Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Web Runs on Kindness

In this TED Talk Jonathan Zittrain provides a humorous and informative talk about how the Internet works. Zittrain's premise is the Internet relies on random acts of kindness by "geeky strangers." In the talk, Zittrain compares the passing of data packets through the Internet to the passing of a beer from one person to the next at a baseball game. Zittrain also points to Craigslist's ride share board and Couch Surfing as examples of kindness on the Internet. The video is embedded below, but I encourage you to also visit the TED page that this video came from to read the discussion that follows in the comments.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Every TED Talk Ever Online
The Birth of Wikipedia
Teaching With TED Talks

Friday, October 30, 2009

Cool Food Kidz Teaches Kids About Diet & Fitness

Cool Food Kidz is a kid-friendly website about nutrition, exercise, and general health. Cool Food Kidz provides easy-to-read lists of things they can do to take care of their health. For example, there is a list of "building healthy habits" tips which walks kids through ten basic things they can do to keep themselves healthy. Cool Food Kidz also provides students with tips for dental health and tips for keeping their brains sharp. The tips for eating out section offers advice to students on picking a healthy lunch and healthy snack foods.

Applications for Education
Cool Food Kidz could be a good resource for elementary and middle school health teachers.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
10 Good Videos About Flu Prevention

Food Play - Resources About Food and Diet
Sugar Stacks - How Much Sugar is in Your Snack?

Week In Review - The Most Popular Items

It's Friday and that means it's time for another Free Technology for Teachers week in review. As I do each Friday, I've compiled a list of seven most popular items of the last week. If you've been busy and not able to keep up with your RSS reader or email, the week in review provides a good chance to catch up on the posts that were most popular with other readers.

Here are the seven most popular items of the last seven days:
1. Zero Interesting Ways to Use Audio In the Classroom?
2. 20 Ways to Use Comics In Your Classroom
3. Beyond Google - Improve Your Search Results (free ebooklet)
4. Every Stock Photo - Search Free Photos
5. TED Talk - Don't Eat the Marshmallow
6. Lee Lefever Explains Where Goldfish Come From
7. Galapagos Rap

The list above is based on item clicks and views. If you ever miss the week in review post, you can always check out the Post Rank widget embedded in the right column of the blog. Post Rank displays the most popular blog entries at any given time.

If you're new to Free Technology for Teachers, welcome, I'm glad you've found this blog. If you like what you see in the links above, please consider subscribing to the blog via RSS or email.
To subscribe via RSS, please click here.
To subscribe via email, please click here.

LitCharts - 10 Page Outlines of Classic Literature

LitCharts is a service that provides condensed outlines and summaries of classic literature. The outlines and summaries are far shorter than those you would find in Sparknotes or Cliffnotes. Most of the outlines and summaries are ten pages, give or take a page or two. What I like about LitCharts is that they color code the themes addressed and symbolism within a particular work. The color coding makes it easy to quickly pick out the themes and symbols in each chapter of a book.

LitCharts can be viewed online, downloaded as PDFs, or accessed through iPhone apps.

Thanks to Make Use Of for making me aware of LitCharts.

Applications for Education
LitCharts provides nice outlines and summaries but doesn't provide so much information that a student can avoid actually reading the books you've assigned to them. In this way LitCharts could be useful study aids for students.

For Music Teachers - The Euphonium Gets a New Voice

Perhaps because I played both the Euphonium and the Tuba in high school (at one point I thought of majoring in music) I have listened with enjoyment to this young man's interesting Euphonium performance three times today. If you're a music teacher, this two minute performance might be something you'd like to share with your students to encourage them to develop their improvisation skills.

This video originally appeared on the TED Talks blog.

Annenberg Offers Video-based Lesson Plans

Videos can be a good teaching resource, but they need to be used as part of lesson rather than being the lesson. Annenberg Media provides lesson plans that model using video as a part of the lesson rather than using video as the lesson. Lesson plans are categorized by content and grade level. Most of the lesson plans include free online videos. To find lessons that include free online videos look for a small "VOD" symbol attached near the title of each lesson plan. Clicking the VOD symbol will launch a video player in a new window.

Applications for Education
Earlier in my teaching career I was guilty of using videos as the lesson rather than a part of the lesson. I can confidently say that I'm not the only social studies teacher guilty of that. Fortunately for my students, I learned from my mistakes and have since learned to use video (mostly short ones these days) as a part of my lesson plans rather than using videos as my lesson plans. Annenberg Media's free media-based lesson plans provide teachers with lesson plans using video as a part of a lesson plan for a wide variety of topics and grade levels.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

American Experience - The Crash of 1929

Today marks the 80th anniversary of Black Tuesday. CNN Student News had a short segment about it today. Watching the CNN segment reminded me that the PBS series American Experience has an hour long video about the stock market crash of 1929. PBS does not provide embed codes for their videos, but you can watch the entire video on the PBS video site. You can watch American Experience: The Crash of 1929 by clicking here.

Applications for Education
PBS has a series of eight lesson plans designed for use in conjunction with a classroom viewing of American Experience: The Crash of 1929. The lesson plans are separated into four categories; history, economics, civics, and geography.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
From Common Craft - Stock Markets in Plain English
Interactive Timeline of the 08/09 Financial Crisis
Financial Glossary for Students

20 Interesting Ways to Use Audio In Your Classroom

Last Friday I wrote a post about Tom Barrett's latest installments to his Interesting Ways series. At the time, one of the installments, Interesting Ways to Use Audio in Your Classroom, didn't have any ideas or resources in it and Tom was looking for contributors. As a testament to the power of crowdsourcing, Zero Interesting Ways to Use Audio In Your Classroom is now 20 Interesting Ways to Use Audio In Your Classroom. The crowdsourcing hasn't stopped yet. If you have ideas to add to the slideshow, contact Tom.

Significance of the 2010 Census

Say It Visually has created a new video that explains the significance and possible implications of the 2010 US Census.

Applications for Education
This video does a nice job of introducing some of the ways in which the data collected in the US Census is used. I might use the video in my Civics class when we begin to talk about how the government makes decisions about program funding.

Two Twitter and Email Scams to Be Aware Of

In the last 18 hours there have been two similar scams launched on Twitter and via email that you should be aware. The Twitter scam involves direct messages. If you receive a direct message that reads something like "is this you" or "this is you" followed by a link which leads you to a Twitter login page. The login page looks real, but if you look at the url you will notice that it is not a Twitter page at all. Entering information there will hijack your Twitter credentials.

The other scam that readers of Free Technology for Teachers should be aware of involves FeedBurner's email delivery service. If you receive an email containing a subject line to the effect of "confirm your subscription to Free Technology for Teachers." If you have been receiving the daily email from me, you do not need to confirm your email. Clicking any link in the scam email will lead you to a real-looking, but fake FeedBurner email confirmation page.

Click the image to enlarge it.

Applications for Education
These scams and the screen captures I've included above, are good examples of why we need to teach our students to be careful and intelligent consumers of online media. Teach students to check the url against the actual page content.

Common Craft has a good video that explains phishing scams and how to avoid becoming a victim of one.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

20 Ideas for Academic Halloween Costumes

Shmoop, a great publisher of online study guides, recently posted a list of twenty history and literature themed Halloween costumes. On the list you will find ideas like "pretend to hitchhike as Christopher Columbus with a sign that says India or bust." Shmoop also offers suggestions like "put on a collared shirt, a tie, a long coat, and a red hunting hat. Carry a record under your arm and collect candy as Holden Caulfield." See the full list here.

Applications for Education
Shmoop's list of Halloween costume ideas provide some possibilities for turning Halloween into an educational experience in middle school or possibly high school classrooms.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
National Geographic Halloween Quizzes and Games
Larry Ferlazzo's list of Halloween resources
Shmoop Grows Again

Illinois State Museum Offers Good Lesson Plans

The Illinois State Museum's website offers a sizable collection of online activities, online exhibits, and downloadable lesson plans. Most of the online activities and exhibits are built around themes dealing with Illinois history and science. The lesson plans section offers resources that teachers anywhere can use in their classrooms. There are multiple, in most cases dozens, of lesson plans for every K-12 content area.

Applications for Education
I was initially drawn to the Illinois State Museum's lesson plan collection while searching for some resources about zoology. The zoology lesson plan collection, like the other collections, provides a mix of learning activities that can be done online and offline.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Teacher Linx- Create and Share Lesson Plans
Science Netlinks - Dozens of Science Lessons
The Museum of Humor Offers Fun Lesson Plans

African Parks and Wildlife Preserves in Google Earth

This week Google launched a series of videos celebrating the Heros of Google Earth. These videos and associated links tell the stories of non-profit organizations that are using Google Earth to increase global awareness of various environmental and politic issues. One of the organizations featured in Heros of Google Earth is MAPA (Mapping Africa's Protected Areas). MAPA has created a Google Earth layer featuring parks, wildlife reserves, and protected lands in Eastern and Southern Africa. MAPA's Google Earth layer goes nicely with the Africa Mega-flyover tour in Google Earth.
The video offers a short overview of MAPA's work.

Thanks to the Google Earth Blog for some of the links in this post.

Application for Education
MAPA's Google Earth layer combined with the Africa Mega-flyover tour could be useful for anyone teaching lessons about wildlife conservation. These files are also good models of using Google Earth to tell a story and writing to inform.

Galapagos Rap

This video, 3.5* til Infinity, was created by some Stanford students on their trip to the Galapagos Islands. While some people may not agree with everything in the video, it's still an excellent demonstration of using multimedia resources to demonstrate knowledge. If you do teach about Darwin in your classroom, this video is an engaging summary of his ideas. There are also some great images from the Galapagos Islands in the video.

Thanks to Open Culture for the video link.

CNN Student News - A Degree in Hip Hop?

Today's episode of CNN Student News concludes with a segment about McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul, Minnesota. McNally Smith is now offering students the opportunity to major in hip hop. The episode is embedded below.

Applications for Education
This segment might be good for showing students that if they have an interest in a particular topic, if they look around enough, there's probably an opportunity for post secondary study on that topic.

Here is a related item that may be of interest to you:
The Week in Rap - Fun News Summaries

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

PBS Activity Pack - Music in Every Classroom

PBS Teachers has a relatively new set of features called Activity Packs. Activity Packs are widgets containing links to online and offline activities designed around a curricular theme. Each widget contains activities covering all grades K-12. Widgets can be embedded into any blog or website. There are five categories of Activity Packs; arts, health and fitness, reading and language arts, science and technology, and social studies.

One of the PBS Activity Packs that I found interesting was the Music in Every Classroom widget. Music in Every Classroom provides lesson plans and activities integrating music with other subject areas such as mathematics and language arts. I've embedded the Music in Every Classroom widget below.

Applications for Education
For professional development the PBS Activity Packs could be great widgets to embed in the staff section of a school district's website.

A Cute Lesson About Lions

The Telegraph recently posted this short video of three rare white lion cubs. The video could make a cute introduction to a lesson on genetics as your class explores how traits are passed from parents to offspring.

If you're working with younger students, National Geographic Kids has an informational slideshow about lions designed for elementary school students. National Geographic Kids also offers a short video and a short audio recording of a lion roaring.

National Geographic Halloween Quizzes and Games

National Geographic Kids is currently offering some games, quizzes, and offline activity suggestions for Halloween-themed fun. All of the activities are designed for elementary school students. In the quiz section you will find a quiz about Halloween and a quiz about Edgar Allan Poe. The games section offers a Mad Libs like game about Halloween and a "spooky" e-card game. The activities category offers ideas to students and parents for pumpkin carving designs as well as costume designs.

In addition to the National Geographic Kids Halloween resources, I suggest checking out Larry Ferlazzo's list of Halloween resources.

Live Binders Improves for Educational Use

Live Binders, a good digital portfolio service I reviewed in August, recently added some improved features that will be of interest to educators. Live Binders now makes all binders private by default. Live Binders has also added the option for users to import their Delicious bookmarks into the binders they're creating. Not a brand new feature, but a feature that teachers should be aware of is the presentation mode available in Live Binders.

In the email I received from Live Binders they included a link to this screencast about using Live Binders in education. The screencast was created by Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age. The screencast is embedded below.

Applications for Education
Live Binders is a good, free, resource for creating a portfolio of your student's digital creations. The new default setting is a good thing for teachers who are worried about the privacy of their students' work. The presentation mode could be useful for having students present their Live Binders to their classmates.

The Net(book) Effect on Professional Learning

As some readers know, my school recently deployed nearly 1300 ASUS Eee PC netbooks to our students. This is an exciting time at our school because the creation of a 1:1 environment is leading to some excellent conversations amongst colleagues about what we're doing in our classrooms.

Last Thursday at a workshop run by two excellent educators from South Portland, Maine I spent the day with some of my colleagues (all from different departments) talking about what we were doing in our classrooms and how we can integrate various web-based technologies into our instruction. The first part of the workshop was an introduction to basics of what teachers can do with blogs, wikis, and websites. After the introduction some of my colleagues were very focused on asking questions like, "do I want to make a blog, a website, or a wiki?" Rather than attempting to directly answer the question, I used a tip I got from Marco Torres and asked my colleagues what they were doing in their classes right now. Based on those conversations we were able to determine if a blog, wiki, or website would best help them meet their classroom objectives.

I truly believe that the best lessons are developed through the exchange of ideas with colleagues. The workshop my colleagues and I attended was a great excercise in sharing ideas and learning from each other. Since my colleagues and I received the official announcement that netbooks were going to be distributed to our students, the sharing of ideas between colleagues has been one of the better immediate gains of 1:1 computing.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Texas Instruments - Algebra & Geometry Webinars

Texas Instruments, makers of very popular graphing calculators, offers an extensive series of professional development programs. One such program is a series of free webinars about using their NSpire Math and Science Graphing Calculator products in the classroom.

Thanks to Tech Learning for the link to these webinars.

Applications for Education
If your school is using the NSpire Math and Science Graphing Calculatorproducts these webinars may provide you with some new ideas for teaching Algebra and Geometry.

Export Your Google Docs as a Zip File

Today, on the Google Docs Blog, Google announced a new option for saving your your documents, presentations, and spreadsheets. You've previously been able to download files individually as pdfs, html, rtf, and word files. Now you can export all of your data, up to 500mb, into one handy zip file. To export your files, select the items you would like to save offline, choose export from the "more actions" menu, then specify the format for your exported files.

Applications for Education
As much as I enjoy using Google Docs, there are times when I need to access and share my files offline. Having exported copies on a flash drive is very convenient when for those times when I want to share documents offline with my colleagues and my students.

Interactive Timeline of Space Exploration

NASA has an excellent interactive timeline tracing the history of astronomy and space exploration from the Greek philosophers through today. Planet Quest is actually three timelines combined into one. The three timelines cover technology, discovery, and culture as it relates to astronomy and space exploration. Each element on the timeline is narrated. Users can select individual elements on the timeline or choose autoplay to hear the narration of each item in sequence.

Applications for Education
Planet Quest provides a good overview of the history of astronomy and space exploration. The culture element could provide an interesting way to engage students who aren't excited about science, but are interested in what people thought at various times in history.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Interactive Tour of the Hubble Telescope
Star Child - Learning for Young Astronomers
NASA Quests and Challenges

One Click Screen Capture in Windows 7

Today on Tekzilla Daily they show us how to make screen captures in just one click on Windows 7. The video is embedded below.

Applications for Education
Screen captures and screencasts can be very useful for creating how-to documents and videos for your students. Creating a screen capture and posting it on your classroom blog can be a good way to provide directions to students without having to answer the same question dozens of times.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Four Free Tools for Creating Screencasts
Aviary Offers a New Option for Screen Captures
Screenr - A Simple Tool for Creating Screencasts

Beyond Google - Improve Your Search Results (Repost)

I originally posted this on Saturday afternoon which is typically the time when the fewest people are reading this blog. Since Saturday, I made a couple of slight changes.

While working with some of my colleagues in a workshop earlier this week, I was reminded that a lot of people aren't familiar with tools and strategies for refining Internet search results. In response to that experience, I sat down this morning and created this short guide to 15 tools and strategies for helping your students (and your colleagues) improve their Internet search results. I've embedded the guide below in two different forms which you can download for free.

Click to launch the full edition in a new window.

Beyond Google -

Sunday, October 25, 2009

20 Ways to Use Comics In Your Classroom

Through Josh Allen's Tech Fridge blog I recently learned about this slideshow created S. Hendy who writes Digital Tools for Teachers. The slideshow, Tap Into the World of Comics, presents a series of comic creation tools followed by twenty suggestions for using comics in your classroom.

Applications for Education
Creating comics can be a fun way for students to develop their skills for planning a storyline. Comic creation is also a good way to get reluctant writers started on creating a story. Even though I've previously reviewed quite a few comic creation resources, I still learned about a couple of resources from the slideshow that I hadn't seen before. Likewise, from the slideshow I also got a new idea for using comics in the US History course that I teach for special education students.

A Brief History of US Bank Debates

This week my US History students will be learning about Andrew Jackson and The Bank War. This short video from the CBS Fast Draw team, provides a quick overview of the ideas of Washington, Jefferson, and Jackson regarding the concept of a national bank. As my students have already studied Washington, Jefferson, and Hamilton's ideas regarding banking, this video will be a quick review of those idea and an introduction to Jackson. The video is embedded below.

Watch CBS News Videos Online

Lee Lefever Explains Where Goldfish Come From

Lee Lefever, the creator of the amazing Common Craft videos, recently presented at Ignite Seattle. His talk, embedded below, explains where goldfish come from. If you have goldfish in your classroom, have students that have goldfish, or you're just curious about where goldfish come from in the US, watch the video.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Beyond Google - Improve Your Search Results

While working with some of my colleagues in a workshop earlier this week, I was reminded that a lot of people aren't familiar with tools and strategies for refining Internet search results. In response to that experience, I sat down this morning and created this short guide to 15 tools and strategies for helping your students (and your colleagues) improve their Internet search results. I've embedded the guide below in two different forms which you can download for free.

Click to launch the full edition in a new window.

Beyond Google -

TED Talk - Don't Eat the Marshmallow

I love TED Talks because each one has something interesting, informative, and thought-provoking. Over the course of the last year I spent many hours browsing and watching TED Talks. Yesterday, I came across this TED Talk given by Joachim de Posada. The talk is about the study of behavior of children when they are given a marshmallow and told not to eat it for fifteen minutes. In the talk Joachim de Posada reveals that the response of children to this challenge can be indicative of future success in life. In addition to being informative and thought-provoking, the talk includes some really cute video clips.

Applications for Education
The information shared in the talk confirms what most of us know about the impulse control of small children. None-the-less, it's nice to have a reminder that can inform our planning of day's lessons.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Week In Review - The Most Popular Items

It's Friday and that means it's time for another Free Technology for Teachers week in review. As I do each Friday, I've compiled a list of seven most popular items of the last week. If you've been busy and not able to keep up with your RSS reader or email, the week in review provides a good chance to catch up on the posts that were most popular with other readers.

Here are the seven most popular items of the last seven days:
1. 35+ Educational Games and Games Resources
2. Conflict History - Conflict Timeline on Google Maps
3. Storybird - Digital Story Creation
4. Google Wave - Initial Impressions
5. Cell Phones In My Civics Class = Parent Involvement
6. UMapper - Create Flash Maps and Games
7. Historic Maps in K-12 Classrooms

The list above is based on item clicks and views. If you ever miss the week in review post, you can always check out the Post Rank widget embedded in the right column of the blog. Post Rank displays the most popular blog entries at any given time.

If you're new to Free Technology for Teachers, welcome, I'm glad you've found this blog. If you like what you see in the links above, please consider subscribing to the blog via RSS or email.
To subscribe via RSS, please click here.
To subscribe via email, please click here.

Zero Interesting Ways to Use Audio In the Classroom?

Of course, there are interesting ways to use audio in your classroom, but Tom Barrett needs some help generating a list. You see, Tom has started a new series of "Interesting Ways" slideshows. One of the slideshows he just launched is about interesting uses of audio in your classroom. If you have ideas for using audio in the classroom and would like to see those ideas added to the very popular Interesting Ways series, send Tom Barrett an email or send him a message on Twitter.

Below is one of the more popular slideshows from the Interesting Ways series Tom Barrett created.

Applications for Education
Tom Barrett's Interesting Ways series reflects, on a global stage, the idea of collaborating with other teachers to create good lessons. If you're looking for ideas about infusing technology into your lessons, check out the Interesting Ways series started by Tom Barrett.

Free LeapFrog Systems for Kindergarten Teachers

LeapFrog, the maker of learning toys like the Tag Reading System, is offering Kindergarten teachers the opportunity to get the Tag Reading System and books for free. LeapFrog is looking to partner with Kindergarten teachers through the Tag Kindergarten Program. The LeapFrog Tag Kindergarten Program will provide teachers with nearly $3200 worth of equipment and books for their classrooms. In exchange, Kindergarten teachers offer LeapFrog feedback about how they are using the Tag Reading System in their classrooms and how it affected student learning. The deadline to apply for the program is November 11. To get all of the application details, please click here.

Schoology - Online Course Management

Schoology is an online course management system for individual and school-wide use. Schoology offers an online place to create assignments, post assignments, collect assignments, converse with students, track attendance, and maintain a gradebook. Schoology also offers teachers a platform for creating a course blog. The premium features of Schoology, which include layered privacy settings and student account management, are currently being offered to teachers (individual license, not school-wide) for free. If you sign up now, Schoology says that you will always have access to the premium features at no cost.

Applications for Education
I have not used Schoology with my own classes (my district mandates the use of Infinite Campus), but it does look like it could be a good system for teachers whose schools do not offer an online course management system.

A Vision of Students Today (Yet Again)

I'm showing a colleague how to embed a video into a blog, couldn't think of a better one than Michael Wesch's A Vision of Students Today.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Every Stock Photo - Search Free Photos

Every Stock Photo is a search engine for free, high quality, images that you can use in slideshows, videos, and in blog posts. Every Stock Photo has some search refinement options that distinguish it from other Public Domain and Creative Commons search tools. Under the advanced search menu on Every Stock Photo you can refine your search by license type, image source, image size (specify a range of pixel dimensions), and image shape.

Every Stock Photo was included in a recent Webware article about public multimedia sources.

Applications for Education
Every Stock Photo could be a good place for students to find images for use in their multimedia presentations.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Find Creative Commons Images on Yahoo Search
Google Adds License Filter to Image Search
Creative Thinking - Lessons About Copyright

How Sound Impacts Productivity

This short TED Talk, The 4 Ways Sound Affects Us contains some interesting information about how sound affects our productivity. In the talk, Julian Treasure tells us that people working in open plan offices are 66% less productive than those in quiet rooms. Treasure follows that up by saying if you are in a noisy open plan room, wear headphones and listen to soothing sounds and your productivity goes back up. The video is embedded below.

Applications for Education
The ideas and information in the video are good to remember the next time you have students working independently in a large classroom. Perhaps instead of trying to keep them as quiet as possible, we should allow kids to use their mp3 players when they're working on independent assignments.

Teacher Linx - Create and Share Lesson Plans

There are many, many places on the Internet where you can find lesson plans and other resources for classroom use (you're at one of those places now). Even the most prolific bloggers can't reproduce the volume of content that a crowd can produce. Just take a look at Classroom 2.0 for proof of that. Teacher Linx is a newer website that is trying to harness the power of a networked crowd to generate useful content for teachers.

Teacher Linx is a place where teachers can create lesson plans and share lesson plans with each other. Teacher Linx provides a platform on which teachers can find lesson plans for a variety of content areas and grade levels. To encourage teachers to share their lesson plans, Teacher Linx will reward teachers with a $15 Starbucks Card for every 30 lesson plans they upload.

Applications for Education
I browsed through the lesson plans on Teacher Linx and, as you might expect, they varied in depth and quality. If you're willing to spend some time searching and browsing, you should find some that are relevant to your curriculum.

Positive Workshop Experience Today

Special Note For New Readers:
If this is your first time visiting Free Technology for Teachers, please note that I rarely write posts of this style. The type of posts that you will typically find are things like Twelve Essentials for Technology Integration and 35+ Educational Games and Games Resources.

This morning, I attended a workshop about technology integration. The session was facilitated by two excellent educators from South Portland, Maine. Today's session was designed to introduce teachers to the basics of blogging. I was at this session because a few years ago my school received a grant for professional development. A requirement of this grant is to have every teacher attend a series of professional development workshops. Compared to the other options, this workshop was the one that I felt would give me the best learning experience. Turns out, I was right.

Some of you are probably wondering what I could take away from a workshop on the basics of blogging. Today was a great experience because I was able to become an informal facilitator working with my colleagues in a manner that our normal school schedule does not allow.

One of the things we (teachers in general) often complain about is a lack of time to actually talk about what we're doing or want to do in our classrooms. Throughout the morning I was able to converse with a small group of my colleagues, sharing information, exchanging ideas, and helping them get on the path toward technology integration. Overall, it was great to have the time to talk with my colleagues and see them brainstorming ideas for using technology in their courses. The workshop allowed me to experience the mantra, "it's not about the technology." I didn't pick up any new skills, but I did have a great learning experience with my colleagues.

Here Comes Everything! Google to Search Twitter

Yesterday, Google made a significant announcement, they're going to start serving up results from Twitter when you perform a Google search. As TechCrunch said, "Get Ready for the Firehose." If this works as intended, Google will be able to offer search results powered by the crowd. This could be a great thing when you're searching for time sensitive content such as I did when wrote the post Honduras, Scoopler, and Current Events.

Exploring the Rising Cost of College

Today's episode of CNN Student News concludes with a brief segment about the rising costs of attending college in the United States. If you have high school students exploring their post-secondary options, you may want to share this short video with them.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
College Crunch
Unigo - College Reviews by Students
EduPursuit - College Search by Location

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Purpose Games - Create and Play Games

Purpose Games is a free service that allows users to create custom games, share games, and play games. There are two styles of games that you can create and play on Purpose Games. The simpler of the two styles is a fairly basic multiple choice game. The other style uses images and maps on which players have to name the places represented by placemarks on the image or map. For an example, try this game about the skeletal system.

Purpose Games gives game creators the option to make their games public or private. If you select the private option, only the people to whom you send invitations will be able to play your game.

Thanks to Dianne Krause for the link to Purpose Games.

Applications for Education
Rather than relying on games made by someone else who has never taught your curriculum, try using Purpose Games to create an educational game to match your curriculum. You could also have your students create games for their classmates to play as a review activity.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
35+ Educational Games and Games Resources
US Government Studies Games

Brainyflix BrainyPics Vocabulary Flashcard Contest

Just as they did earlier this year, Brainyflix is holding a student vocabulary contest. In the prior contest students were asked to create videos in which they demonstrated the meaning of SAT vocabulary words. In the current contest which runs from now through December 7, students are asked to create BrainyPics flashcards containing images that demonstrate the meaning of vocabulary words. Students can create their BrainyPics flashcards using the simple BrainyPics flashcard builder.

The contest will award iTunes credit each week and a grand prize of $200 to the winner on December 7. Each week five BrainyPics will be chosen for the finals. Students can enter as many times as they like. You can read the full contest rules here.

Applications for Education
Even if they don't enter the contest, creating BrainyFlix videos and BrainyPics could be a good way for your students to learn new vocabulary words.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Scholastic Word Wizard - Vocab Quiz Creator
Visuwords - Online Graphical Dictionary
Word Ahead Vocabulary Videos

Find Free eBooks On BookServer

The Internet Archive is, in general, a very good place to find all manner of free information in text, audio, image, and video formats. On Monday, the Internet Archive launched a new service called BookServer. BookServer is a search engine for finding, borrowing, downloading, and purchasing books in digital form. A search on BookServer will yield results listing both free ebooks and ebooks for sale. I gave it a try this afternoon and was impressed by the quantity of titles that are available. That said, the BookServer's search tools could use some improvement.

Applications for Education
If you or your students are willing to spend some time searching and browsing through the titles available through BookServer, you should be rewarded with some good free ebooks.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Free eBooks of Classic Titles
200+ Free Mathematics Books
Free eBooks at Planet eBook

Meatless Mondays and School Lunch Programs

Today's edition of CNN Student News has two segments that could be used in health classes and or civics classes. The middle segment is about proposed changes to school lunch programs. That segment is followed by a story about a school in Maryland that is trying to implement a "meatless Monday" lunch program.

Applications for Education
These segments could be the starting place for conversations in a health class about the nutrition of school lunches. In a civics class the discussion could be based around the question "what role should the government play in the personal lives of its citizens?"

Today is Wolfram Alpha's Homework Day!

Last week I posted some information about Wolfram Alpha's Homework Day. Homework Day is here. If you've been curious about how to use Wolfram Alpha in your classroom, check out some of today's interactive sessions to discover how you might use it in the future. If you can't make for today's interactive sessions, but you're curious as to how Wolfram Alpha works, check out these two videos that I posted last week.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

35+ Educational Games and Games Resources

1. XP Math is a good place to find math games, math videos, math worksheets, and math e-books. The games section of XP Math offers games for basic arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and probability. Create an account on XP Math and you can keep track of your scores.

2. Word Twist is an online version of the popular board game, Boggle. Word Twist comes in two versions a four by four grid and a five by five grid. The purpose of Word Twist is to identify as many words as possible using the letters in the grid.

3. Super Text Twist is a simple word game similar to Word Twist which asks plays to identify words from a set of jumbled letters. The Super Text Twist game be played online or downloaded for use offline.

4. Parade of Games in Powerpoint was developed by faculty at the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater. Parade of Games in Powerpoint provides teachers with games and game templates for classroom use. The games and game templates are available for download in Powerpoint format. Some of the games and game templates that teachers can find on Parade of Games in Powerpoint include Bingo, Jeopardy, and scavenger hunts.

5. Arcademic Skill Builders offers a collection of twenty-one quality games for sharpening math and language arts skills. All of the games can be played online and six of the games are even enabled for play using a Nintendo Wii remote.

6. The Problem Site is loaded with great games for students. Some of the games are traditional "hang-man" style games, some of the games are traditional games with a twist, and some of the games are completely new. Each game is designed to help students develop problem solving skills. The games are categorized as word games, math games, or strategy games.

7. Ghost Blasters is designed to help students learn to multiply and divide quickly in their heads. To play Ghost Blasters select a multiple of which each "bad" ghost will have a value that is a multiple of that which you chose. Students then use their mouse to blast every "bad" ghost. For example, if I select "5" at the beginning then all bad ghosts will display a multiple of 5. I then have to blast all of the bad ghosts to gain points, but if I blast a "good" ghost (a ghost that does not have a multiple of 5) I lose points.

8. Learning Games for Kids offers games for mathematics as well as many other content areas. Most of the games on Learning Games for Kids can be played directly on the website although some do link out to other sources.

9. Learn With Math Games is a site that I like because it offers online games as well as PDF templates for games that teachers and students can play in their classrooms. Learn With Math Games is organized by grade level and by mathematics topic.

10. Gamequarium developed by Diana Dell (a great person to follow on Twitter by the way) offers an excellent catalog of mathematics games and video demonstrations of mathematics functions.

11. Primary Games offers a collection of mathematics games as well as games for other content areas. You can grab some of the games on Primary Games and embed them into your own blog or website.

12. Grammar Ninja is a fun game for students to play as they develop a working knowledge of the parts of speech. Grammar Ninja has three levels for students to work through. As long as you answer questions correctly, they continue through the game, but answer incorrectly and the words explode.

13. Mad Libs offers a widget that you can install on your blog to allow visitors to play Mad Libs. I've always thought that having a "fun element" on your classroom blog is a good way to keep students actively visiting the blog without prompting from you. If you're an English teacher, the Mad Libs widget might be something to consider adding to your blog.

14. the World Food Programme's website offers students a large selection of educational online games and activities. The games are categorized by age group. Some of the games, like Food Force, are about world hunger while other games are more general in nature.

15. Taking it Global, an organization for youth interested in global issues, has a small games section that includes a game based on the flags of the world. Flags of the World asks students to match flags to their respective countries. After matching each flag to its country students can click the "learn more" link to find more information about that country.

16. Shape It Up is one of many good educational games and activities on Kinetic City. Shape It Up is an activity that would be good for use in an elementary school Earth Science lesson. The activity presents students with "before" and "after" images of a piece of Earth. Students then have to select the force nature and the span of time it took to create the "after" picture. If students choose incorrectly, Shape It Up will tell the student and they can choose again.

17. The Houghton Mifflin Company produces Grammar Blast. Grammar Blast offers 35 interactive grammar activities for students in grades two through five.

18. The Grammar Practice Park produced by Harcourt School Publishers provides 12 games for students in grades three, four, and five.

19. The British Council's Learn English website offers 69 interactive activities for learning the rules of grammar. The activities are not listed by grade level so you will have to preview them to determine which activities are best suited for your students.

20. Scholastic Inc. has a page for elementary age students called Maggie's Learning Adventures. On Maggie's Learning Adventures visitors will find five grammar activities as well as activities for learning Spanish, Math, and Science.

21. The BBC's Skillswise website is a great resource for a wide variety of content areas. On the grammar and spelling page there are 21 activities suitable for students of middle school and high school age.

22. Playing History is a collection of 128 games related to topics in US and World History as well as civics and geography. The games come from a variety of sources across the web. Feedback on every game and suggestions for future additions are welcomed by the hosts of the site. Visitors to Playing History can search for games by using the tag cloud, by using the search box, or just browse through the entire list.

23. Think About History is a fun trivia game on The object of the game is to cross the playing board by correctly answering a sequence of history trivia questions. The game has multiple levels that get progressively more difficult throughout the game. The questions on Think About History are a mix of video-based and text-based questions. The game can be played as an individual game or a two player game.

24. Fling the Teacher is a website containing 68 history quiz games. All of the quizzes have at least fifteen questions and a few of the games have more than 100 questions. The average is 30-45 questions per quiz. Prior to starting each quiz game students can create their own custom game character.

25. Scavenger Hunt Through History is a game designed to be played by students in junction with Freedom: A History of US produced by PBS. Freedom: A History of US contains is an overview of US history containing videos, documents, and pictures. In addition to the resources previously mentioned, their are quizzes for students to test their knowledge.

26. National Geographic Kids has a wide variety of games, puzzles, and activities for students of elementary school age. National Geographic Kids has nine games specifically for developing geography skills.

27. Learning Together offers four activities for learning about the geography of the United States. Learning Together also offers a game about world geography and a game about European geography.

28. Owl and Mouse Educational Software offers nine, free, interactive maps for students. The maps cover every continent except Antarctica.

29. Traveler IQ Challenge has 14 interactive geography games. The activities can be embedded in a blog or website.

30. Geosense is a fun way to use and improve your knowledge of world geography. Players can play against the computer or challenge another player. Geosense can be played anonymously or you can register and have your scores recorded for you. There are four Geosense maps (US, World, Europe, or advanced) that players can select from.

31. Smarty Games features games for developing basic mathematics and reading skills. There are six mathematics games covering basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. The reading section has two alphabet games and nine animated stories. In addition to the mathematics and reading activities, Smarty Games offers activities for learning to read a clock, puzzles, mazes, coloring activities.

32. Planet In Action is a fun website that features three games based on Google Earth. All three games utilize Google Earth imagery and navigation. The three games are Ships, Places, and Moon Lander. In "Places" you navigate, from a helicopter view, five popular places including the Grand Canyon. In "Ships" you become the captain of a fleet of ships to navigate famous ports of call. And in "Moon Lander" you take control of the Apollo 11 moon lander and guide the "Eagle" to touch-down.

33. The National Center for Education Statistics hosts a collection of games and tools for students. Dare to Compare is a quiz section of Kids' Zone where students can test their knowledge of civics, economics, history, geography, mathematics, and science. After taking each quiz the students are shown the correct answers. Dare to Compare also allows students to see the national and international average rate of correct answers.

34. Brain Bashers offers visitors a nice selection of word games, logic games, and puzzles. Brain Bashers is updated regularly with many games that change daily and new games added every week.Brain Bashers was developed and is maintained by Kevin Stone. Kevin Stone is a mathematics teacher in England.

35. The Discovery Channel website lets you test your trivia knowledge while playing the same quizzes the contestants on Cash Cab play. Play the Cash Cab quiz game and earn fictitious money for every question you answer correctly. Answer three questions incorrectly and the game is over.