Tuesday, March 31, 2009

5 Fun, Interesting, and Educational Things on Twitter

The response to the Twitter finds that I've posted over the last few days has been very positive. As a couple of people have pointed out to me in emails, these links help them cut through some of the clutter that comes with following a lot of people on Twitter.

If you're new to Twitter and looking for other teachers to follow, take a look at the teacher section on We Follow. We Follow is a directory of Twitter users.

1. Earth Day Groceries Project from @mahlness

2. The Seating Plan Video from @noeljenkins

3. Recession Through the Eyes of Children from @quesea

4. Are Tweets Copyrighted? from @StacyBrice

5. Text to Speech: Hear What You Type from @RipTideF

PE Zone - Lesson Plans and More for PE Teachers

PE Zone is one of the better web resources for physical education teachers that I've found in quite a while. PE Zone offers teachers lesson plans, slideshows, videos, and podcasts for physical education teachers to use in their courses. The lessons are divided by activity and age group.

Applications for Education
PE Zone is a good resource for physical education and health teachers. PE Zone also offers a list of blogs and RSS feeds to help teachers find even more resources for physical education.

Here are a couple of related resources that may be of interest to you:
Learn to be Healthy - Lesson Plans
Winter Physical Education Activities

Interactive Numberline from Oxford University Press

The Oxford University Press has a neat and simple interactive numberline that young students can use to learn to locate numbers and sequence numbers. The numberline presents the student with a number to locate within a range. Once the correct range of numbers is selected, the student then has to select a smaller range in which to place the given number. This process goes on until the student has a range of less than five numbers. The image below demonstrates the numberline that I just completed.

The Oldies Come to Animoto's Music Library

Animoto is a great video creation service that I've written about numerous times in the past. Animoto was on the list of my 12 Favorite Resources of 2008. Recently, Animoto added 75 new music tracks, including some "oldies," to its collection. Users now have more choices than ever when creating their custom Animoto videos. And remember, Animoto for Education has special, free features just for teachers and students.

Applications for Education
Here is an idea for using Animoto in an English/ Literature course. To get students excited about studying and or writing poetry have them select a poem, record an audio track of the poem being read, then use that audio track as part of an Animoto poetry video. Alternatively, you may try simply having students select music and images that they feel captures the tone and message of a poem.

Another way to use Animoto is to have students collect images of the community they live in and put them into an Animoto show. Students should select images that they believe best represents their community. Then connect with another school willing to share Animoto movies about their local community. Connecting to another school could be accomplished through a general inquiry on Twitter or through a service like ePals.

Here are a few related resources that may be of interest to you:
Animoto for Education
Photo Peach - Quick and Easy Audio Slideshows

Links You Might Have Missed - Presentation Tools

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Zoho Writer Now Works Offline Too

I haven't written about Zoho Writer in quite a while because, truth be told, I use Google Docs for all of my document creation. For the record though, I prefer Zoho Show over Google Presentation and use Zoho Presentation to create and host most of my slideshows.

Yesterday, Zoho announced an improvement to Zoho Writer that allows users to work on their Zoho Writer documents without being online. Google Docs has had this option for a while so it was only a matter of time until Zoho Writer offered it too.

Applications for Education
Being able to use Zoho Writer and Google Docs offline allows students to write and edit then sync-up documents when they're back online. This is a particularly useful option for students who have laptops, but don't have Internet access at home or at any other place where they do school work without an Internet connection.

Here are some related articles about Zoho that may be of interest to you:
Zoho Docs - Chat and Edit at the Same Time
Sign In to Zoho With Google or Yahoo ID
Zoho Challenge - Online Test Creation

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My Message to One-to-One Naysayers

This morning Maine's largest newspaper, the Portland Press Herald, ran the headline Schools Feel Misled on Laptop Program. By noontime today there were 70 comments on the article. The vast majority of those comments were very critical of program, some were well reasoned, some were not. Most of the negative comments centered around the theme of the state wasting money. Usually, I try to stay out the fray when it comes to state politics, but is one topic that I had to speak up on. Below is my response to the 60+ comments critical of Maine's Laptop Initiative.

I applaud the state's effort to close the digital divide between the "have's" and "have not's" that exists between school districts statewide and countrywide.

Now is the time to invest in education, not after the economy recovers. If we have not prepared our students to compete globally by the time the economy recovers, they will be farther behind than they are now.

I completely understand the concerns of the general public and some school administrators and board members (note, I did not say teachers). And, yes, there is local cost involved in this program. Yes, this investment will require paying for the training of teachers and will require paying technicians to maintain the laptops. The difference is this investment has far more potential for return than paying unemployment benefits, welfare, food stamps, and all of the other assorted freebies the state gives away on a daily basis.

Finally, if you can watch all five minutes of this video and still think that the state is doing the wrong thing, then you need to adjust to the possibility that before too long your children and grandchildren could be the ones assembling consumer goods for India and China.

Does your school district or state have a one-to-one program? What was the initial public response? How does your community feel about the program now?

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Essay Map - Step by Step Help Constructing Essays

Essay Map is a handy tool from the folks at Read Write Think. Essay Map provides students with step by step guidance in the construction of an informational essay. Some of my students seem to struggle most with constructing an introduction and conclusion to their essays. Essay Map is particularly good for helping students visualize the steps needed to construct good introductory and conclusion paragraphs.

After students complete all of the steps in their Essay Map, they can print their essay outline. I have included a blank Essay Map outline in the image below.

Applications for Education
Essay Map is a convenient tool for anyone that teaches writing informational essays. Essay Map is probably too basic for most high school students, but it is definitely a good tool for middle school and elementary school students.

Here are some related resources that may be of interest to you:
Autobiographical Mapping
Imagination Prompt
Reflective Journal Forms

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Monday, March 30, 2009

5 Fun, Interesting, and Educational Things on Twitter

The feedback on my idea for sharing my five favorite Twitter finds of the day received very positive feedback so I will continue posting my favorite links. If you have a great find that you'd like me to post, please DM me on Twitter.

Before I list my favorite five, just a quick note about building a Twitter network. If you're new to Twitter, please fill out your profile. Many people won't follow you back if they see that your profile is blank. People like to know a little about the people they follow.

1. SMART Board Wiki from @icpjones

2. Microsoft to Give Free Software to HS Students from @ptraylor

3. Cartoon - Twitter in the Classroom from @centernetworks

4. Dear AIG, I Quit from @mikefj40

5. PowerPoint Hell: Don't Let This Happen to You from @slidemagnet

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The Breathing Earth - Interactive Map

Breathing Earth is an interactive map demonstrating CO2 emissions, birth rates, and death rates globally and by individual countries. From the moment that you first visit Breathing Earth it starts counting the number of births occurring worldwide. Placing your cursor over any country on the map reveals information about birthrate, death rate, and rate of CO2 emissions.

One of the additional resources linked to Breathing Earth is an ecological footprint calculator. Using this calculator students can calculate their personal footprints, take quizzes, and learn about the ecological footprints of various businesses.

Applications for Education
Breathing Earth is a good resource for students to explore to learn about which countries are the world's largest producers of CO2 emissions. Breathing Earth would also be a good website to keep running for an entire class period to show students how quickly the world's population changes. (In the time it took me to write this 7500 people were born).

Here are some related resources that may be of interest to you:
Interactive Timelines and Maps
GeoCommons Map Maker

Lite Type - A Multilingual Virtual Keyboard

Lite Type is a virtual keyboard that allows you type and search the web in your choice of 53 different languages. To use Lite Type select a language and begin typing. Lite Type displays a keyboard that shows you what each key on your computer's keyboard will generate. The keyboard key is displayed directly below the box in which your typed text appears.

If typing alone was all that Lite Type does, I wouldn't be writing about it. Lite Type has some other convenient features like integrated search for images, videos, and websites. Lite Type also has an integrated multilingual dictionary.

At first glance Lite Type displays a lot of advertising around the virtual keyboard and text box. Click the "remove ads" link and all of that advertising disappears.

Applications for Education
Lite Type could be a great resource for foreign language teachers and students. Lite Type removes the struggle of trying to figure out which keys do what when trying to type in a foreign language.

If you're looking for more foreign language resources you may want to look at this list of ten foreign language teaching resources.

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360 Degree View from the Peak of Mt. Everest

In the past I've shared some resources for teaching about Mt. Everest and the Himalaya. One of those resources even included a lesson plan for physical education teachers. This 360 degree interactive panoramic image taken from the peak of Mt. Everest is a nice complement to those resources. Using this panoramic image students can see what mountaineers see when they stand on the peak of Mt. Everest. The image includes views of the famous Khumbu valley as well as Everest's neighboring peaks Lhotse, Changtse, Makalu, and Nupste.

The host of this Everest panorama,, hosts dozens of other interactive panoramas from around the world. The list of interactive panoramas includes views of cultural festivals and tourist attractions. The database of US panoramic views includes the Grand Canyon, the Jefferson Memorial, and two dozen other panoramas.

Applications for Education provides a good resource for students explore as part of Geography or World Studies course. You may want to include some of the panoramas as part of web quest.

Here are a couple of related resources that may be of interest to you:
Exploring Mount Everest Lesson Plans
Climbing Kilimanjaro

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Brain Training Games from Mind 360

Mind 360 is a fun website that I learned about over the weekend on the Recess Duty blog. Mind 360 features at least eighteen free brain training games. The games range in difficulty and in task from simple matching games to more difficult logic and reasoning games. Mind 360 allows you to play the games individually or challenge another Mind 360 user to a game. If you play often, you can track your game scores and progress in your Mind 360 profile.

Applications for Education
Mind 360 could be a good website for students to use during a downtime in your class or during a study hall period. The games themselves might be difficult to build a lesson plan around, but the skills that students could develop while playing the games do have value.

Some related resources that may be of interest to you are:
Help Kidz Learn
Find Country Geography Games
Games for the Brain

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History Links You Might Have Missed

This is the eighth installment of the "Links You Might Have Missed" series. Today's installment includes ten history related resources that you may not have seen the first time they were posted. The previous installments of this series included resources for Math, Science, Geography, Language Arts, Foreign Languages, Digital Presentations, and Google Earth.

Scavenger Hunt Through History

TimeRime - Multimedia Timeline Builder

We Didn't Start the Fire

Teaching With Historical Maps

View Ancient Rome in Google Earth

Lewis and Clark Lesson Plans - Elementary School Through College

Three Great Timeline Builders

Calendars Through the Ages and Around the World

Art History via Flickr

Math + Egyptian History = Good Learning Activity

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

5 Fun, Interesting, and Educational Things on Twitter

I've written a lot about Twitter as a tool for personal and professional learning. The blog post Seven Ways to Find Teachers on Twitter is one of the most read posts ever on this blog. I read hundreds of tweets a day, many of those tweets share links that are interesting and educational, but don't quite fit with the intent of Free Technology for Teachers and therefore I don't blog about them.

This morning I had the idea to start saving some of those aforementioned links along with the name of the Twitter user who shared the link and post my favorite five tweets of the day. I'll post the link along with the name of the Twitter user. My intent is two fold, first to share interesting links and second to help people build their Twitter networks. (Out of respect for privacy, I will not share Twitter users who have protected their updates. Likewise, if your updates aren't protected but you still don't want me to link to your Twitter id, please contact me at richardbyrne at

I welcome feedback on this idea. If you think it's a good idea or if you think it's a rotten, terrible idea please let me know.

1. Nine Great Reasons Why Teachers Should Use Twitter from @mrslwalker

2. 360 Degree Views from the Peak of Mt. Everest from @misterlamb

3. Transforming Teaching In Plain English from @angelastockman

4. Smart Board Revolution Ning from @paulawhite

5. Thoreau Page

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Newspapers to Blogs - Blogging Through History

This morning the CBS Sunday Morning Show had a good, but long segment discussing the demise of the newspaper industry. Later in the show, they ran a shorter segment featuring the Fast Draw team making comparisons between developments in the history of newspapers to the current evolution of blogging and crowd-sourced news. The video draws a comparison between the development of steam powered printing presses making newspapers more plentiful at the end of the 19th century and the Internet making news websites and blogs plentiful today. The best part of the video is the visualizations at the end. If you have a two and a half minutes, the video is worth watching.

Watch CBS Videos Online

Applications for Education
There are a couple of items in the video that could be used in a history classroom. The video mentions the role Thomas Paine's and other pamphlet makers' roles in American Revolution. The video also mentions the role of improved printing presses and yellow journalism in the dissemination of news in US history.

The visualization at the end of the video makes it clear that the history of the news industry has a repeating pattern.

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The Planets in Orbit Visualized

When I was young, one of the fixtures of elementary school science was building a model of the solar system. I built one, my younger sister built one, and by the time my younger brothers went through school, I was a solar system model building expert.

Today, I found on the excellent Chalk Dust blog a link to a visualization of the planets in orbit. The visualization was created by Gunn Interactive. Using this interactive visualization tool students can see the different rates of orbit for all of the planets. Students can zoom in and zoom out to see more or less of the planets. Students can also adjust the speed of the orbits.

Applications for Education
This interactive visualization of the solar system is a great resource for elementary and middle school science classes. Students can see the differences in rate of orbit from planet to planet.

Here are some related resources that may be of interest to you:
A Tour of the Solar System
Star Child - Space Lessons for Young Astronomers
Amazing Space

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Just Watched "Shift Happens"... Again

I just watched an updated version of "Shift Happens." Earlier this month Maine announced that the one-to-one laptop program is expanding to include all high school students. I'm very excited about the expansion of the program. Unfortunately, it seems that not all teachers and administrators are as excited as I am. I've already heard rumblings that some schools are considering not participating in the program. Perhaps those teachers and administrators should watch "Shift Happens" too.

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BrainyFlix Vocab Contest - Voting Starts Tomorrow

BrainyFlix is a contest that asks students to create short videos demonstrating the meaning of SAT vocabulary words. All of the videos have been submitted and posted on the BrainyFlix website. Tomorrow, the voting begins on the BrainyFlix website. If you're looking for an educational online activity for your students, have them watch and vote on the vocabulary videos.

Applications for Education
Students across the country will soon be taking the SAT. Watching some BrainyFlix videos might not be a bad way for students to review vocabulary words.

A couple of related resources that may be on interest to you are:
EduFire SAT Flashcards
PrepHub - Collaborative Test Preparation

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Special Note for Email Subscribers

Yesterday, some subscribers to the email feed for Free Technology for Teachers may not have received updates due to a problem with FeedBurner (the service I use for email delivery). This appears to be just a glitch and you should now be getting emails from Free Technology for Teachers on the regular schedule again. I apologize for any inconvenience.

Weboword - Vocabulary Visualized

Weboword is a fun little website designed to help students learn new vocabulary words. Each of the vocabulary words on Weboword have cartoon drawings depicting the meaning of that word. Students are encouraged to submit their own drawings to Weboword. Weboword also offers crossword puzzles for students to try. Weboword appears to be a relatively new website, but the idea of the website is a good one. I hope that Weboword is able to get some traction and become a larger depot of vocabulary words and activities.

Applications for Education
The idea of having students create drawings to depict the meaning of a vocabulary word is a good one. You can use the Weboword concept with any collection of vocabulary words that you may have. The words that are currently featured on Weboword are probably best suited to use in a middle school or high school setting.

A couple of related resources that may be on interest to you are:
Save the Words
Brainy Flix
Free Rice

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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Free Summer Bowling for Kids

Here's something to pass along to students and parents who are looking for something to do when school ends this spring, free bowling. Kids Bowl Free is a program being run in bowling alleys across the United States. Use the map on the Kids Bowl Free homepage to find a participating bowling alley near you.

Thanks to Fred Delventhal's blog for the link.

Applications for Education
Kids Bowl Free is the type of non-academic information that I like to pass along to parents at parent-teacher conferences. It's also worth linking to your class blog or class website.

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Foreign Language, ESL Resources You Might Have Missed

This is part seven of my "Links You Might Have Missed" series. The previous installments of this series included links in the categories of Math, Science, Language Arts, Geography, Google Earth, and Digital Presentation. Today's installment features resources for teaching foreign languages and resources for ESL/EFL teachers. After reading this list, please visit Larry Ferlazzo's website as he specializes in finding resources appropriate for ESL/EFL students.

Teaching Spanish - Resources and Lesson Plans

2Lingual - The Bilingual Search Engine

Learn Spanish - Lingus TV

Language Exchange Community

Quia Web


We Are Little Amigos

Digital Dialects

Woices - Foreign Language Podcasts Around the World

Nice Translator

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EyePlorer - Visualize Wikipedia and Collect Notes

EyePlorer is an interesting use of Wikipedia that I learned about from Paul Hamilton's excellent blog. EyePlorer is a reference search engine that takes your original search term then displays related terms in a circle around your original search term. Clicking on each related term reveals more information from Wikipedia about that term. If the information is something that you want to save for later use, you can drag the information onto your EyePlorer notebook. The screen capture below is from my EyePlorer search using the term "fishing."

Applications for Education
EyePlorer is a great way for students to see the importance of refining search terms. A broad topic will crowd the EyePlorer circle with related topics. A more specific search term will yield fewer related topic links. If a student is struggling to narrow a research topic, EyePlorer provides suggestions in the form of related topics. The EyePlorer notebook makes it easy for students to keep a record of the information they've found.

When you first visit EyePlorer you may notice that the sidebar comments are in German (at least I think it's German), but don't be turned away, the site functions completely in English.

Here are some related Wikipedia mashups that may be of interest to you:
Visual Wikipedia

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Friday, March 27, 2009

Week in Review - Most Popular Items

It has been another great week of learning about and sharing free web-based resources for education. According to FeedBurner, Free Technology for Teachers now has more than 5000 subscribers. This represents a huge increase in subscribers in the month of March. Thank you to everyone that has helped to spread the word about Free Technology for Teachers by sharing a link or telling a friend about the blog. A big welcome to everyone who has recently subscribed.

Here are the most popular posts of the last seven days.
1. Math Links You Might Have Missed
2. Geography Links You Might Have Missed
3. Open Chemistry - Free Content for Teaching Chemistry
4. Links You Might Have Missed - Presentation Tools
5. Same Content, Different Presentation
6. Create and Share Games on Sharendipity
7. Quietube - No Nonsense YouTube Viewing

If you found any or all of the above links useful, please consider susbscribing to Free Technology for Teachers. You can subscribe to the RSS feed here or subscribe to the daily email feed here.

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Flat World Knowledge Provides Free Textbooks

Flat World Knowledge has the potential to be a real money-saver for college students and possibly for high schools. Flat World Knowledge provides free textbooks created by experts in various academic fields. A quick look at the "find my class" section of Flat World Knowledge reveals that these textbooks are already being used in few dozen colleges across the United States. In all there are thirty-one books divided amongst eight library categories. More books are in development.

The video embedded below provides a good overview of Flat World Knowledge.

A related resource that may be of interest to you is:
Planet eBook

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Intro to HTML with Tumblr

A couple of nights ago I was looking Tumblr again as a platform for introducing some teachers and their students to blogging. I'm also thinking about starting a Tumblr blog to share some of the things I've learned about blogging in the last two years, more on that in the future.

As I have written in the past, Tumblr provides one of the fastest and easiest ways to get started blogging. I've always liked Tumblr because of its easy-to-use user interface as well as its clean and simple design themes. While I was browsing the standard Tumblr themes I noticed, for the first time, that they offer directions for creating a custom theme in html. So now if the selection of pre-made Tumblr themes doesn't provide what you want, you can create your own custom theme. If you've never done any work in html, Tumblr provides clear descriptions of what different tags will do to your theme. It's not a complete tutorial in html, but it is clear and in-depth enough for it's intended purpose of helping you create a custom theme for your blog.

Applications for Education
If you have students interested in learning how to develop custom blog themes, Tumblr might be a good place for them to start. Not only do they get to learn some basic html skills, they can see and share with the world the results of what they've learned.

If you're looking for more formal html tutorials you may want to try w3schools or html Cod Tutorial.

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Making Teachers Nerdy

Making Teachers Nerdy is a blog that I've recently started reading. Each entry is well thought out, and definitely worth taking the time to read. It is updated once a week. The most recent entry contains a fantastic list of live webcam feeds that can be used in creating visual field trips.

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Grammar Bytes - Develop and Test Grammar Knowledge

Grammar Bytes is a great website for Language Arts teachers. Grammar Bytes offers teachers and students a glossary of terms, handouts, interactive exercises, and slide show presentations. There are eighteen slide show presentations available for free download from Grammar Bytes. Each slide show is accompanied by a handout for students to complete as they view each presentation.

The interactive activities on Grammar Bytes require students to do more than memorize the rules of grammar. The Grammar Bytes interactive activities require students to read sentences and identify errors. In some of the activities students have to correct errors in a sentence. Each interactive activity is accompanied by a handout on which students can record their scores and measure their progress.

Applications for Education
The design and content of Grammar Bytes makes it a good resource for students and teachers. If I was responsible for teaching grammar I would use Grammar Bytes by having the students do the interactive activities independently. Then I would collect their results sheets to select the slide show that I would use in the next day's class.

Here are some related resources that may be of interest to you:
Writing Fix
The Story Starter
Three Reflective Journal Forms

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Language Arts Links You Might Have Missed

This is the sixth installment of my "Links You Might Have Missed" series. This set of links features Language Arts resources. The previous installments of this series featured links to resources in the areas of Math, Science, Geography, Digital Presentations, and Google Earth.

Two Sources of Writing Prompts

Three Reflective Journal Forms

The Imagination Prompt Generator

Writing Fix - Writing Prompts

Creative Writing Help

Hemingway Animated

The Grapes of Wrath - Free Full Length Movie

Save the Words, Adopt a Word

Ten Resources for Preventing and Detecting Plagiarism

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Google Docs Adds Drawings and Shapes

It's official, Google Docs now does everything that I need a document creation program to do. Last night Google announced that you can now insert drawings and shapes into your Google Docs documents. You can create free-hand drawings, use pre-defined shapes and templates, or use a combination of both inside of one document. For the last year I've been creating 90% of my documents on Google Docs. The other 10% were created using Open Office because I needed to be able to insert boxes and circles as I created graphic organizers for my students. Now that I can use Google Docs for those tasks, I can't see myself using anything but Google Docs for document creation.

To use the new drawing options, select "drawing" from the "insert" menu in your Google Docs document editor. I have included some screen captures below to show the new drawing options.

The drawing tool in action.

Drawings inserted into document.

Applications for Education
I was already a huge proponent of using Google Docs in the classroom, now I'm even more convinced that it is the best option for document creation. Students can access their documents from any Internet-connected computer and share them with you at any time. Google Docs completely eliminates the "my printer's broken" or "I forgot it" excuses for not getting assignments done.

The drawing features in Google Docs now makes it possible for teachers to create graphic organizers and other worksheets in Google Docs. The drawing features could even be used to create mathematics worksheets. For example, students could measure the angle in my drawing above.

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