Monday, April 7, 2008

Free Technology For Teachers: Dr. Seuss Lesson Plans

As a kid I loved Dr. Seuss and as an adult I still love Dr. Seuss. Today, via Wesley Fryer's blog, I discovered a wiki about Dr. Seuss lesson plans. The wiki was just started a couple of weeks ago, but already has some great ideas included in it. If you're an elementary school teacher the Dr. Seuss Lessons wiki is a good place to get and share lesson plan ideas.

Here is a short list of some additional Dr. Seuss Lesson plan ideas.
1. Dr. Seuss "at hat."
2. The Cat in The Hat - manipulative lessons.
3. The Lorax - economics lesson.
4. One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish - phonics lesson.

Free Technology For Teachers: AbiWord - Why Didn't I Use This Earlier?

I do know why I didn't use AbiWord earlier, sometimes I can be a stick in the mud. AbiWord is a light and fast open source word processing program. AbiWord does word processing and word processing only which allows it to run faster with fewer hiccups than Neo Office or Open Office (I'm a die hard user of both). Neo Office and Open Office also do word processing but they take a long time to launch because of all of the other programs included in the Neo Office suite. I have been slow to switch to AbiWord because I didn't want to install a program that couldn't also create spreadsheets or presentations.

This weekend I was convinced to give AbiWord another try. The convincing argument was, "you don't need to have a presentation tool installed because the best presentation tools are online." The argument made sense when I considered that I can count on one hand the number of times I've used Neo Office Presentation or Key Note in the last year and I make a lot of presentations. All Neo Office is doing if I install Abiword is taking up space and speed. So tonight I'm taking the plunge and uninstalling Neo Office on one of my laptops. AbiWord, here I come!

Here's a short list of AbiWord's features.
1. works on Mac, PC, and Linux.
2. has all of the reading capabilities of Open Office/ Neo Office.
3. layout and formatting options are very similar to MS and Open Office.
4. plug-in options allow for use on older machines.

Applications for Education
AbiWord, like all open source software, saves schools money. Districts do not have to pay licensing fees to use AbiWord. For those of you unaware of how much licensing fees cost consider this, some school districts do not pay their new teachers as much as they pay Microsoft in licensing fees.

Free Technology For Teachers: Scrapblog - Another Good Tool for Online Presentations

Scrapblog takes the idea of scrap-booking or collage making and puts it online in an easy to use format. Scrapblog allows users to incorporate pictures and videos as a part of a scrapblog. Scrapblog works with Flickr, Picasa, Photobucket, and other image hosting services. Scrapblogs can be created without having to create an account to get started. With a lot of online applications the registration process can be time consuming with students. Eliminating that step allows students to start their creation quickly.

Applications for Education
Scrapblog is a nice alternative to standard slide shows or collages. The transitions and page turning features allow Scrapblog to be used like a slide show or be used as a stand alone project to include in a class blog or website.

Below is a short introduction to Scrapblog.

Free Technology For Teachers: Google For Educators Tutorial

Google Apps is a great suite of free online applications for educators. Kevin Jarrett, a teacher in New Jersey, has put together a fantastic website to compliment his workshop about using Google Apps for education. Kevin offers some great ideas and insights that might not be obvious to the average Google Apps user. For example, Kevin tells readers to upgrade to Google Earth Pro because the pro version is free for educators and offers more features. Click on the image above or click here to visit Mr. Jarrett's website.

Free Technology For Teachers: Google Maps - Torch Relay

Google Maps has added an Olympic Torch Relay Map. For every city that the torch visits there is a pop-up window displaying a short summary of information about that city. The map is embedded below.

Applications for Education
The Olympic Torch Map provides a good stimulus for discussion about the relationship between politics and the Olympic Games. The Torch Map could be the basis for a research assignment about the various cities the Olympic Torch visits.

Free Technology For Teachers: FOSS VT Summary

As most readers know, I spent Friday at the Free and Open Source Software for Education conference in Vermont (FOSS VT). I Twittered a number of observations throughout the morning and afternoon session until the Internet connection got bogged down with too much traffic. You can read my Twitter stream from the conference here. I attended three presentations at FOSS VT, all three of them were valuable to classroom teachers and technology integrators. FOSS VT also had a number of presentations designed for systems managers which I did not attend, but I did hear great things at lunch about those presentations.

Three great tips shared at FOSS VT about getting teachers to try new technology.
1. "Avoid the trumpet." If you make a big presentation or loud announcement to your entire staff that you're implementing something new, you're going to meet resistance. Instead of making a major announcement, quietly implement a change, the average teacher will not notice unless you tell them. This is especially true when switching from Windows to Linux terminals.

2. If you have new software/ new computers/ new web application that you want teachers to use, don't offer it up until you can actually provide it. Making an offer of something new might get some people excited to try new technologies, but if they have to wait two months to get their hands on it you'll have lost most of the initial excitement and momentum.

3. Let teachers know that the students can help. Today's students are digital natives and fearless when it comes to technology. They are not afraid to push a button just to see what it does. Create a student technology ambassador team to help teachers learn new technology. Your student technology ambassadors could be a club activity or part of a technology class.

There is going to be a multi-day FOSS conference in Maine at the end of June. If you're interested in learning more about it visit the FOSSED website. If the multi-day event is as good as the one day event, it will definitely be worth your time.