Friday, April 30, 2010

Step Into Chinese - Free Software

Step Into Chinese, a free program produced by Asymptopia Software, is designed to help students learn Chinese. Step Into Chinese provides translation of common phrases into Chinese characters. Flashcards and color coded text and images are two useful features for helping students learn Chinese. Step Into Chinese can be used by students just beginning to learn the written language of Chinese or be used by advanced learners. Step Into Chinese has tools for learning just one word or character at a time and tools for learning long phrases.

One of the really nice features of the flashcard mode on Step Into Chinese is the option of "locking into" a word or phrase. The "lock in" mode replays the Chinese and English translations of a common word or phrase for as long as you like. Using the "lock in" feature is a nice option to have if you're struggling with a particular word or phrase.

Below is a screen shot from the Step Into Chinese software tutorial.

Step Into Chinese is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems.

Free Lesson Plans for Mouse Mischief

Yesterday I wrote a post about Microsoft's new free add-on for PowerPoint called Mouse Mischief. At the time that I wrote that post about Mouse Mischief I was working from a press release. Today, I learned that Microsoft has developed twenty-five templates for lesson plans incorporating Mouse Mischief. The templates can be used to teach math, science, language arts, and social studies lessons. You can find the templates here and here.

Month in Review - April's Most Popular Items

It seems like just yesterday I was posting an April Fool's joke about Magic Grade and now the end of the month is here. This month Free Technology for Teachers reached a new record high for subscribers as the 21,000 mark was surpassed. Welcome to all of the new subscribers, I hope you continue to find the information here useful in your teaching practice. And as always, thank you to all of the long-time subscribers who have helped to grow the reach of Free Technology for Teachers.

Here are this month's ten most popular posts:
1. 12 Resources All Social Studies Teachers Should Try
2. Tagxedo - Word Clouds With Style
3. Interesting Ways to Use Wallwisher in the Classroom
4. 10 Sources of Educational Science Games
5. Google Docs Adds Very Useful New Features
6. Wolfram Alpha for Educators - Free Lesson Plans
7. Wiki Mind Map - Visual Webs of Wikipedia Entries
8. Ning Ends Free Networks - Try These Alternatives
9. 10 Resources for Teaching and Learning About WWII
10. 8 Wonders of the Solar System - Interactive Tour

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Bubba Brain - Review Games for SAT and AP Exams

Bubba Brain is a simple site packed with review games for students preparing for the SAT and AP exams. Bubba Brain also has some games for elementary and middle school subjects. The games all use the same format of giving a definition and asking students to find the word or term that it matches. Once a correct match is made, a new definition appears on the "back" of the answer to the previous definition.

Applications for Education
Bubba Brain isn't the fanciest game site you'll ever see but it does offer enough review games to keep students using it. It's probably not a site that you'll have students use in class, but it is a site that you might recommend to them to use at home to prepare for a standardized test.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Word Ahead Vocabulary Videos
WeboWord - Vocabulary Visualized
Vocab Sushi - Fresh, Bitesize Vocabulary Practice

The Science of Music

The Science of Music, created by the folks at Exploratorium, is a fun series of lessons and activities about music. The Science of Music offers six exhibits containing interactive elements for students to use in exploring rhythms and sounds. One of the exhibits that I particularly enjoyed experimenting with is Kitchen Sink-o-Pation. In Kitchen Sink-o-Pation students build syncopated rhythms using kitchen appliances, pots, pans, and glasses.

In addition to the interactive exhibits, Science of Music hosts four short movies featuring musicians talking about the science of music. Science of Music's questions section is a list of six questions commonly asked about music. Each question is provided with a detailed answer and explanation. Try this one as an example, why does my singing sound so great in the shower?

Thanks to Janet Kenney for sharing this resource with me.

Applications for Education

The Science of Music could be a fun way to combine elements of science and math with a music lesson. Science of Music could be used by students who do not have any prior background in music while at the same time it could be enjoyed by students who have some background in music theory.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Arts Edge - Podcasts and Lesson Plans
Classics for Kids - Classical Music Lesson Plans
Keeping Score - Study the Symphony

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Google Virtual Keyboard for Search

Using a QWERTY keyboard to type search terms in some foreign languages can be difficult. To alleviate this problem, Google has just launched a virtual keyboard for search. The virtual keyboard for search is available for 35 languages supported by Google. To launch the virtual keyboard, simply click the keyboard icon that appears at the end of the search box when you're searching in one of the 35 supported languages.

Applications for Education
The Google virtual keyboard for search could be useful for students who are trying to conduct research on topics that may be written primarily in a foreign language. The virtual keyboard for search could also be useful for ELL students.

Microsoft Mouse Mischief - Free PowerPoint Add-on

Microsoft Mouse Mischief is a new free add-on to Microsoft PowerPoint. Mouse Mischief is designed as an inexpensive alternative to clicker-type response systems. Mouse Mischief allows teachers to put multiple choice questions into their PowerPoint slides. Students can then answer the questions using mice connected to their teacher's computer. Mouse Mischief works with both wired and wireless mice. You can learn more and download Mouse Mischief here.

Applications for Education
I have not had a chance to try Mouse Mischief with students yet, but it seems like it could be a good way to get feedback from students during a lesson. If you're school already has Microsoft PowerPoint for teachers, this is a nice free addition for you.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Jeopardy PowerPoint Game Template
Parade of Games in PowerPoint
Jeopardy Labs: Make Your Own Online Jeopardy Game

Gulf Oil Spill Overview - CNN Student News

Today's episode of CNN Student News leads off with a segment about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The segment contains some aerial footage as well as map footage of the areas affected and potentially affected if the oil slick continues to expand. As always CNN has furnished printable maps and discussion guides to accompany your classroom use of CNN Student News.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
The Day the Water Died - Examining the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill
Where Does Oil Come From?
Understanding the Water Cycle

Tech Training Wheels - How-to Videos for Teachers

Tech Training Wheels is a new video sharing site designed and built by five Google Certified Teachers. The purpose of the site is to share how-to videos for teachers. Right now the videos on the site are five videos on the site and they are all how-to videos related to using Google products. The site is open to user contributions. Watch the video below for an introduction to Tech Training Wheels.

Applications for Education
Tech Training Wheels could be a good resource for technology integration specialists.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:

Vocab Sushi - Fresh, Bitesize Vocabulary Practice

There are a lot of flashcard websites and vocabulary practice websites on the Internet so it takes a lot for me be impressed when I see yet another vocabulary practice website. Vocab Sushi has impressed me with its offerings.

Vocab Sushi is designed to help students prepare for standardized tests such as the SAT, ACT, GRE, LSAT, and more. When you register for an account, Vocab Sushi will ask you which test you are preparing for. Based upon the test for which you're preparing, Vocab Sushi will give you a short (20 question) quiz to evaluate your current skills. Then based on your score, Vocab Sushi will generate a list of words for you to learn.

To help you learn the words in your study list(s) Vocab Sushi uses a combination of audio, visual, and text resources. To help you learn the pronunciations of words, Vocab Sushi offers mp3 recordings of your words being spoken. Vocab Sushi provides sentences and real-life news articles from sources like the Boston Globe and Newsweek that use the words in your list. As you might expect, Vocab Sushi provides games for practicing your vocabulary skills. Vocab Sushi also offers printable learning activities for offline use.

Learn more about Vocab Sushi in the video below.

Thanks to Allen Stern at Center Networks for sharing Vocab Sushi.

Applications for Education
While Vocab Sushi is targetted toward high school and college students, it could certainly be used by some middle school students too. I particularly like that Vocab Sushi serves-up real news articles containing the vocabulary words students are studying. It shows students that people really do use the words they're learning.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Word Ahead Vocabulary Videos
WeboWord - Vocabulary Visualized
Lexipedia - Webbed Word Connections

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Videos About the Hubble Telescope and More

Yesterday, I shared a video about and link to a Google Earth tour featuring imagery captured by the Hubble telescope. This evening I came across a series of videos produced about the Hubble telescope, the technology behind it, and the imagery it has captured. The videos also get into a discussion of theories about the formation of planets and the universe. There are ten videos in all, I've embedded the first three in the series below.

Congratulations to Teachers in Oregon!

Today, Google announced that the Oregon Department of Education is officially migrating to Google Apps for Education. All public schools in the state will have access to Google Apps for Education for students and staff. Google and the Oregon DOE estimate that this could save Oregon $1.5million/ year.

As an on-looker on the opposite coast I'm a bit jealous of my colleagues in Oregon. One of the reasons I've heard some school administrators give for not using Google Apps for Education is concern about security. Hopefully, an endorsement from a state DOE will persuade some of those administrators to try Google Apps for Education thereby saving their schools money and giving their students and teachers new opportunities.

For those teachers in Oregon who are going to start using Google Apps for the first time, take a look at this free PDF guide I created last month.

Check out the guide in Yudu format below.

Enlarge this document in a new window
Publishing Software from YUDU

Check out the guide in DocStoc format below.

Google for Teachers

JST Virtual Science Center - Great Science Resource!

The Japanese Science and Technology Center offers nine outstanding science lessons. The list of lessons and activities covers topics in physics, biology, psychology, geography, and space science. The general format of each virtual lesson is to present a manageable chunk of information followed by activities in which students try to use that information. I hesitate to generalize the activities as games because not all of them are games and those that are games are not "drill" games. Each lesson has multiple parts (some have 20+ parts) and multiple activities.

The logo displayed at the top of this post is from JST's Earth Guide which is an eight part virtual lesson about the Earth's place in the solar system and the environment of the the Earth. Each of the eight parts of JST's Earth Guide features multiple forms of information.

The virtual lesson that drew me to JST is the Mind Lab. Mind Lab is a virtual lesson on biology and psychology. The lesson is designed to make students think about the ways in which they perceive the things they see. Mind Lab has four introductory video lesson about the way in which we absorb information and how what we perceive might not be reality. One sample activity from the Mind Lab helps students discover their "blind spots" and teaches them how people sometimes become oblivious to their blind spots.

Applications for Education
The Japanese Science and Technology Center's Virtual Science Center's lessons are appropriate for middle school and high school use. Some lessons offer more depth than others, but all of the activities offer excellent content. Here is the full list of lessons: Mind Lab, Search for ET, Physics of Amusement Parks, Optical Communications, Earth Guide, The World of Rust, Energy Transmission in Sports, the Human Genome, and the Mysteries of the Body.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
10 Sources of Educational Science Games
Ten Problem Solving Games for K-8 Students
Physics Games for Your Blog or Website

Chogger - Create a Comic Strip

Chogger is a free comic strip creation tool offering a good selection of editing tools. Chogger allows you to draw images from scratch or use your existing images. You can even connect your webcam to Chogger to capture pictures for use in your comic strips. Once you've added images to your comic strip, you can add effects such as fading and outlining. Chogger also allows you to customize the look of each frame in your comic strip. Comic strips created in Chogger can have as few as three frames or as many as twelve or more frames.

Thanks to Anne Marie at Talking SMARTBoards & Much More for the info about Chogger.

Applications for Education
Chogger could be a good web-based alternative to proprietary comic strip creation tools. Chogger offers more space to create and more options for editing than many similar web-based tools. Students aren't locked into predefined templates and are free to create comic stories as they see fit.

One note of caution about Chogger, when I browsed the public gallery of comics I did come across one advertisement that might be considered PG-13.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
7 Resources for Creating Cartoons & Comics
Five Online Drawing Tools
20 Ways to Use Comics in Your Classroom Conjugates any Verb

Conjugating verbs can be a challenge for people learning the English language. aims to help those people learning English. Type a verb into the engine generates a list of ways that verb can be conjugated. also provides examples of your chosen verb being used in a sentence. provides a widget that you can embed into your blog or website for visitors to use. To install the widget click the on your site link, copy the code provided, and paste it into your blog's template.

Applications for Education could be useful for ESL/ELL students as well as native speakers of English who struggle with verb conjugation. If you have students contributing to a group blog, the widget could be a good asset to add to the group blog.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Collaborate on Translations in Translator Toolkit
Three Good Resources for ESL/ELL Teachers
Pronunciation Animations

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

TitanPad - An EtherPad Clone

When Google purchased real-time document collaboration platform EtherPad's parent company Appjet in December, EtherPad's code was made public. EtherPad itself no longer exists, but some similar services have popped-up. Most notable perhaps is TitanPad. TitanPad uses the EtherPad API to provide a free platform for real-time document collaboration.

TitanPad is essentially a clone of the original EtherPad. With TitanPad anyone can instantly create a collaborative document. You do not have to create an account to use TitanPad, in fact creating an account isn't even an option. To get started just click "create public pad," enter your name, and start typing. To invite people to collaborate, just share the url assigned to your TitanPad. Every collaborator on TitanPad is given a unique color to highlight the text they've added. Try it now on this document that I started.

Applications for Education
TitanPad could be used as a platform for quickly hosting and recording an online brainstorming session with your students. As accounts aren't necessary you won't lose any classroom time to getting students through a registration process. Earlier this year Kristen Swanson wrote a guest post for me in which she shared how she used EtherPad and the Week In Rap with her students, read that post here.

Hubble Telescope Tour in Google Earth

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Hubble Telescope Google released a new Google Earth tour of imagery captured by Hubble. The tour takes place in Google Earth Sky View. You can download the tour here or watch a preview in the video below.

Applications for Education
Space Science is a semester course offered by the science department at my school. This Google Earth tour could be a good visual aid that goes beyond simply looking at static images captured by the Hubble Telescope.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
8 Wonders of the Solar System - Interactive Tour
Northern Lights Time Lapse Video
Google Earth Across the Curriculum

Canvas Mol - 3D Models of Molecules

Canvas Mol is a website that provides 3D, interactive, rotating models of simple and complex molecules. There are 46 models of relatively common molecules like glucose, fructose, and morphine. Each model can be altered to show or not show bonds, to show or not show individual atoms, and to rotate on the X,Y, or Z axis. Canvas Mol works best in Chrome or Opera, but can also be used in Firefox and Safari.

Thanks to Ian Byrd for sharing Canvas Mol with me via email.

Applications for Education
Canvas Mol could be a great resource for chemistry and biology teachers and students. Teachers can manipulate the models to include or not include all parts of the model. Teachers could choose to not display one element of the model and challenge students to identify the molecule.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
The Interactive Periodic Table
The Comic Book Periodic Table of Elements
Video Demonstrations of the Periodic Table of Elements

Update for Email Subscribers

Many email subscribers have reported that they are not receiving regular emails from Free Technology for Teachers. This appears to be a problem with FeedBurner that they have not addressed yet. Other bloggers are reporting the same problem with FeedBurner. I am looking into other options for delivering email updates, but with more than 3,000 email subscribers there does not appear to be another free option. Therefore, I am evaluating paid services for delivering emails. When I decide on a service, I will let you know. In the meantime, this might be a good time to consider switching your subscription from email to RSS.

An RSS reader is a great way to read updates from all of your favorite blogs in one place. Rather than opening numerous emails every day or going directly to all of your favorite sites everyday, all of your favorite sites come to you in one place. I have content from roughly 300 blogs delivered to my RSS reader (Google Reader) every day. I couldn't write this blog without using Google Reader.

Learn more about RSS in this Common Craft video.

Learn more about Google Reader in this Common Craft video.

Supreme Court Case to Grab Your Students' Attention

Yesterday, the US Supreme Court announced that it is going to hear a case this fall regarding California's ban on the sale of violent video games to minors. At issue in the case is whether or not the ban on sale of violent video games to minors is a violation of First Amendment freedom of speech rights. Learn more about this story in today's episode of CNN Student News and in this article from Reuters.

Applications for Education
As many students will may have some passionate feelings about this case, it could be a great conversation starter in a Civics class or be used in a debate competition.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Our Courts - Interactive Lessons on US Civics
EL Civics - Civics Lessons for ESL Students
Connecting Social Studies and Art Through Video

Monday, April 26, 2010

Quick Translator - Compare Auto-Translators

Google Translate can be a good tool for translating documents, websites, and other text-based materials. However, sometimes you may want to check that translation against another service's translation. In other cases you may come across some text that is in a language that you don't recognize and want to have it translated. In both of those situation, Quick Translator can help you out.

To use Quick Translator just paste a chunk of text into the translation box and select the language in which you wish to read that text. Quick Translator auto detects the language of the text you paste into the translation box. The translations will then be completed by Quick Translator using both Google Translate and Microsoft Translator.

Applications for Education
Quick Translator could be a good tool for students learning a foreign language to check their own translations. Quick Translator could also be handy for grabbing news stories from foreign sources, translating them, and then comparing the reporting of international news stories from multiple perspectives.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Collaborate on Translations in Translator Toolkit
New from Google - Dictionary & Search Translations
Automatic Translation in Google Chrome

New Earth View Available in Google Maps

Earlier today Google released new imagery for Google Maps. You can now view Google Earth 3D imagery and more in Google Maps. To use Earth View in Google Maps simply click the "Earth" button in the upper-right corner of Google Maps. You can share Google Maps Earth Views just as you would share any other view in Google Maps. Likewise you can create placemarks while using the Earth View. Watch the video below to learn more about the new Earth View for Google Maps.

Applications for Education
The new Earth View in Google Maps could be a great resource for schools whose students use netbooks that cannot run Google Earth or do not run it well. Now, although they won't be able to create Google Earth layers, those students will be able to view locations in 3D as well as use 3D imagery in Google Maps tours.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Google Earth Across the Curriculum
How to Embed a Map Into Blogs and Wikis
Google Maps Labs - Try the Newest Options

NASA Brain Bites - Video Answers to Your Curiosities

NASA produces lots of great content for students. A teacher could spend many hours on the site and still not uncover all of the valuable content on it. Recently, through Eric Sheninger, I learned about NASA Brain Bites. NASA Brain Bites is a series of videos designed to answer the questions the that kids typically have about the science of space travel and the "logistics" of daily life as an astronaut. Some the questions that are addressed include "what is the temperature of space?" and "how do you go to the bathroom in space?"

All of the videos in the NASA Brain Bites collection can be viewed online or downloaded as QuickTime or Windows Media files.

Applications for Education
NASA Brain Bites is a good resource for elementary school and middle school teachers addressing space science topics. The videos can be downloaded which means that students could include them as part of a multimedia presentation about space. If Internet access in your school is unreliable being able to download these videos ensures that you can use them in class even if you cannot get online all the time.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
NASA Space Place - Where Science is Fun!
NASA Images - Embed Galleries of Images and Videos
NASA Quests and Challenges

Past and Present Google Street View Imagery

Sepia Town is a neat website that allows you to view Google Maps Street View imagery side-by-side with historical imagery. Every image in the Sepia Town collection of historical imagery is geolocated on a Google Map. Click on any image then click on the "then/now" link to see the current Google Maps Street View image of the same location. The Street View comparison feature is only available for select cities. Learn more in the episode of Tekzilla Daily that is embedded below.

Applications for Education
Sepia Town provides a good way for students to compare current imagery with the past. Have students hypothesize and research why the scenes have changed over the years. You could also use this model to have student create past and present comparison layers in Google Earth.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Google Earth Across the Curriculum
Explore More Street View Imagery Than Ever Before
Exploring Climate Change in Google Earth

Follow the 2010 Census in Google Earth

The 2010 US Census will provide us with valuable data that can be used for a variety of academic purposes. For that data to be collected the Census must be completed. To track the collection of Census data Google has created a layer for Google Earth in which you can view completion rates by county. The file uses time-stamps to show updates to the completion rates. You can view the layer here in your browser or download it here. Watch the video below for an overview of the layer.

Applications for Education
This Google Earth layer presents teachers with an opportunity to visually show students how much farther their local areas have to go in order to fully complete the Census. In a Civics class you could show students this data then challenge them to create their own campaigns to get people in their communities to complete the Census. Students could create a video or a multimedia collage (try Glogster) to encourage people to complete the Census form.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Meet the Google Doodlers

The CBS Sunday Morning Show had a short segment this week about folks who create the doodles that appear on the Google homepage. The segment provides a little back-story for the images that many of us see everyday. The video is embedded below.

Watch CBS News Videos Online

Applications for Education
There are a couple of points that you might want to highlight for students. From a design standpoint, notice how the artists plan images using a combination of whiteboard sessions and computer use. From a business standpoint, the end of the video highlights how Google's attitude toward logo manipulation stands in stark contrast the attitude of many other huge corporations.

10 Resources for Teaching & Learning Economics

As I've mentioned in the past, I really enjoy teaching economics because talking about money generally gets my students excited (if not excited, at least very interested). Here are some of the resources I've either created or used to teach economics lessons over the last few years.

1. Captains of Industry is an economics simulation activity that I used in my US History class this week. Original version of this activity was developed by my colleague Jason Long. What I'm sharing here is the activity as I've modified it for my classroom. My version is about 75% the same as Jason's original. The point of the activity is for students to experience and experiment with the tactics of American businessmen in the second half of the 19th century. Before trying the activity it is best for students to have some familiarity with the business practices of Rockefeller, Carnegie, Vanderbilt, and Morgan. You can access the activity in a Google Doc here.

2. Life on Minimum Wage is a simulation I designed for students to recognize how difficult it is to save money when your only job(s) pay minimum wage without benefits. To win (prize not determined yet) at Life on Minimum Wage the students have to reach five financial goals that they select. To earn money the students have to complete the tasks of their assigned jobs. The students then have to pay required bills before using money for their selected financial goals. As the game progresses students will be issued "surprise" cards which require them to spend money on things like speeding tickets, trips to a health clinic, and increases in rent. All of the jobs in Life on Minimum Wage are connected so that if one "business" slows production or closes, the workers of another business are also effected. The goal here is to demonstrate the effects of a business closing on a small town's economy. I've published all of the rules of the game and needed "cards" as a Google Document which you can view here.

3. On the Scholastic website is a Kid's Economic Glossary that explains some basic banking and investing concepts in terms that upper elementary and middle school students can understand.

BizEd is a great resource for economics lessons and virtual field trips. I started using BizEd a few years ago and it has been a valuable resource to me ever since. BizEd is a UK based website so some of the lessons and activities have to be manipulated a little bit for use in US classrooms, but the overall value of activities is fantastic. Some of the highlights for teachers are frequently updated lesson plans, a comprehensive glossary of terms, slide shows available for download, and fantastic virtual field trips. BizEd even has an RSS feed that provides subscribers to updates in the lesson plans, activities, and reference section of BizEd.

Planet Money is a production of NPR covering the global economy. One of the services Planet Money offers is regular podcasts containing news and lessons about the economy. Economics teacher Heather Hanemann has developed lesson plans using Planet Money podcasts. Two of the lessons are about banks and bank regulators. The other lessons "Everyday Economics" provides listening comprehension worksheets to use with a half dozen Planet Money podcasts.

Debt Ski is a fun game (if you enjoyed late 80's - early 90's video games) for learning about personal finance. The object of the game is to accumulate as much savings and as little debt as possible. Players choose one of three lifestyle objectives "thrifty," "average," or "big spender." After choosing an objective players have to, in a Mario Brothers-style, accumulate coins and necessities while avoiding unexpected expenses.

7, 8, 9. Common Craft has three videos that could be used in a business class, economics class, or in any setting that requires students to have an understanding of banking practices. Here are direct links to each of the three videos: Investing in Plain English, Borrowing in Plain English, Saving in Plain English.

Say It Visually produces videos in a simple and clear, animated style similar to Common Craft. What I like about this video is that it explains the role of individuals in the financial crisis. In this video Say It Visually explains the 2008/09 US financial crisis.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Week in Review - Most Popular Items

By the time you read this I should be sitting in a boat on Kennebago Lake in pursuit of Brook Trout. It's important for all of us to take some time away from the computer every once in a while. I've seen people get burned-out on social media because they didn't "unplug" from the web often enough. That said, as you can see, I took some time to write a few posts before I left for my weekend of fishing.

Here are seven most popular posts of the last week:
1. Interesting Ways to Use Wallwisher in the Classroom
2. 10 Sources of Educational Science Games
3. Building a Video Collage With Wallwisher
4. Ning Ends Free Networks - Try These Alternatives
5. Close-up Aerial Views of Iceland's Erupting Volcano
6. How Windmills & Turbines Generate Electricity
7. Social Media & Education

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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Why Kindergarten Students Out-perform MBAs

One of the things I like about TED Talks is that almost all of them pack a lot information and good messages into a small amount of time. In his TED Talk Build a Tower, Build a Team Tom Wujec reminds us that sometimes Kindergarten students have something to teach us. In his six minute talk Wujec explains why Kindergarten students often out-perform recent business school graduates in a challenge to build a structure of tape, spaghetti, and marshmallows.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
15 TED Talks to Watch Before 2010
Photos that Changed the World
TED Talk - The World Needs Childish Thinking

Friday, April 23, 2010

10 Resources for Teaching & Learning About WWII

Next week my US History students will be beginning their studies of World War II. I spent some time this week going through some of the resources that I've used in the past and the resources that I've mentioned in the past on Free Technology for Teachers.

The event that brought the US into WWII was the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Here's a video containing President Roosevelt's Pearl Harbor Address also known as "a date that will live in infamy" speech.

Snag Films offers three films about the bombing of Pearl Harbor including this one hosted by Tom Brokaw.

The National Parks Service offers lesson plans about Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona.

Google Earth has a layer that features aerial imagery of 35 European cities bombed during WWII. Among these cities are Warsaw, Lyon, Naples, and Stuttgart. To view this imagery and compare it to modern imagery, locate a city in Google Earth then use the timeline slider to view the historical imagery.

The Science and Technology of WWII provides students and teachers with lesson plans, timelines, essays, images, and learning activities about the scientific and technological developments that took place during WWII. The darkroom section of the website contains thirteen categories of images of WWII scientific and technology developments. The timeline on the website allows students to explore the scientific, technological, and political steps in the development of the atomic bomb. The learning activities section of The Science and Technology of WWII gives students the opportunity to learn about and send coded messages.

Conflict History is a good example of what can be accomplished by mixing Google Maps with a timeline. Conflict History provides a timeline at the bottom of a Google Map. Select a range of dates on the timeline and placemarks representing conflicts appear on the map. For example, if you select the years 1941-1945, every conflict that happened around the world in those years appears on the map. For major conflicts such as World War II, individual campaigns and battles appear on the map.

The World at War is an interactive timeline about FDR's decisions during WWII. Click on any of the key decisions listed to learn more about those decisions. The decisions are interspersed amongst other key events of WWII. None of the events are terribly detailed, but the timeline does provide a nice general overview.

World War Two: Europe and North Africa 1939-1945 Map is a narrated overview of the main events in those areas. What I like about this video is that it provides visual, geographic context for the events discussed by the narrator. Watch the video below.

World War Two: Asia and the Pacific 1941-1945 Map
uses the same concept as the video above to illustrate the Pacific theater of WWII.

The BBC's World Wars In-depth series contains some great audio, visual, animated, and text resources for learning about WWII from start to finish. WWII In-depth contains a timeline overview of the war. From there you can jump-off in a number of directions to explore details about WWII.

Sleedo - Search the Web and Donate Rice

Most people are familiar with the word game Free Rice that donates rice to the poor for every correct response to word games. Sleedo is using a similar model to raise revenue for rice donations. Sleedo is a search engine (using the Google custom search service) that donates money to the World Food Programme when people do their Internet searches through Sleedo.

Applications for Education
If you're looking for a way for your students to help a good cause in the course of an Internet search exercise, consider directing them to Sleedo.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
How Web Search Works
Real-Time Search Options
Lesson Plans for Teaching Web Search Strategies

Is It Better to Rent or Buy? Interactive Infographic

The New York Times has a new interactive infographic designed to help people determine when it makes financial sense to buy a home rather than rent a home. Users of the interactive infographic can enter variable data such as home price, interest rates, rent prices, rental rate increases, and housing market changes to determine when it's best to buy a home rather than rent. Users can also account for information like insurance rates, condo fees, and opportunity costs.

Applications for Education
Consumer economics is one of the topics that I really think high schools need to teach more often. My school eliminated it as a course quite a while ago, but I still try to work it into my Civics curriculum. While most high school students won't be buying a home anytime soon, the Buy vs. Rent interactive infographic could still be useful for demonstrating the concepts of inflation, interest rates, and market changes.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
The History of Credit Cards in the United States
Two Cool Economics Infographics
FDR and the Banking System

Engineering Interact - Physics Games for Kids

Engineering Interact is a site for elementary school students designed by the Department of Engineering at the University of Cambridge. Engineering Interact offers five games designed to teach students physics concepts. The games address concepts related to light, sound, motion, electricity, and space travel. Each of the five games presents students with a scenario in which they have to "help" someone solve a problem. The games require students to learn and analyze the information presented to them.

Thanks to Casey Mayfield for sharing the link to Engineering Interact on Twitter.

Applications for Education
Engineering Interact is a fun learning environment for elementary school students. Unlike a lot of educational games that are simple "drilling" exercises, the games on Engineering Interact require students to evaluate information.

Engineering Interact offers teachers a resource section in which they can find the concepts and questions present in each game without the game environment. This could be helpful to teachers who are trying to plan a pre-game or post-game lesson. Engineering Interact also offers a list of external resources for further learning about the concepts addressed in the games.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
10 Sources of Educational Science Games
Five Sources of Fun Mathematics Games
Ten Problem Solving Games for K-8 Students

Quick Note for Email Subscribers

Some email subscribers to Free Technology for Teachers have been reporting infrequent message delivery. FeedBurner, the service the generates the email, has not reported any errors. That said, it does have occasional glitches. I've also had some people report emails are going to spam folders. If you've not been receiving updates lately, please check your spam folder.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Two Cool Economics Infographics

Cool Infographics is quickly becoming one of my favorite resources for interesting visual depictions of statistics. Today on Cool Infographics there are two infographics that could be useful for teachers of economics. The first of the two is Follow the Money. Follow the Money is a video that summarizes the data collected on Where's George? Where's George? is a website that was established for the purpose of tracking the travels of one dollar bills. Watch the video below.

The second cool economics infographic featured today on Cool Infographics is China Widens Its Reach. China Widens Its Reach is an interactive infographic produced by Forbes. The purpose of the infographic is to allow visitors to view the investments China has made in other countries. Click on any transaction in the infographic to view the details of each investment. (The image below is a screen capture of the infographic, clicking it will take you to the real infographic on

Applications for Education
The title Follow the Money implies that the video follows one dollar bills around the country, but the video actually gets into a much deeper analysis of the data gathered by Where's George? The video explores what the "travels" of one dollar bills represent in terms of cultural boundaries.

China Widens Its Reach could be a good resource for a global economics class. You could have each student in your class study a different transaction and try to explain why China made that particular investment.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
The History of Credit Cards in the United States
Saving Money in Plain English
A Pictorial History of Money

Glogster EDU Resource Library

Glogster has just announced some new services for users of Glogster EDU. Among the services available to users of the free platform are new categories for Glogs that should make it easier to search for examples of academic uses of Glogster. Glogster has also launched a forum for teachers to share ideas and best practices for using Glogster in their classrooms. Glogster is calling the forum GLab.

Glogster has also released a PDF guide for educators interested in using Glogster in their classrooms. The Glogster Educator Resource Library is a free 29 page PDF containing lesson plans and examples of Glogster used in classrooms. The lesson plans come with scoring rubrics are are aligned to national standards. The Glogster Educator Resource Library also contains links to additional sites offering media that can be use in Glogs.

Learn more about Glogster EDU in these posts.
The New Glogster EDU is Live
Just in Time for School - Glogster EDU
Glogster Announces Changes to EDU Accounts