Friday, April 11, 2008

Free Technology For Teachers: Wicked Decent Learning Live

Tonight, a nice group of super awesome teachers and bloggers got together via Skype to talk about the good things going on in technology integration and technology education. Jeff and Dan at Wicked Decent Learning put the whole thing together and will be releasing the hour long conversation as a podcast in the near future. If you've never listened to Wicked Decent Learning there's no time like now to start listening.

When you listen to the podcast of tonight's conversation, I'm the less than eloquent one that says "Yankees suck" toward the end of the show. The rest of conversation was great. One of the highlights of the conversation for me was Jim Burke talking about his work with a middle school on creating iMovies about World War One. Mark and Harold talked about their work using technology in non-traditional school settings which offered some insight as to the commonality of technology's role in education. Jen discussed not only her work in education, but also her upcoming work with medical professionals using web 2.0 applications.

Overall, the Wicked Decent Learning Live experience was great. If you're interested in learning more about the podcasts or possibly joining a Skype conference in the future (Jeff and Dan have made no promises of a future conference) check out the podcasts and visit the website.

Touch Typing Practice

Tux Type is a fun, open source, program designed to help young students learn touch typing skills. Students can a variety of games which increase in difficulty as a student's skills improve. Tux Type is available for Mac and PC.

If you're looking for something for older students and or a typing program that doesn't require software installation try the program from Sense Language. The program is web based, but is also available for use offline. The best feature of Sense Language's typing program is the option of creating your own typing activities or using the standardized lessons. Sense Language's typing program has useful timing options and audio feedback features to help students develop their typing skills.

Free Technology For Teachers: Twitter Does Belong in Education

Twitter is a great way to have interactive communication with a large or small group of people at once. (Follow me on Twitter) In the past I've presented ideas about using Twitter and Pownce as tools for collaborative writing. Briefly my idea was to use Twitter to start a creative writing story and have each student add a sentence to the story. Click here or here to read my previous thoughts about using microblogging application with students.

Today, Christopher Dawson who writes for ZDNet, has posted a great story about introducing his high school students to Twitter. You can read Dawson's full story here. In a nutshell, he introduced his physics class to Twitter and now the students are using it to collaborate and share ideas for a rocketry project.

Applications for Education
Twitter and other microblogging services are good tools for getting students to quickly share thoughts and ideas without the pressure to make things look good or sound good on the first attempt. Just the other day I had a conversation with a student who is very bright, but is refusing to participate in an upcoming mock debate in my 9th grade World Studies class because she doesn't want to "sound stupid". While using Twitter won't necessarily make that student participate in the debate, it will provide another avenue through which she can voice her thoughts. Perhaps I'll have this student Twitter her thoughts and ideas during the debate and react to comments. (From a pedagogical stand point I do recognize that this student needs to learn public speaking skills, but the point of this mock debate is more to get the students to think about a public policy issue than it is to teach public speaking).

For those of you concerned with online safety and having students create profiles, Youth Twitter is a good alternative to Twitter.

Here is a short explanation of Twitter.

Free Technology For Teachers: GeoGebra

GeoGebra and GeoGebra Wiki are great resources for high school math teachers. GeoGebra is free software that math teachers can use to create visualizations of mathematics concepts. GeoGebra software can be used to generate worksheets and problems to accompany visualizations of mathematics concepts. GeoGebra Wiki has a good collection of resources and ideas from other teachers using GeoGebra software.

GeoGebra has recently released version 3.o which allows users to customize their tool bar. The newest version of GeoGebra responds to key board commands or drag and drop commands using a mouse.

Applications for Education
GeoGebra is designed for use with
high school level math curriculum. GeoGebra incorporates Algebra, Calculus, and Geometry. Teachers can use GeoGebra to develop activities to use with students. I can also envision having students use the software to develop their own visualizations of mathematics concepts.

Below is an image from one visualization and activity that a teacher developed using GeoGebra.