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Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Month In Review - The Most Popular Posts

Last sunset of April, 2015
Good evening from Woodstock, Maine where the sun has just set on the last day of April. I hope that the month was a good one for you. And as we gear up for the end of the school year, I hope that May treats you well too.

As I do at the end of every month I have put together a list of the posts that received the most views during the previous thirty days. Doing this gives me a chance to reflect on the topics that appeal to the most people. It also gives you a chance to see if there are any new things that you might have missed during the month.

These were the most popular posts in April, 2015:
1. 5 Tools for Creating Multimedia Quizzes - A Comparison Chart
2. 124 Recordings of Famous Poets Reading Some of Their Poems
3. A Handful of Tools That Help Students Analyze Their Own Writing
4. Analyze My Writing - Way More Than Word Clouds
5. Tools for Creating Animations in Your Browser or On Your Tablet
6. How to Use Handwriting in Google Documents
7. Create a Simple Check-out/ Check-in System With Google Forms
8. Parapara Animation - Create Stopmotion Animations in Your Browser
9. Send Your Students on a QR Code Treasure Hunt
10. Google Classroom Now Supports Teacher Collaboration and Announcement Drafts

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
BoomWriter provides a fantastic tool for creating writing lessons. 
Storyboard That is my go-to tool for creating storyboards and cartoon stories.
MidWest Teachers Institute offers online graduate courses for teachers.
HelloTalk is a mobile community for learning a new language.
Discovery Education & Wilkes University offer online courses for earning Master's degrees in Instructional Media.
PrepFactory offers a great place for students to prepare for SAT and ACT tests.
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 host workshops in six cities in the U.S. in the summer.
SeeSaw is a great iPad app for creating digital portfolios.

ContextU Provides Good Review Material for AP US History Exam

Earlier this week Ken Halla who runs the US History Teachers Blog sent me a note to remind me about ContextU as a source of review materials for students taking the AP US History exam. ContextU provides students with overviews of six eras in US history from Revolution through the Gilded Age.

Within each era overview on ContextU students will find a hyperlinked table of contents from which the can jump to an event, person, or theme to see it in the context of other events and themes. Through timelines, Google Maps, diagrams, flow charts, and text ContextU provides context for each chosen event, piece of legislation, or theme. Students can jump from event to event or from theme to theme by following the hyperlinks within each diagram.

Applications for Education
The advantage of using ContextU over a textbook to review is found in the ease with which students can see how an event fits into the larger context of the causes of events in U.S. History.

Pros and Cons of Emailing School Announcements

On Tuesday I evaluated the pros and cons of using social media for school announcements. Yesterday, I did the same for text messaging school announcements. Today, let's take a look at the pros and cons of using good old fashioned email for distributing school and classroom announcements.

Pros of using email for school announcements:
  1. There is essentially no limit to the amount of text and information you can pack into one email. 
  2. Easy to attach forms and or link to a Google Form in an email. This is helpful when you need to distribute things like permission slips. 
  3. Your school probably has a database of every parent's or guardian's email address. This makes it easy to add email addresses to mailing lists. 
  4. Most parents are familiar with how email works. The same cannot be said for social networks. 
  5. It is easy for parents and students to quickly reply to messages if they need to ask follow-up questions. 
  6. Many relatively inexpensive services are available to help you format and schedule email newsletter distribution. Alternatively, you can use spreadsheet scripts like this one can be used to schedule email distribution. 
Cons of using email for school school announcements:
  1. Not ideal for urgent announcements like school closings as people don't always check their inboxes regularly even if they have notifications on their smartphones. 
  2. Email is easy to ignore. 
  3. Some email services may flag your message as spam if it is sent to hundreds of people at once. You will have to encourage parents to whitelist your school's email domain. 
  4. Must remember to use BCC not CC when manually sending a message to a mailing list. Otherwise you expose all the email addresses to everyone on the list. And don't forget that not everyone knows not to use "reply all" when replying. 
  5. While occasionally a long email is necessary, long emails are skimmed and or ignored. You must resist the temptation to be long-winded in announcements. 
  6. As with all forms of digital communication we need to be cognizant of families in our school communities that don't have reliable access to the Internet. 
What do you see as the pros and cons of using email for school announcements? Let me know on Twitter

Turn Your Mind Maps Into Presentations With LucidChart's New Presentation Mode

Lucidchart is a good tool for creating flowcharts, mind maps, and graphic organizers. I've been recommending it for a couple of years because it can be added to Google Apps for Education accounts at no cost.

This week LucidChart introduced a new presentation mode that enables you to turn your diagrams into slide presentations. When you enable the presentation mode you can select elements in your diagram to become individual slides. You can re-size each element to make it fit your slides the way that you see best. When you're ready to present just click the presentation button and you can flip through the slides just like you would in PowerPoint, Google Slides, or Keynote. Watch the video below for a demonstration and you'll notice there's a little bit of Prezi elment to LucidChart's presentation mode too.


Applications for Education
LucidChart has always been a good tool for high school and college students to use to organize ideas around a key concept. The presentation mode will make it easy to take those ideas and flip them into an organized presentation.

Presentation mode is a premium feature of LucidChart. But remember that K-12 teachers and students get the premium features for free when they apply for a LucidChart education account.

Explore History Through Project Writer

Disclosure: BoomWriter is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

When BoomWriter started out it was simple platform for collaboratively creating fiction stories. Over the last couple of years it has steadily grown by adding WordWriter and ProjectWriter into the mix.

WordWriter is a BoomWriter service through which students practice using vocabulary words in context. ProjectWriter is a service through which students can collaboratively write reports while using vocabulary terms and dates that you have assigned to them. The benefit of using ProjectWriter for this process is that you get to see each student's contributions to the project in your teacher dashboard. You can give feedback to students individually or you can give feedback to the whole group.

Applications for Education
One the ways ProjectWriter could be used in a history class is to have students collaborate on the creation of a biography. For example, students could collaborate on the creation of a biography of George Washington. Create the project and assign students to write about the beginning, middle, and end years of Washington's. In the vocabulary list for the project you can include dates that you want students to mention, names of battles, and terms related to legislation that Washington signed as President.

Check out the ProjectWriter history page for more ideas about using ProjectWriter in social studies lessons.