Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Free Technology For Teachers: Students Leading The Way in ...

This light hearted video can be interpreted many ways, but one thing is clear, today's youth will be leading. The pyramid in the video could symbolize the speed with which information travels over the Internet. The video also demonstrates how connected we are and the networks we build over the Internet. Connections throughout the world via Internet is something I have understood intellectually for years, but when I started blogging and getting feedback from readers in Brazil, Australia, Japan, and Scotland then I really understood how connected we are.

Enjoy the video and take note of the publisher of the video. Noting the publisher will give you a preview of a topic coming up tomorrow.

Leo's Song from impactist on Vimeo.

KidZui - "V-Chip" for the Internet

I'm going to make a one time only exception to my policy of only sharing free resources because this resource is so important that I have to make an exception. KidZui is a safe search engine and web browser for kids that has been reviewed by over two hundred teachers and parents. KidZui works in the opposite manner of typical safe search engines. Rather than blocking inappropriate content from search results KidZui only searches and shows links from approved websites. The idea is similar to Mahalo's human powered search engine that physically reviews every website. KidZui has a pool of 500,000 approved websites that their search engine returns. KidZui gives parents the option of easily blocking additional websites or allowing additional websites. In this manner it is similar to channel locks on a television. KidZui appears to be great, but the service is not free its monthly cost is $9.95. For many parents this is a small price to pay for peace of mind while their children are online.

Free Technology For Teachers: Science Experiments and Videos

Robert Krampf is a science educator based in Florida. Mr. Krampf travels the country giving upbeat presentations about a range of science topics appropriate for students at many grade levels. On his website, Mr. Krampf features videos of experiments and demonstrations that students and teachers can do. Each video is accompanied by a list of resources needed to perform each experiment or demonstration.

In the video below Mr. Krampf demonstrates the effects of gravity on different planets.

Empressr - Web Based Presentation Creation

Empressr is a fully functional, high quality, online slide show presentation creation program. Empressr does many of the things and more that the Zoho, Google, and Slide Share presentation tools do. Empressr has a couple of features that grabbed my attention today. The first feature that grabbed my attention was the option of embedding video (both static and streaming) into your slide show. Empressr's editor feature allows users to draw, create, or edit images inside your slides. Finally, the feature I like best about Empressr is the ease with which you can share or embed a slide show compared to other online presentation creation programs.

Here is an Empressr slide show about technology integration.

Applications for Educators
Empressr and similar web based presentation creation programs are a great alternative to proprietary software like Power Point or Key Note. Empressr not only offers many more features than Power Point and Key Note, but it is also free and operates on any Internet connected computer. The ease with which video and audio can be added to an Empressr slide show is sure to impress your students and make their presentations more impressive. (And if you're still using basic Power Point, please try something new from this century).

The web based element of Empressr is very useful for students that need to make visual aids for presentations, but do not have a computer of their own to use all the time. Students can work on their presentations from any computer connected to the Internet.

Free Technology For Teachers: My Rocket Book - Visual Depictions of Classic Books

My Rocket Book is a new website offering many animated short videos summarizing each chapter of classic literature. It some ways My Rocket Book is like Cliff Notes made into short animated videos. Each video synopsis is about three minutes in length making the videos a nice supplement to reading the book. In addition to video summaries there is a video quiz for every few chapters of each book. The My Rocket Book website also has a wiki of study guides accompanying each book.

The image below is linked to a video summarizing the first two chapters of The Scarlet Letter.

Applications for Educators
My Rocket Book will make a nice study aid for students. The videos are short and to the point and the study guides hit most of typical main points of each book. Just like with Cliff Notes or Spark Notes some students will try to get by on just using the summaries instead of actually reading. I prefer to focus on the positive aspects of sharing My Rocket Book with students rather than worry about those few who will try to get by without reading. My Rocket Book will make the stories and ideas of classic literature more accessible to more students.

Free Technology For Teachers: Learn Chinese

One of the biggest challenges for English speakers trying to learn Chinese is the stark contrast between English letters and Chinese characters. Step Into Chinese, a free program produced by Asymptopia Software, is designed to help students learn Chinese. Step Into Chinese provides translation of common phrases into Chinese characters. Flashcards and color coded text and images are two useful features for helping students learn Chinese. Step Into Chinese can be used by students just beginning to learn the written language of Chinese or be used by advanced learners. Step Into Chinese has tools for learning just one word or character at a time and tools for learning long phrases.

One of the really nice features of the flashcard mode on Step Into Chinese is the option of "locking into" a word or phrase. The "lock in" mode replays the Chinese and English translations of a common word or phrase for as long as you like. Using the "lock in" feature is a nice option to have if you're struggling with a particular word or phrase.

Below is a screen shot from the Step Into Chinese software tutorial.

Step Into Chinese is available for download for Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems.

Visual Geography

Visual Geography is a nice resource for K-12 Social Studies teachers. Visual Geography provides images and information sorted by continent, country, and geographic theme. Visual Geography offers geography quizzes associated with each continent and country. The quizzes are available in four levels from "image only" through "advanced." Visual Geography also offers a nice comparison feature that students can use to compare information about different continents and countries.

Applications for Educators
Visual Geography provides teachers with a resource incorporating information with images. Visual Geography provides simple discussion starters for Geography classes at many grade levels. Here's an example of one way to use Visual Geography to start a conversation with a class, select an image from one of the continents and have students identify the geographic and cultural traits present in the image.