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Monday, July 20, 2015

Now You Can Play Videos Within Your Diigo Groups

Diigo might not be as visually appealing as bookmarking sites like Pinterest, but in a lot of ways it is still an outstanding tool. One of the best features of Diigo, Diigo Groups, just got a couple of updates. First, you can now play YouTube and Vimeo videos directly within a group without opening a new tab or window. Second, you can now export the content (bookmarks) of a Diigo Group as a CSV or Excel file.

Applications for Education
If you're already using Diigo Groups to share resources with your students, you will probably enjoy the option for students to watch videos within a Diigo Group. You could have students use Diigo Groups to collaboratively create video playlists on topics that you're studying in class.

Short Lessons on the Origins of English

A few years ago Open University published a ten part video series on the history of the English language. Last week TED-Ed published a lesson titled Where Did English Come From? The TED-Ed lesson focuses on the evolution of language and similarities to other languages. The TED-Ed video is embedded below.


The History of English from Open University is embedded below. As with many Open University lessons you should screen them to judge their suitability for your high school students.

Three Registration-free Options for Collaboratively Taking Notes

Like many humanities teachers, I use a fair amount of group/ jigsaw reading activities. As a part of those activities I will ask students to share observations and questions with each other in-person as well as in an online document. Over the years I've had students use a variety of tools for sharing their notes with each other. These are the three that I tend to gravitate to right now.

TitanPad is a free tool that allows you to quickly create an online place to collaboratively create documents with one or more partners. You do not need to register in order to use the service. You can chat in real-time while creating a document. Every person contributing to the documents you build is assigned a highlight color so that you can easily track who wrote what in the document. In the video embedded below I provide a demonstration of how to use TitanPad.


If you work in a school that uses Google Apps for Education then you can have students sign-in and work on a document together to record observations and questions. But even if you don't have GAFE accounts for students you could still have them use Google Docs. As the teacher you can create a document and share it as "public, anyone with the link can edit." Insert a grid into the document and ask students to take notes within the grid. I have students put their names in the grid squares in which they write. When the activity is complete, switch the sharing setting back to "can view only."

MeetingWords is a free service that is quite similar to TitanPad. MeetingWords can be used for creating an online notepad and chat room. Through MeetingWords you can quickly create an online place to collaboratively create documents with one or more partners. You do not need to register in order to use the service. You can chat in real-time while creating a document. Every person contributing to the documents you build is assigned a highlight color so that you can easily track who wrote what in the document.

How to Create an Online Whiteboard Space

Sketchlot is a free collaborative whiteboard service that works on any device that will work on a Chromebook, iPad, Android tablet, or any computer connected to the web. 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.

In the video embedded below I provide a demonstration of how to create and manage a Sketchlot account.

5 Tools for Hosting Collaborative Brainstorming Sessions Online

Whether it is to solve a problem, plan a project, or develop new story ideas there are plenty of occasions in the course of a school year for students to brainstorm together. I still believe that nothing beats getting together in a room to swap ideas in person, but that's not always practical or possible. For those times when in-person brainstorming sessions are not possible, the following five tools offer a good way to host brainstorming sessions online.

Realtime Board is a platform for hosting online, collaborative brainstorming sessions. Realtime Board is built with HTML5 which means that it works equally well on your laptop and on your iPad or Android tablet. Realtime Board provides a blank canvas on which you can type, draw, and post pictures. You can connect elements on your boards through a simple linking tool. The boards that you create on Realtime Board can be shared publicly or privately. To help you communicate with your collaborators Realtime Board has a chat function built into every board. Realtime Board grants teachers and students access to all premium features for free. In order to get the premium features for free you do need to complete the form here.

Stoodle is an online whiteboard service supported in part by the CK-12 Foundation. Through Stoodle you can quickly create a collaborative whiteboard space. On your whiteboard you can type, draw, and upload images. You can connect Stoodle to your computer's microphone and talk your collaborators while drawing, typing, or sharing images. Stoodle does not require you to create an account. Stoodle will work in the web browser on your iPad or Android tablet. Watch the video below to learn how to create a Stoodle room.


Simple Surface is a browser-based tool for collaboratively creating 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.

iBrainstorm is a free brainstorming application for the iPad and the iPhone. The app allows you to record brainstorming sessions using a combination of free hand drawings and sticky notes. You can share and collaborate with other users of iBrainstorm. Sharing notes and drawings between users in a local setting is a simple matter of "flicking" an item to another user.

Last, but not least, Google Apps for Education provides a bunch of options for students to use to organize their thoughts. Students who prefer to illustrate their ideas can use Google Drawings to create a mind map then insert it into a Google Document. The commenting feature in Google Drawings and Documents makes it easy for team members to ask clarifying questions, make suggestions, and reply to questions and suggestions.