Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Aviary Offers a New Option for Screen Captures

Aviary offers a comprehensive suite of free image editing tools. I've never found the tools they offer to be terribly intuitive, but they are powerful once you figure out how to use them. For that reason Aviary itself isn't something that I'd recommend for use with students unless you plan to use it frequently. That said, their new Firefox add-on could be a good tool for touching-up images that are stored online or for creating screen captures with text and drawings.

Aviary's new Firefox add-on is easy to use once you've installed it. To use it, simply right-click on anything, select "take a screenshot," save it and begin editing. You can add text to your screenshot, draw on it, or highlight sections of your screenshot. To see screenshots of Aviary's Firefox add-on in action, visit Read Write Web's article on Aviary which is where I learned of this new tool.

Applications for Education
Screenshots can be very useful for teachers who need to give directions on how to navigate a website or use a piece of software. Being able to highlight, circle, and type on a screenshot can add clarity to those directions.

Here is a related resource that may be of interest to you:
Four Free Tools for Creating Screencasts

Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge

Teachers and parents looking for a way to motivate students to read this summer should take a look at Scholastic's Summer Reading Challenges. The central idea of the challenge is for students to read at least four books over the summer. To motivate students to reach this goal, Scholastic has developed various incentives like joining in a team competition and contributing to a reading world record.

When students register for Scholastic's Summer Reading Challenge they take a short quiz and are assigned to a "reading team." Each day students login to their account and record how much they've read. Points are awarded for reading. At the end of the summer the winning team will choose a cause to which Scholastic will make donation. There are also individual prizes that students can earn through their reading and through games and quizzes on the Summer Reading Challenge site.

Applications for Education
Teachers and librarians who want to encourage students to participate in the Summer Reading Challenge should visit the teacher/ librarian page. On the teacher/ librarian page you will find PDFs of the summer reading list, form letters to send to parents, and book review templates. The summer reading list is organized by age groups.

TED Embeddable Player Now Includes Subtitles

Last month TED announced that translation and subtitling of their videos into 40 languages is underway. At that time the subtitles only worked if you were watching a video on the TED website itself. As of today the subtitles now work on embedded players too. This should make sites like Teaching With TED more accessible to students with hearing impairments as well as ESL/ ELL students.

Here is a related resource that may be of interest to you:
Two Good Options for Subtitling Videos

50 Ways to Use Twitter in the College Classroom

I Tweeted about this list early today, but I thought I should post a link to it as well for those people who don't follow me on Twitter or missed it earlier. Online has compiled a list of fifty ways that Twitter can be used in the college classroom. Some of the ideas in the list can also be applied to the high school or middle school classroom. Two such ideas are taking a poll of the class and creating Twittories. Twittories are stories composed by a group of people using Twitter. Read all 50 ideas in the list here.

Yazzem - Message Boards Meet Twitter

Yazzem doesn't knock your socks off at first glance, but when you find out that it was developed by two 14 year olds in Michigan, you have to try it. Read the story of Yazzem's developers here.

Yazzem takes the concepts of message boards and blends it with the concepts of Twitter. On Twitter you essentially see a constant stream of messages from all of your network about any possible topic. On Yazzem conversations are held under topic headings. For example, if you want to share a thought about baseball, click the baseball topic and enter your thoughts there. You can start your own topics or join into the conversation on any existing topic.

Applications for Education
Yazzem could be used by a class to provide instant feedback to a teacher. Set up a topic like "ask Mr. Byrne" and students could submit their questions while a conversation is going on in the room. The same idea could be used by students to ask questions from home or anywhere outside of the classroom.

Remodeled Firefox Add-on Page

There are thousands of useful (and some not-so-useful) Firefox add-ons. Finding the ones that can be useful for you isn't always easy. I've written about a dozen or so add-ons on this blog, but I've only scratched the surface of what is available. Recently, Mozilla remodeled their Add-ons page to allow for better browsing and searching. When you visit the new Add-ons page you will notice that they now feature recommended add-ons from five popular add-on categories. Another change is addition of a new featured collections category where you can access a collection of Firefox add-ons that complement each other.

Not two minutes after I published this post, Mashable ran a similar post containing the video that I've now embedded below.
Watch the video embedded below for an overview of Firefox Add-ons Collections.

Add-on Collections: Overview from Justin Scott on Vimeo.

Here are some of the Firefox Add-ons that have been featured here in the past:
Quick Translation - Dictionary and Translation Firefox Add-on
Lizzer - A Handy Tool for Student Blogging
Googlepedia - Wikipedia and Google Side by Side
Quietube - No Nonsense YouTube Viewing

Real-Time Search Options

This video from Tekzilla gives a brief overview of some options for real-time search. The video is embedded below.

Applications for Education
Real-time search is a good option for students studying current events. Real-time search provides students with access to the most talked about current news stories on the Internet.

Using real-time search tools is one of the ways that I find new resources to write about every day. For example, if I was to just search Google for "math lesson plans" I would get pretty much the same results everyday. But, by using real-time search I find new links everyday.

Here are two real-time search tools not mentioned in the video that I've reviewed in the past: