Monday, November 30, 2009

FlockDraw - Simple, Collaborative Drawing

FlockDraw is a new, simple, service that allows people to quickly and easily collaborate on the creation of a drawing. To use FlockDraw simply visit the site, click the "start drawing" button, and start drawing. To invite other people to draw with you, just send them the url assigned to your drawing board. What's really neat is that anyone who visits the url after the drawing has started will see all of the drawing motions they missed unfold in front of them. In the future you will be able to embed your drawing board into your blog or website. To test FlockDraw, you're welcome to play with the drawing I started here.

Read Write Web, where I originally saw FlockDraw, has more information you may want to read.

Applications for Education
FlockDraw could be a simple way for students to create quickly create a mind map together. It could also be used by students to sketch diagrams and other drawings for use in slide presentations.

November's Most Popular Content

The month of November saw Free Technology for Teachers receive more visits and more page views than in any of the previous twenty-three months. Thank you to everyone that has subscribed to, commented on, Tweeted about, and shared Free Technology for Teachers. You all have helped to make this blog what it is today.

Here are the most popular items in the month of November:
1. Why Teachers Use Twitter
2. 9 Resources for Website Evaluation Lessons
3. 6 Ways for Students to Publish Their Writing Online
4. 12 Ways for Students to Publish Slideshows Online
5. Intro to Wikis Video Created By Kids
6. Ten Trends to Affect Teaching In the Future (and now)
7. Daylight Saving Time Explained

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.
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Most Teachers Have or Will Download YouTube Videos

Last Friday I posted a survey asking for feedback about how teachers respond to YouTube being blocked by school district filters. As of 6pm EST today, there were 105 responses. Of those 105 respondents, 79 people indicated that YouTube access is denied to students. In most of those cases, YouTube access is also denied to teachers. If YouTube is blocked, the question then becomes how do you, as an educator, respond? In 87 responses, teachers indicated that they have or would download videos using a third party client.

Going into the survey it was my speculation that most teachers who are not allowed to access YouTube at school, will download videos for classroom use. The results of the survey confirm my thinking. Downloading videos from YouTube via a third party client is a violation of YouTube's terms of service. That said, I think the survey results indicate that most teachers feel comfortable skating around that rule for the educational benefit of their students. This raises the question, if so many teachers feel YouTube offers enough educational material to violate the terms of service, why do school districts restrict access to YouTube? Here's one answer to that question that came in the form of a response to the question of downloading YouTube videos:
"No. If YouTube is blocked, and your School Board wants to prepare today's kids for the 1950s, so be it. When they close your library, you gotta ask yourself if you want to work for such people."

One person, John, left a very passionate "no" comment on the actual blog post. John had this to say:
"Most in favor of downloading the videos? Hey teachers, I own a slim-jim. Doesn't give me the "right" to break into your car and take your stuff inside for educational purposes. Do not use 3rd party tools to extract videos from YouTube. Plain and simple. What are you teaching your students? Violate rules, laws, etc. whenever you feel like it? Society spins into chaos if you allow students to take this route and you "model" it for them."

How would you respond to John? One response could be an adaptation of this survey comment justifying the download of YouTube videos:
"yes - I have no problem doing so and feel that such practice is supported by fair use and as long as I don't keep the video archived beyond its instructional purpose."

You can check out all of the survey results here.

If you would like some educational alternatives to YouTube, check out this list.

Update: This conversation has run its course. People are using all caps in their comments which indicates yelling. Therefore, I will be rejecting future comments on this post. Clearly we'll all have to agree to disagree.

3 Great Common Craft-style Videos Made by Kids

As many readers know, I'm a big proponent of having students create videos to demonstrate their understanding of a topic. I am also a huge fan of Common Craft's work. Therefore, I absolutely love these videos created by an 8th grade social studies class in Pennsylvania. These videos, made in the Common Craft style, are an explanation of the US Constitution. I learned about these videos from Jim Gates' TipLine blog. He asks some good questions about these videos on his blog and I encourage you to head over there and add your two cents.

The first video is embedded below.

Constitution Video, Part 1 from Mr. Titzel on Vimeo.

If you don't have access to video cameras for your classroom, check out one of these six free ways to create video online.

Free Webinar - Tour of FRONTLINE's Digital Nation

Via the Infinite Thinking Machine, I've learned that next Tuesday, December 8th at 8pm EST, PBS and Classroom 2.0 will be hosting a free webinar for educators. The webinar will be lead by Rachel Dretzin. Rachel Dretzin is the producer of FRONTLINE's new Digital Nation project. During the webinar Ms. Dretzin will share her insights gained from a year's worth of work put into creating Digital Nation. You can get more details about the webinar here.

Applications for Education
Our students are growing up in digital nation, as educators we need to stay current on how digital technology influences our students' lives. This webinar could be a good opportunity to learn about how digital technology is influencing our students' lives.

Did Negroponte Predict This in 1984?

This morning Mashable and other tech blogs reported that Amazon set a new sales record for theKindlein November. Interestingly, this morning I also watched this TED Talk filmed in 1984 in which Nicholas Negroponte predicted that some day we would be reading books on small screens. It seems that Negroponte was right.

Cyber Monday, Debt in Dubai, and Christmas Trees

Today's episode of CNN Student News covers a wide assortment of topics including the anticipated announcement on Tuesday from President Obama regarding Afghanistan, but the three main stories are about Cyber Monday, a debt problem in Dubai, and the selection of the White House Christmas Tree. The episode is embedded below.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Economics Lessons Using Planet Money Podcasts
The Crisis of Credit Visualized
Understanding the Financial Crisis - Say It Visually

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Six Easy Ways for Students to Create Videos Online

YouTube claims that twenty hours of video is uploaded to its site every minute. Much of this video is created by amateur video producers. In years past if you wanted to create video, you had to have (often expensive) recording and editing equipment. Today, the web has made it possible for anyone to create and edit professional-looking content without having to purchase any special equipment or software. Creating video content is a great way to get students engaged in projects through which they can demonstrate their learning. The following are six free, web-based, resources students can use to create their own videos.

1. Masher is a great, free, tool for creating video mash-ups. Masher offers a large collection of video clips from the BBC's Motion Gallery and Rip Curl video. There is a large music library, an effects library, and a good selection of video player skins. If you don't find content that you like in Masher's library, you can add your own images, video clips, and music clips through the Masher uploader. Masher also gives you the option to insert text throughout your videos. Creating with Masher is a simple matter of dragging elements from the media gallery into the timeline editor. From there you can arrange the sequence of elements using the drag and drop interface. When you're happy with the sequence, publish and share your production.

2. Animoto makes it possible to quickly create a video using still images, music, and text. If you can make a slideshow presentation, you can make a video using Animoto. Animoto's free service limits you to 30 second videos. You can create longer videos if you apply for an education account. In the video below I explain how to create your first Animoto video.
If you're viewing this in RSS you may need to click through to view the video.

3. Stupeflix is a service that allows user to quickly and easily create video montages using their favorite images and audio clips. In many ways Stupeflix reminds me of Animoto, but there are a couple of differences that are worth noting. Stupeflix allows users to drag and drop their images into the sequence that they would like the images to appear. Adding text to the images is easier in Stupeflix than it is on Animoto. Stupeflix offers only one default soundtrack so you have to upload your own audio clips. That said the advantage of Stupeflix is that you can use more than one audio clip within the same video.

4. Photo Peach is a new service that allows you to quickly and easily create an audio slideshow, with captions, from images in your Flickr, Picassa, or Facebook account. You can also use images saved on your local hard drive to create your slideshow. Photo Peach is similar to Animoto and Stupeflix services although they do have some differences worth noting. Adding captions to each image is a little more intuitive on Photo Peach than it is on Animoto. To add captions to your Photo Peach slideshow simply type your desired text into the caption box that appears as each image is automatically displayed by Photo Peach. Changing the order of appearance for each image is also easier on Photo Peach than it is on Animoto. Changing the sequence of images in Photo Peach is a simple drag and drop procedure.

5. Xtra Normal is a unique service that enables students to create animated, narrated movies just by typing the dialogue then dragging and dropping characters and set elements into the movies. There are free and paid plans for using Xtra Normal. The primary difference between the plans being that the paid plan offers more options for the setting of your story. The standard plan should be more than adequate for most academic applications.

6. Memoov is a free service for creating animated videos. Without downloading any software or having any special skills, Memoov allows users to create animated videos up to five minutes in length. Creating an animated video with Memoov can be as simple as selecting a setting image(s), selecting a character or characters, and adding dialogue. Memoov offers users a wide variety options that make it stand out amongst similar services. Memoov allows users to customize the appearance of the characters in their animated videos. On the dialogue front, Memoov gives users the option to record their own voices for use in their videos. Users can also upload pre-recorded dialogue in MP3 format. Memoov users have the option to add background music to their animated videos.

European Virtual Museum - 3D, Interactive Artifacts

The European Virtual Museum is the product of collaboration between twenty-seven European museums. The European Virtual Museum makes artifacts of European history available in interactive 3D form. Through the use of QuickTime technology the artifacts in the European Virtual Museum can be rotated for optimum viewing. Visitors to the European Virtual Museum can browse through the collections by chronology, geographic area, object type, contributing museum, routes, and tour itineraries.

Applications for Education
The interactive 3D objects in the European Virtual Museum are a great improvement over simple static images of artifacts. For example, rather than looking at only a portion of this artifact, students can view all of the engraving on it.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
The Bayeux Tapestry Animated
Timelines TV - British and American History Videos
Ancient Web - The Ancient World's Great Civilizations

Safer Stoning at Hajj

Yesterday, Reuters published a short video outlining changes made in Mecca to ensure a higher level of safety during the Hajj. The video is embedded below.

As he does for most major events around the world, Larry Ferlazzo has created a nice collection of resources for teaching and learning about Eid al-Adha.

Applications for Education
If you teach any lessons about Islam or any comparative religion lessons, you should check out the resources curated by Larry Ferlazzo. The video from Reuters could be useful for examining the logistics of having millions of people gathering in one place.

Buffalo Bill Cody - Video, Documents, and Lessons

Buffalo Bill Cody is one of the most iconic figures of the American West. American Experience, produced by PBS, has an excellent one hour program about Buffalo Bill. You can view the entire program for free on the PBS video website. In true PBS form, there are some excellent lesson plans for teachers to use in conjunction with the video. To provide student with context of where Buffalo Bill Cody fits in with the history of the American West, check out the American Frontiers interactive timeline.

What prompted me to share this resource (which I used in class last year) about Buffalo Bill Cody is this document from the National Archives that appeared last week in their daily document RSS feed. This document is the Land Entry Permit filed by Buffalo Bill Cody. The permit details the costs incurred by Cody.

Applications for Education
In general American Experience is a great resource for high school and middle school US History teachers. For most of the episodes in the series, PBS provides excellent free lesson plans.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Week in Review - Blog Birthday #2!

It's hard for me to believe, but today is the second anniversary of Free Technology for Teachers. Without much of a clue as to what I was doing, I started this blog two years ago today. Two years later I've written nearly 2500 posts.

Here's a look back at some statistics made possible by all of you who read, subscribe to, and Tweet about Free Technology for Teachers.

Two years ago: no subscribers, no page views.
18 Months ago: 200 subscribers, 10,000 page views/ month.
12 Months ago: 1500 subscribers, 30,000 page views/month.
6 Months ago: 8500 subscribers, 80,000 page views/ month.
Today: 14,000+ subscribers, 120,000 page views/ month.

Here are the seven most popular items of the last week:
1. 12 Ways for Students to Publish Slideshows Online
2. Weekend Workshop - Make a Wiimote Whiteboard
3. Memoov Looks Promising for Digital Storytelling
4. Buying a Netbook or Laptop on Black Friday?
5. New Moon on Shmoop
6. Where Does Thanksgiving Grow?
7. Earth Pulse 2010 - Vital Statistics Interactive Map

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.
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Image Credit: Flickr user Ritchielee

The Teacher Chronicles - Web of Web 2.0 for Schools

The Teacher Chronicles is an excellent blog that I recently discovered through the Delicious most popular links feed. The Teacher Chronicles features posts about Web 2.0 resources that can be leveraged for classroom use. The most recent post is about using Facebook as a learning management system. What brought me to the blog though was this web of Web 2.0 resources for classroom use. The web was created using Mindmodo and is divided into 30 categories of resources. Click any element on the web to reveal specific tools for classroom use.

Applications for Education
If you're looking for a new blog to add to your RSS reader, The Teacher Chronicles is definitely worth your consideration.

Video - What Kids Learn When They Create With Digital Media

Thanks to a recommendation by Kevin Jarrett, I spent an hour this morning watching this excellent video of a webinar conducted by the MacArthur Foundation. The hour long video features educators and researchers sharing their findings from having students create with digital media. If you have the time, I recommend watching it.

Twitter Lists Enable Me to Follow More People

I've been on Twitter for two years and almost since day one, I've subscribed to the belief that the more people I followed, the more opportunities I would have to learn something. For the most part, that strategy worked until I got to the point where I was following 2000+ people. I was around that point that my Twitter stream got too busy for me to keep up and my strategy of following everyone started to devalue my Twitter experience. At that point I began forming lists in Tweet Deck, but even that didn't work the way I wanted it to (in part because I didn't have enough screen real estate to see all of my groups at once and in part because of some technical glitches with Tweet Deck groups this summer). Last month, Twitter introduced lists. Lists have made my Twitter experience better than it has been in months.

Twitter lists allow me to create small lists of Twitter users that fit into a specific niche that I've identified. For example, Larry Ferlazzo and Kevin Jarrett are in my "ed-tech-guru" list while Alec Couros is in my "ed-thought-leaders" list. I've purposely kept these lists short so that I can quickly find out what the people in those lists are sharing. Now when I login to Twitter (actually, I rarely log out) I can view my mainstream of 3700+ people I'm following without worry that I've missed something from one of the people that I've come to count on over the last two years. Twitter lists have enabled me to start following more people again.

Some people, like Chris Brogan, think that Twitter lists are too "exclusive." I view Twitter lists like RSS feeds. You may subscribe to hundreds of feeds, but there are always a group of feeds that you read first.

If you find yourself not getting enough value out of Twitter, try creating a list or simply subscribing to an existing list made by someone you trust. The image below includes directions for making a Twitter list.

If you're looking for ways to authentically expand your personal learning network on Twitter, check out my Two Guides for Constructing a PLN.

Friday, November 27, 2009

K12 Online Conference Starts on Monday

The K12 Online Conference begins on Monday, November 30 with a pre-conference keynote to be given by Kim Coffino. The following two weeks will offer more than fifty virtual presentations from K-12 educators around the world. These presentations will be offered live and recorded for later viewing. The K12 Online Conference is a great opportunity to get ideas for strategies that you can employ in your classroom. You can visit the K12 Online Conference website to see "trailers" for the upcoming presentations. I've embedded below the trailer for Neil Stephenson's presentation, "Remixing in the Classroom: Engagement for History Students."

Find more videos like this on K12 Online Conference

Celestia - Explore Space on Your Computer

Celestia is a free space exploration simulation program. Celestia is a free download that works on Mac, PC, and Linux systems. The advantage of Celestia over other satellite imagery programs is that in addition to seeing the Earth's surface, students can zoom in on moons, stars, and planets. The user controls what they see. Operating the program is easy enough to be used by students as young as six or seven. The user guides for Celestia are very thorough and available in four languages.

Applications for Education
Celestia is easy enough for young students to operate, but at the same time offers enough advanced features to engage high school students. Celestia is a great tool for showing basic through advanced physic concepts. Teaching the concept of gravity to young students is simple and interactive with Celestia. There is a companion website to Celestia called The Celestia Motherlode that features educational activities that teachers can use.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Explore Google Sky
View the Moon in Google Earth
Solar Eclipse Simulation in Google Earth
Google Earth Links You Might Have Missed

National Geographic Video - The Human Footprint

The Human Footprint is a National Geographic film hosted for free by Snag Films. The Human Footprint uses statistics and great visual aids to show the impact of each human on the environment. For example, did you know that it takes more than 1800 pints of crude oil to provide enough disposable diapers for one child. During the film viewers learn about how some of the conveniences of modern life impact the environment. The film is embedded below.

Applications for Education
This video could be useful for anyone that teaches environmental science. As students view the film you could have them take note of the convenience items they use. Then after viewing the film have students try to develop environmentally friendly alternatives to those convenience items.

Survey - How to Respond to YouTube Being Blocked?

Yesterday, Miguel Guhlin had an interesting post addressing a question that has popped-up in the comments here in the past. Miguel's post WatchKnow YouTube Search - Blocked! explores two possible responses to an educator's request to unblock WatchKnow for classroom use. WatchKnow can best be described as YouTube meets Wikipedia. WatchKnow serves educational videos found on YouTube and other video providers such as National Geographic. (You can read more about WatchKnow here). Because WatchKnow uses YouTube videos, school districts that block YouTube also block WatchKnow.

Recognizing that there are dozens of alternatives to YouTube how should classroom teachers respond to not being able to access YouTube? Here are the options and their associated problems that I see:
1. Comply with the district policy and use an alternate video provider. The problem with this is that the catalog of videos on even the largest of alternate providers, is limited compared to YouTube. The video you want may not be available on another video provider.

2. Petition your district's administration to unblock YouTube. Provide them with as much research on the topic as you possibly can. Administrators may not be aware of the latest research on the topic, don't be afraid to provide it to them. My experience has been that most administrators want to make decisions that are grounded in data and research. If you're not aware of the latest research, ask your Twitter network as I did here. The problem is if you're shot down, you're back to number 1 above.

3. Use a third party client to download a YouTube video at home then play it in your classroom. There are a number of services that allow you to do this and YouTube does allow it in certain, limited cases. The problem here is that it is a violation of YouTube's terms of service to download videos for which they haven't provided that option. This presents a moral quandry, do you download the video so that you can provide what you feel is the best educational opportunity possible or do you comply with the law (which may or may not be enforced)?

I've created a short annonymous survey about this topic (you can also leave a comment). I'm curious about two things. How many districts block YouTube? How do you respond to the blocking of YouTube?
Update: You can view the responses to the survey here.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Buying a Netbook or Laptop on Black Friday?

There are many excellent deals to be had on netbooks and laptops during tomorrow's Black Friday sales. If you're not sure which deals are actually deals and which netbook or laptop is best for you or student, check out the following two articles from TechCrunch and CNET.

TechCrunch: Gift Guide 2009: Netbooks

CNET: Who makes the most reliable laptops?

For what it's worth, I haven't had any problems with and really enjoy myAcer Aspire One 10.1-Inch Blue Netbook which is now listed $50 less than it was six months ago.

Tech I'm Thankful for: RSS, Twitter

I'm often asked how I find so many educational technology resources to write about. The short answer is I subscribe to nearly 300 blogs and websites as well as spending a lot of time on Twitter and Twitter search. Watch the following videos to learn more about how RSS and Twitter help me find material to write about.

RSS in Plain English

Twitter in Plain English

Twitter Search in Plain English

I guess I should add that I'm thankful for Common Craft too.

What tech items are you thankful for?

My Great World - Geolocate Images of the World

My Great World is a free photo sharing service with an emphasis on geography. My Great World categorizes images by the country in which the photograph was taken. Users can submit their own images and rank the quality of images on a 1-10 scale. Visitors to My Great World can search for images by country or by photographers. The sharing element of My Great World allows registered users can swap images and network through My Great World's messaging system.

Applications for Education
My Great World is a nice resource for students doing research assignments on various countries. The search by country option is a nice way to find images of that country. The advantage of searching by country on My Great World over an image search on Google is that it removes some of the guess work and search refinement process younger students sometimes experience when using Google to search for images.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Google Swirl is Like Wonder Wheel for Images
Compfight - Creative Commons Image Search

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you who are celebrating the holiday today. It's been a great year for me and I hope it has been great for you too.

And just as many radio stations play this at noon on Thanksgiving I thought I'd share with you Alice's Restaurant. If you're interested in learning more about this song, Wikipedia has a decent article.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

One Last Thanksgiving Resource

If you're looking for an educational activity to do with the children in your life on Thanksgiving, National Geographic Kids offers a Mad Libs-like story writing activity. Funny Fill-In generates a funny Thanksgiving story based on the words that kids write in response to Thanksgiving prompts. If you don't use this at home tomorrow, consider bookmarking it for next year.

Stupeflix Wows the Crowd

This morning in one of my classes, my students shared short presentations about reform movements of the 19th century with those of the 20th and 21st centuries. The students had a three minute time limit in which they could present on the topic(s) of their choosing and in a style of their choosing. Most of the students defaulted right to slideshows. But one of my students decided to make a video using Stupeflix. While I did spend some time earlier this year showing kids how to use Animoto, I have not spent any time showing them how to use Stupeflix. My student who choose to use Stupeflix figured it out on her own and shared this video with the class this morning. Although there are a couple of small errors in the video, the video captivated the students in the classroom for two minutes. Next time I give an assignment in which the students can pick their presentation format, I think we'll see more Stupeflix videos.

The following is from an earlier review of Stupeflix.
Stupeflix is a service that allows user to quickly and easily create video montages using their favorite images and audio clips. In many ways Stupeflix reminds me of Animoto, but there are a couple of differences that are worth noting.

Stupeflix allows users to drag and drop their images into the sequence that they would like the images to appear. Adding text to the images is easier in Stupeflix than it is on Animoto. Stupeflix offers only one default soundtrack so you have to upload your own audio clips. That said the advantage of Stupeflix is that you can use more than one audio clip within the same video.

Applications for Education
Stupeflix is a good tool for students to use to create video montages of images. Stupeflix is a good alternative to old-style, boring slideshows. The captioning and editing tools are easy to use which makes Stupeflix a tool that most students above age 10 could use.

Here are some related resources that may be of interest to you:
Photo Peach - Quick and Easy Audio Slideshows
Animoto for Education - The End of Boring Slideshows
Animoto vs. Photostory 3 - Side by Side Comparison

America's Wild Spaces

The National Geographic Channel is running a Thanksgiving Day marathon of shows exploring America's Wild Spaces. The day will feature shows about the Appalachian Trail, Death Valley, Yosemite, Yellowstone, and the Everglades. If you find yourself looking for something educational to watch after eating your turkey or tofurky tomorrow, check out these programs. The beginning of the series about the Appalachian Trail is embedded in the video below.

Applications for Education
Geography teachers who conduct lessons about national parks and America's wild places or have students do research about those places, may want to use these videos to supplement instruction.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
The National Parks Digital Storytelling Modules
Every Trail, The Grand Canyon, and National Parks
Create a National Parks Virtual Tour

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Documenting the American South

Documenting the American South is a collection of texts, images, and audio files documenting the history and culture of the southern United States. The collection is curated by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. You can search the collection by subject, author, or title. Browsing can also be done geographically by clicking on the states in this interactive map. Visitors to Documenting the American South can also browse through fourteen thematic galleries covering topics such as oral histories of the south and North American Slave Narratives.

Thanks to Angela Cunningham for sharing the link to Documenting the American South on Twitter.

Applications for Education
Documenting the American South has a lesson plan index offering lessons incorporating the resources in the collections of Documenting the American South. In addition the lesson plan index, Documenting the American South offers helpful tips for having students record digital narratives.

Memoov Looks Promising for Digital Storytelling

Memoov is a free service for creating animated videos. Without downloading any software or having any special skills, Memoov allows users to create animated videos up to five minutes in length. Creating an animated video with Memoov can be as simple as selecting a setting image(s), selecting a character or characters, and adding dialogue.

Memoov offers users a wide variety options that make it stand out amongst similar services. Memoov allows users to customize the appearance of the characters in their animated videos. On the dialogue front, Memoov gives users the option to record their own voices for use in their videos. Users can also upload pre-recorded dialogue in MP3 format. Memoov users have the option to add background music to their animated videos.

Select a setting.

Select and customize your characters.

Add dialogue via text or audio recording.

Applications for Education
Although in my initial testing there were a couple of bugs, Memoov could become an excellent way for students to create short animated stories. Memoov's option for recording their voices will enable students to add truly personalized elements to their animated videos.

My Nominations for 2009 Edublog Awards (So Far)

Here are my nominations for the 2009 Edublog Awards.

Best individual tweeter: Steven Anderson @web20classroom

Best resource sharing blog: Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day

Best educational use of a social networking service: Beth Still - Nebraska Change Agent - For ISTE/ NECC Newbie Project

Best educational use of video / visual: Lee Lefever - Common Craft (I realize this one is outside of the normal edu-blog-o-sphere, but the Common Craft videos have been invaluable to millions of educators).

Lifetime achievement: Karl Fisch and Scott McLeod for Did You Know? (Shift Happens) videos.

Best educational tech support blog: Tom Barrett - For "Most Interesting Ways" series

Best teacher blog: Silvia Tolisano - Langwitches

Best new blog: Teach Paperless

Best educational use of audio: Wesley Fryer

I have not made nominations in every category because some of the categories are areas where I don't know enough to make an informed nomination. For example, I've spent very little time in virtual worlds so I couldn't possibly make an informed nomination there.

Behind the Scenes of Macy's Thanksgiving Parade

On Thursday, as it has for decades, the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade will be blaring on millions of, largely ignored, televisions in living rooms across the United States. If you or your students are curious about the origins of this tradition, How Stuff Works has some good reference materials on the topic. For a short overview of what goes into creating the parade every year, watch the short behind-the-scenes video from NBC embedded below.

The 2009 Edublog Awards Nominations Now Open

Last year, because of you, I was awarded the 2008 Edublog Award for Best Resource Sharing Blog. You can find the list of all of last year's winners and nominees here.

Nominations are now being accepted for the 2009 Edublog Awards. Two interesting additions to this year's award categories are Best Individual Tweeter and Best Educational Use of a Social Networking Service. You can find all of the categories and get all of the details about the nomination process on the 2009 Edublog Awards website.

I will post my nominations later today.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Earth Pulse 2010 - Vital Statistics Interactive Map

National Geographic recently released their Earth Pulse State of the Earth 2010 features. Earth Pulse is comprised of essays, photo galleries, links to additional resources, and an interactive vital statistics map. The Vital Statistics Map allows users to view mapped displays twenty different sets of statistics. The data sets cover topics including population change, population migrations, and resource consumption. Users can select two data sets to compare on one map.

Applications for Education
The Earth Pulse 2010 Vital Statistics Interactive Map could be useful for lessons in environmental science as well as geography. Data sets displayed on the map could be the jumping-off point for student exploration into the reasons for the things they see on the map. For example, students could investigate why mutton and goat are consumed at a higher rate in North Africa and Australia compared to North America.

NASA Images - Embed Galleries of Images & Videos

The Internet Archive has created a comprehensive collection of images, videos, and audio recordings from NASA. The collection is divided into five parts; Aeronautics, Astronauts, Earth, Solar System, and Universe. Select any of the five categories to reveal a menu of sub-collections. The space flight timeline found at the bottom of NASA Images reveals collections of images, videos, and audio recordings aligned to each NASA flight into space beginning in 1958.

Most of the collections found on NASA Images can be embedded as a widget into your blog or website. Below I've embedded items from the Earth gallery.

Thanks to Open Culture for their post about NASA Images.

Applications for Education
Although you will want to double check before using them, most of the content in the NASA Images collections are in the public domain. The timeline of space flight could be a good way for students to explore the history of NASA's missions into space.

Time Lapse Videos from Common Craft

If you've ever wondered what goes into the making of Common Craft's awesome In Plain English videos, check out these two time lapse videos from their blog.

I think the videos speak for themselves.

Check out some of these great videos from Common Craft:
Computer Hardware in Plain English
The World Wide Web in Plain English
Lesson Plans for Teaching Web Search Strategies

Mugurdy - Visual Search Engine

Mugurdy is a visual search that I learned about late last week from Larry Ferlazzo (seriously, you should subscribe to his blog if you aren't already subscribed). Mugurdy's homepage doesn't look like much, but enter a search term and Mugurdy comes to life. Mugurdy displays search results as a grid of screenshots of each page in the search results. Place your cursor over one of the screenshots to see an enlarged image of each screenshot.

Applications for Education
Visual search engines can save students time by allowing them to preview the contents of a webpage without having to actually open it in a new tab or window.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Search Cube - Six Sided Visual Search
Spezify - Visual Search Engine
Beyond Google - Improve Your Search Results

CNN Student News - The Health Care Debate

If your students are anything like most Americans, they probably have plenty of questions and confusion about the on-going health care reform debate in Congress. Today's episode of CNN Student News tries to offer students some clarity about the debate. CNN's discussion guide could be helpful with this episode. The episode is embedded below.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

12 Ways for Students to Publish Slideshows Online

Creating slideshows can be an excellent way for students to summarize their learning, share their what they've learned, and to share their ideas. If you have students that create slideshows that you or they think should be shared with a wider audience than that of their immediate peers in the classroom, the web offers many ways to do that. The following are ten free ways for students to publish their slideshows to the web.

1. The sharing method that is right under most Internet users' noses is Google Docs presentation sharing. Students can create presentations, collaborate on presentations, chat about presentations, and publish presentations using Google Docs. Google Docs presentations can be embedded into any blog or website. Students can also share presentations by emailing or Twittering the url of their presentations.

2. Zoho Show is very similar to Google Docs presentation. Students can create presentations, collaborate on presentations, and publish presentations using Zoho Show. If students don't have a blog or website to embed their presentations into, Zoho Show offers a public gallery to which users can publish their presentations. Some of my students actually prefer Zoho Show to Google Docs presentation because they feel that there are more editing options than in Google Docs presentation. Watch a demo of Zoho Show here.

3. Empressr is a fully functional, high quality, online slide show presentation creation and sharing service. Empressr has a couple of features differentiating it from its competitors. The first feature of note is the option of embedding video from multiple sources into your slide show. The second feature of note is Empressr's editor which allows users to draw, create, or edit images inside their slides. Empressr slideshows can be embedded anywhere.

4. SlideShare is probably the most popular service for publishing slideshows to the web. While you cannot create original works in SlideShare, you can add voice narration to your slideshow with a free service offered by SlideShare. SlideShare offers a variety of widgets for embedding collections of slideshows into one webpage. If you wanted to you could create a collection of your students' slideshows and put them into one widget on one webpage. To learn more about SlideShare, watch this presentation.

5. Slide Boom, like SlideShare, allow users to upload their slide show presentations and share the slide shows publicly or privately. SlideBoom quickly converts your slide shows for use on the SlideBoom website and provides the html code for use on other websites or blogs. SlideBoom preserves the transitions you included in your original presentation when your slideshow is uploaded to SlideBoom.

6. Slide Six is a slide show sharing site similar to Slide Share or Slide Boom with a couple of added features. Just as on Slide Share and Slide Boom users can upload and share slide show presentations privately or publicly. What makes Slide Six better than and easier to use than Slide Share or Slide Boom is that Slide Six users can add narration to their slide show directly on the Slide Six website. Slide Six allows users to embed YouTube and Vimeo videos into your presentations. You can also attach documents to accompany your presentations. Slide Six supports all PowerPoint formats, Open Office, PDF, and MOV presentations.

7. Slide Rocket is a web based presentation creator similar to Empressr. Slide Rocket has some very nice features like 3D transitions and a collaboration feature for sharing the creation process with other users. Slide Rocket's interface is user friendly making it easy to include videos, pictures, or third party plug-ins. The quality and definition of images on Slide Rocket is far superior to that found in many of its competitors' offerings.

8. Author Stream is a service that converts your PowerPoint slideshows to flash media files. Just like SlideShare, Author Stream can be used to host and share your slide shows publicly or privately directly on the Author Stream website. In addition to sharing on the Author Stream website the slideshows you upload can also be shared via Youtube, iTunes, or embedded into a blog or website. A free companion tool to Author Stream is Author Point Lite. Author Point Lite is a desktop application that converts Power Point files to flash files. Files converted with Author Point Lite retain all of the transitions, timings, and narration created in your original file. Author Point Lite is a free download.

9. Photo Show is a great service for making fantastic slideshow and video presentations. Photo Show allows users to upload their photos or use photos from the Internet to make into slide show which can then be turned into a video. Photo Show users can add text and audio to accompany their presentation. There are a few options for sharing projects made on Photo Show. Users can download their projects as Quicktime movies, share via email, or share through embedding.

10. Photo Peach is a new service that allows you to quickly and easily create an audio slideshow, with captions, from images in your Flickr, Picassa, or Facebook account. You can also use images saved on your local hard drive to create your slideshow. To add captions to your Photo Peach slideshow simply type your desired text into the caption box that appears as each image is automatically displayed by Photo Peach. Changing the sequence of images in Photo Peach is a simple drag and drop procedure.

11 & 12. If you convert your slideshows into PDF format, you can upload them and host them on DocStoc and Scribd. Both DocStoc and Scribd will provide you with an editable (for height and width) embed code for your PDF.

If you found this list useful, you may also want to read:
Twelve Essentials for Technology Integration
10 Places to Make and Find Flashcards Online
Beyond Google - Improve Your Search Results
6 Ways for Students to Publish Their Writing Online

Teach and Learn Genetics - Free Lesson Plans

Learn Genetics and Teach Genetics are produced by the University of Utah for, as their names imply, learning and teaching about genetics. Teach Genetics offers dozens of downloadable lesson plans. Many of the lesson plans available on Teach Genetics are designed to accompany the visual learning resources found on Learn Genetics. Learn Genetics features many excellent visual aids to explain the fundamentals of genetics.

One of the excellent visuals on Learn Genetics is the Cell Size and Scale interactive visual aid. Cell Size and Scale shows visitors the size of cells relative to common small items such as coffee beans and rice grains. Use the slider at the bottom of Cell Size and Scale to see how small cells are.

Thanks to Fred Delventhal for posting the link to Cell Size and Scale.

Applications for Education
Teach and Learn Genetics provides excellent visual aids to help your students understand concepts in the study of genetics. Take a look at the "Print and Go" section of Teach Genetics to find lesson plans corresponding to different topics in genetics.

Where Does Thanksgiving Grow?

Where Does Thanksgiving Grow? is a neat data set produced by Linda Zellmer at Western Illinois State University. The data sets contain information about where the main ingredients in Thanksgiving meal come from. The data sets are displayed on maps showing you which states produce the most and least of each ingredient. For example, click on the turkey production data set and you will see that in 2007 Minnesota and North Carolina were the leading producers of turkeys. You can access the data sets individually or as a comprehensive PDF poster.

Applications for Education
The maps and data in Whers Does Thanksgiving Grow could be the basis for a lesson in which students explore why different parts of the country produce a lot of one ingredient in a Thanksgiving dinner while other regions do not produce that same ingredient.

My Studiyo - Multimedia Quizzes for Your Site

MyStudiyo is an easy way to make a multimedia quiz for your website or blog. With MyStudiyo you can include video, audio, and image file in your quiz. Each question in your quiz can have a different media format. There are two options for answer format, multiple choice or open-ended response. Quizzes are easy to create and easy to embed into a website or blog.

Below is a simple two-question quiz I made using My Studiyo.

Applications for Education
MyStudiyo quizzes are completely customizable.
MyStudiyo quizzes are useful for any content area or grade level. You write the questions and the answer choices therefore the content and difficulty of a quiz is up to you to determine. The ability to integrate multimedia clues in your quiz helps to address the needs of a variety of learning styles.