Friday, January 25, 2008

Free Technology For Teachers: Has Much Changed?

I saw this video for the first time today. It is about education reforms in the 1940's. I wonder how much we have changed since the 1940's. In the 1940's there was a push toward more hands-on learning and teaching of skills. Have we changed much since the 1940's?

Free Technology For Teachers: Learning Through Online Games- Up To Ten

I heard about Up To through a comment posted on the Learning in Maine blog. Someone recommended Up To Ten as a good place to find educational games for kids. I would agree that Up To is a "good" website, but not great. There are a number of free educational games designed to build reasoning skills, but most of the better games are only available to the premium members. Up To Ten is a good site to visit if your students have gotten bored with the games on the educational game sites that I've previously recommended.

Applications for Educators
As the name implies Up To is designed for the under ten age group. The majority of the games are focused toward developing skills like recognizing patterns and coordination.

Free Technology For Teachers: Young Adult Fiction Book Reviews

Bookshelves of Doom is a blog dedicated to reviewing young adult fiction. Bookshelves of Doom is written by a self-described "uber-librarian" from Maine.

Application for Educators
Bookshelves of Doom is updated daily with new information about young adult fiction. Reading the book reviews on the website will provide the reader with a good idea of the stories most popular with young adult readers. Bookshelves of Doom is a useful website for finding interesting and current information about young adult fiction.
Disclaimer: I would hesitate to send students directly to the website because, while not offensive, some of the advertising on the website may not pass muster with all parents.

Free Technology For Teachers: Greenopolis- Green Education

Greenopolis is a website community designed to encourage environmentally responsible actions. The idea is to create a social network of people concerned about environmental issues. With the framework of the social network is a rewards system for green actions. Every green action earns you points toward green rewards in the form of products, certificates, or services.

Applications for Educators
Greenopolis is in the process of developing a green curriculum for elementary through high school students. Their education section is referred to as eGreenU. Greenopolis also has a "playground" section which has, in their words, "edu-taining" games to help people learn about the environment and green actions.

Free Technology For Teachers: Converting and Downloading Media is a free program useful for converting audio and video files into different formats. If you have ever found a video or audio file online and wanted to save it to your computer for later use, then Zamzar is for you.

Application for educators.
Zamzar is useful if you find audio or video files online that you would like to use in a classroom without having to rely on the speed of your internet connection.

Boolean Machine - Understanding Operator Words

Rockwell Schrock's Boolean Machine pictured on the left is a simple way of demonstrating how operator words (and, or, not) function in a search engine.

Application for Educators
Schrock's boolean machine is a simple way to show students how the terms "and", "or", "not" affect the outcome of a search. It is a simple program to use. To use the boolean machine simply hold your mouse pointer over each word and you will see an explanation of how each operator word affects the search outcome.

Free Technology For Teachers: Citizendium- A step above Wikipedia

The Citizendium is an improvement over Wikipedia. By now everyone has heard about Wikipedia's early struggles with unchecked and unreliable editing and contributions. Unfortunately, Wikipedia still suffers from that stigma. The Citizendium, which was started by one of theWikipedia founders, aims to create a free reliable online encyclopedia. Citizendium requires that authors and editors use their real names and submit a C.V. to prove their expertise on a topic. The Citizendium is in its infancy right now, only 5,000 articles, but those articles are reliable. Like Wikipedia, the Citizendium provides links to related topics and to cited sources.

Application for Educators
The Citizendium is a good online reference for everything that a typical encyclopedia would provide. The Citizendium's advantage over an encyclopedia found on a bookshelf is that the Citizendium is constantly evolving to account for new discoveries and developments. I feel comfortable directing students to the Citizendium as a general reference. The links provided within each general reference article are good and reliable for further study within a topic.

Free Technology For Teachers: Human Reviewed Search Engine

Mahalo is a relatively new type of search engine that should be of interest to educators and or anyone tired of getting irrelevant search engine results. A couple of weeks ago I wrote a review of Search the Tail and explained how it is a great search engine tool for educators and students (click here to see that review). Mahalo is similar in that it helps users refine search results through the use of a categorical search system. Mahalo users have the option of performing a general search or a search with a specific category (similar concept to the EBSCO search engine). My estimate is that Mahalo has at least 500 categories to pick from on its alphabetized list of categories. (Click here to see the categories list). The best feature of Mahalo is that every link returned on a search has been reviewed by a real person to authenticate the relevancy of links to the search term and to guarantee that the links provided are not spam, advertising only sites, pornographic, plagiarized, or of an unknown origin.

Application for Educators
As I mentioned above the concept of Mahalo's use of categories is similar to EBSCO. The advantages of Mahalo over EBSCO are that Mahalo is free and is much easier to navigate than EBSCO. As a high school teacher, every year I spend much more time than I would like trying to show students how to find results on EBSCO. Mahalo's concept is similar, but so much easier for the average student to navigate and find relevant results on. (I held a research race in my 9th grade class this morning to test this theory).
The other great feature and the focal point of Mahalo's purpose is the human reviewed aspect of the search engine. Being human reviewed means that Mahalo can ensure that links not relevant or appropriate for a high school setting are filtered out and not returned on a search.