Build and Launch Virtual Rockets on Rocket Science 101 from NASA
3. 100 Word Challenge - A Fantastic Blogging Activity for Students
4. Seesaw - Students Build Digital Portfolios on Their iPads
5. Memrise - A Nice Platform for Studying Languages, Math, Science, and More
6. Word Dynamo - More Than Just Vocabulary Games
7. Some of My Favorite Resources for Introducing Google Earth & Maps Beyond Social Studies

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Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
Versal is a great tool for building interactive online course components.
MidWest Teachers Institute offers online graduate courses for teachers.
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.
The University of Maryland Baltimore County offers graduate programs for teachers.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology.
EdTechTeacher is hosting iPad Summit San Diego in February.

Friday, January 23, 2015

MyStudyLife - A Student Planner for All Platforms

About eighteen months ago I wrote about a nice planner app for students called MyStudyLife. At the time MyStudyLife was only available as a Windows 8 app and as a web app. This afternoon at BETT 2015 I met the lead developer of MyStudyLife and learned that the service is now available on iOS and Android too.

My Study Life allows students to organize tasks according to their course schedules. When students start using the app they have to enter their courses. After entering their courses into My Study Life students can start to enter tasks into each course. Each task is assigned a due date. Students' My Study Life homepage shows them the tasks that have due dates approaching.

Applications for Education
Whether or not a planner helps a student is usually determined by whether or not the student gets in the habit of using it. My Study Life could be an excellent service for students to get into the habit of using to keep track of their assignments.

Try Citebite for Linkly Directly to Quotes from the Web

Cite Bite is a simple tool for creating a direct link to a passage of text on a webpage. It's a simple process to create a direct link to a quote using Cite Bite. To use the service just copy and paste the chunk of text you want to share into Cite Bite. Then copy and paste the url of the source into Cite Bite. Cite Bite then creates a url that you can share with others to send them directly to the quote you want them to read.

Applications for Education
Cite Bite could be a handy little tool for those times when you want all of the students in your classroom to read and discuss a passage from an online article. While you could probably accomplish the same thing by just posting the source link on your classroom blog, the benefit of Cite Bite is that it will automatically highlight and direct students to the passage you want them to discuss.

Seesaw - Students Build Digital Portfolios on Their iPads

From the developers of the popular iPad app Shadow Puppet Edu comes a nice new app called Seesaw. Seesaw is a free iPad app through which students can create a portfolio to document the things they have learned. Students can add artifacts to their portfolios by taking pictures of their work (in the case of a worksheet or other physical item), by writing about what they've learned, or by shooting a short video to record something they have learned. Students can add voice comments to their pictures to clarify what their pictures document.

To get started with Seesaw create a free classroom account. Students join the classroom by scanning a QR code (you will have to print it or project it) that grants them access to your Seesaw classroom. As the teacher you can see and sort all of your students' Seesaw submissions.

Seesaw allows parents to create accounts through which they can see the work of their children. As a teacher you can send notifications to parents when their children make a new Seesaw submission.


Applications for Education
As is pointed out in the video above, portfolios made through Seesaw could provide excellent information to share with parents at conferences. It's also a good app to use in an art class in which students have created things that aren't easy to file and keep track of for the entire school year. Students could take a picture of their artwork then talk about it in the Seesaw app.

Update 6:44 EST 1/23 - Larry Ferlazzo covered this app last night (I didn't realize until now) with a great take on its potential for use with ELL/ESL students.

100 Word Challenge - A Fantastic Blogging Activity for Students

This morning in the Rising Stars booth at BETT 2015 I saw Julia Skinner give a nice presentation on the 100 Word Challenge. The 100 Word Challenge is a blog that provides two good services to teachers and students. First, the 100 Word Challenge offers writing prompts that students respond to on their classroom blogs. Second, 100 Word Challenge provides publicity for students' blog posts.

It is rather easy to get started on the 100 Word Challenge. To participate you simply visit the blog for the weekly writing prompt. Give the prompt to your students and have them write 100 word posts on your classroom blog (if you have never created a classroom blog, check out my guide to blogging). After your students have written their posts you should submit to 100 Word Challenge the URLs of your students' posts. Submitting the posts to 100 Word Challenge your students will be sharing with an audience that they might not have reached if they only posted on your classroom blog. For complete directions for teachers visit the How to Enter page on 100 Word Challenge.

Applications for Education
100 Word Challenge addresses two problems that I often hear teachers talk about regarding blogging. First, 100 Word Challenge provides an answer to the problem of "what should I write about." Second, 100 Word Challenge can help your students find an audience and comments for their blog posts. Students' interest in blogging wanes when they don't think that anyone outside of their normal circles is reading their posts. By sharing with a wider audience through 100 Word Challenge your students may see more views and comments on their posts.

Symbaloo - A Great Platform for Visually Organizing Your Favorite Sites

For quite a while now Symbaloo has been a popular visual bookmarking tool. Yesterday, I visited with Symbaloo's CEO and one of their developers here at the BETT Show. Later this year they will be adding some new features that will help teachers see the resources that their students use the most. I cannot tell you more about those features, yet. The other outcome of my meeting was learning that Symbaloo is a completely self-funded and profitable enterprise. What that means to you and me is that the company isn't influenced by venture capital funding and that its current business model is successful. So if you like Symbaloo's free service now, you can plan on it continuing to be free moving forward.

Symbaloo is an excellent service on which you can visually organize your favorite and most frequently used websites. Symbaloo allows you to bookmark your favorite websites and arrange them into tile boards that you can share or keep private. Symbaloo calls the tile boards webmixes. You can create multiple webmixes arranged according to topics of your choosing. Symbaloo offers a free iPhone app, a free Android app, and free Windows mobile app that you can use to add to and access your webmixes anywhere.

Applications for Education
Symbaloo does offer an education version, but the education version is not free except for individual use which doesn't make it different than signing up for a regular Symbaloo account. Symbaloo can be good for organizing a set of resources to share with your students or colleagues. You could also have students create their own Symbaloo accounts and create webmixes around topics that they are researching.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Memrise - A Nice Platform for Studying Languages, Math, Science, and More

Earlier today at the BETT Show in London I spoke with a representative of neat service called Memrise. Memrise is a service through which you can learn vocabulary for a new-to-you language, study science flashcards, review math problems, or review content from any of the hundreds of online course offerings on Memrise.

Review on Memrise happens in a manner that is a blend of flashcard flipping and quiz question answering. After signing into your Memrise account select a category that you want to study. Then within that category choose one of the many sub-topics. For example, I chose History & Geography then selected Capitals and within that topic I selected Canadian Capitals. To review the capitals Memrise showed me a few capitals and locations in a flashcard style before hitting me with a few quiz questions. That pattern repeated until I had worked through all of the capitals. I earned points for correct and timely answers. My points helped me move up the leader board for the activity that I chose.

The content on Memrise is contributed by users who develop and share materials. If you don't find materials suitable to the topic you're studying, you can develop and share your own online review course on Memrise.

Memrise offers Android and iPad apps to complement the online platform.

Applications for Education
Memrise offers Memrise for Teachers. Memrise for Teachers will allow you to add students to your online account, assign courses of study (sets of review materials) to them, and track your students' progress through Memrise activities.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Use Google Sites File Cabinet Templates to Create a B-Roll Media Gallery

Over the years I've written a lot about the idea of creating b-roll galleries of images, videos, and sounds for your students to use in their multimedia projects. In building a gallery of media that you and your students have created, you're building a resource that students can dive into when they need media for their projects. Google Sites is one platform on which you could build a gallery of media. Use the "file cabinet" template to create a page in your Google Site. Then use Custom Page-level Permissions to allow your students to upload and download media on that page. Video directions for using Page-level Permissions are available here.

Click image to view in full size. 
Click image to view in full size. 
Click image to view in full size. 

Remind Launches Support for Spanish in Their Mobile Apps

Remind, the popular text messaging service for teachers, has just announced that they are now supporting Spanish in their free mobile apps. To use Remind in Spanish download the app then make sure that your iPhone or Android phone settings are set to Spanish.

I emailed Remind's CEO Brett Kopf to ask if teachers would have to install the app twice or send messages twice in order to reach students and parents in Spanish. Here's what he had to say,

"No, bilingual teachers don't have to use a separate Spanish app to send messages to students/parents in Spanish. They can type in Spanish, just as I am now: "Me lla mo Brett" (My name is Brett). The new version has a user interface that is 100% in Spanish -- no translation needed. This helps bilingual teachers bridge a challenging language gap and communicate more effectively with students/parents who are not as fluent."

Applications for Education
Anytime that you can engage with more students and more parents, it's a good thing. This update to Remind's mobile apps will help teachers keep more parents informed about the good things happening in their classrooms.

Two Ways to Share Bundles of Links With Your Students

Trying to get all of your students to the same set of websites at the same time can be a frustrating experiences. Just a couple of mistyped characters can create a frustrating experience for everyone. One way to avoid this situation is to post all of your links on one course webpage or in a blog post. Another solution is to use a link bundling service that will group all of your links together into one package. Then instead of sending out a bunch of individual links you can just send one link that will open all of the bundled links for your students. Here are two services that you can use for just that purpose.

Bitly is one URL shortener that I have been using for years. It's simple to use, especially if you use the bookmarklet, allows you to customize URLs, and it offers good statistics about the use of your links. Bitly offers an option for bundling bookmarks into one package that you can share with just one link. Bitly bundles can be created collaboratively if you invite other Bitly users to bundle links with you. The nice thing about Bitly is that you can view how many times a link has been used. So if you have 25 students and the link has only been used 20 times, you know that at five students aren't where you need them to be.

LinkBunch is a free service that you can use to quickly send a group of links to your friends, colleagues, and students. To use the service just visit LinkBunch, enter the links that you want to share, and click "Bunch." When you click on "Bunch" you will be given a URL to share with anyone you want to see the links in your bunch. When someone clicks on the URL for your Bunch he or she will be able to open the links you bunched together.