Monday, November 24, 2008

Keyboardr - Google Search Made Easier and Faster

Keyboardr is a new Internet search tool with predictive text that puts Google, Google Images, Wikipedia, and YouTube search all on one page.

As you type in a search term, results matching the letter or word you type appear. For example, when I searched the term Thanksgiving search results began to appear as soon as I typed the letter "t" and continuously changed until I had fully typed "Thanksgiving."

One unique aspect of Keyboardr is that users can navigate the search results page and open links with a keyboard's arrow keys and the enter key.

Below are two screen captures of the results page.

Applications for Education
Keyboardr is an interesting concept and could be a good search engine page as it puts four types of search results on one page. Keyboardr could also be a useful search engine for students who have trouble navigating a search engine with mouse.

My Punch Bowl - Free Customizable E-Cards

Last week I wrote a short blog post about Google Docs offering holiday themed templates for creating greeting cards. Today, I was reminded, by Center Networks, of a free, high quality e-card service called My Punch Bowl. I've personally used My Punch Bowl in the past year to send cards when I've forgotten a birthday. I like My Punch Bowl because you can customize so much more than just the message that accompanies the card you send. You can include your own pictures in the cards you send as well as use your own font style.

Applications for Education
I remember when I was in the fifth grade my teacher, Mrs. Zahowski, made us all write create greeting cards in which we had to include a letter to a family member. At the time I thought it was kind of hokey, but 20+ years later I now realize that she did that as method of teaching us letter writing skills and formatting. Using My Punch Bowl is a 21st Century method of using the same lesson that Mrs. Zahowski taught me, but without the scissors and glue sticks.

University Parent Connection - College Planning Advice for Parents

The University Parent Connection is a relatively new website offering advice to parents of college students and college-bound students. University Parent provides advice about all of the typical concerns that parents have as their children prepare for college. In addition to advice about college planning, financing, and admissions University Parent provides online guides to specific colleges and universities. University Parent plans to have a parent community discussion forum in the near future. The discussion forum could be a good place for parents to share experiences and learn from each other.

After checking out the University Parent Connection, you may also want to give these college planning resources a look:
Ask About College
Green Note - Micro Student Loans
Freshman Fund
My College Calendar

My College Calendar Helps Students Organize Applications

My College Calendar is a website that I discovered when they started following me on Twitter. My College Calendar helps students organize their college applications. Students select the names of the colleges to which they are applying then My College Calendar generates a color-coded calendar with important due dates for the application procedure at each college. See the screen images below for an example of this.

Also on My College Calendar students will find advice regarding the logistics of going away to college and living on campus. My College Calendar provides advice about finding a part-time job, establishing a bank account, managing phone bills, planning travel, and other important non-academic tasks that are fundamental to going away to college.

Google Lit Trips - The Greatest Road Trip Stories

Google Lit Trips is a website dedicated to a concept that I've written about in the past, placing story lines into a Google Earth tour. Google Lit Trips is a great source of user generated Google Earth content. The purpose of Google Lit Trips is to share KMZ files based on a book's story line. For example, Google Lit Trips has a Google Earth tour based on the places mentioned in the book My Brother Sam is Dead.

Applications for Education
Google Lit Trips has something for every grade level K-12 and post secondary. Google Lit Trips is a great way to provide geographic context for the stories that students read in your classroom. Having students create a Google Lit Trip of their own could be a good way to assess their understanding of a book's storyline.

It's Time to Play - An Interview With The Toy Guy

On Saturday afternoon I had the opportunity to interview The Toy Guy, Christopher Byrne, about his recommendations to people looking to purchase educational toys for the children in their lives. Christopher Byrne has worked in the toy industry for more than 25 years. As The Toy Guy, Chris regularly appears on the national news networks, Regis and Kelly, Oprah, and in print publications sharing toy recommendations. Chris is also the director of content for Time To Play Magazine. No post on Free Technology for Teachers is complete without the mention of something that is free, therefore the "free" in this blog post is my recommendation to visit Time To Play Magazine where you can register to win free toys in their daily drawings.

I started the conversation with Chris by asking him about his thoughts on the role of toys and games in education. Chris, not a teacher although the son of two teachers, said two things that educators will appreciate. Chris said that "any play is educational" and "kids learn when they play." These thoughts guided the rest of our conversation. Our conversation and Chris' recommendations can really be split into two categories; toys for developing literacy and toys for promoting creativity. The part of the interview that I'm posting today focuses on toys that develop literacy. On Wednesday, I'll share Chris' recommendations for items that promote creativity.

One of the first educational toys that Chris recommends is the The Tag Reading System from Leap Frog. The Tag is designed to help kids learn reading and spelling skills while having fun in a video game style. Chris recommends The Tag because it's a great way for kids to "develop reading skills when parents can't be there to read to their kids." The Toy Guy loves toys, but stresses that parents reading to their children is much more effective than a toy. That said, another feature of The Tag is the built in option for parents to track their child's progress online at the Leap Frog website.

Another toy that Chris recommends to those looking for toys that can help develop reading and writing skills is the V-Tech V Smile Cyber Pocket. The V-Tech Cyber Pocket is a hand-held gaming device that offers a variety of overlays including writing overlays. V Tech offers a number of other great educational games and toys for children as young as nine months through age eight.

When I asked Chris what he recommends to parents who don't have much to spend, but wanted to buy educational toys for their children this holiday season. I gave Chris a budget of $35 with which to purchase two items. His recommendation was any book that parents can read to their child to instill a love of reading in their child. Chris also recommended interactive books from Publications International. When recommending the interactive books from Publications International Chris again mentioned the idea of interactive books and toys being valuable for helping kids learning and discovering on their own.

Those are the items that The Toy Guy shared with me as his picks for toys that can help develop literacy. For more toy recommendations for the season check out Time To Play Magazine where you can read reviews, ask questions, and enter into daily drawings for free toys. On Wednesday, I'll post The Toy Guy's recommendations for toys that promote creativity. Chris says, "it's important for kids to control the learning experience" therefore his recommendations put kids in the driver's seat of learning.

Disclaimer: In addition to being a recognized expert in the toy industry The Toy Guy, Christopher Byrne, is my uncle.