Saturday, July 31, 2010

Using Backchannels in Your Classroom

Earlier this evening I gave a presentation for the 2010 Reform Symposium. The topic of the presentation was using backchannels in your classroom. During the presentation I explored some of the problems that using backchannels can solve for teachers. The recording of the presentation should be available here soon. In the meantime, I promised that I would post the slides from the presentation. The second to last slide contains a list of tools that can be used for hosting backchannel chats.
(Yes, something weird happened when I uploaded to SlideShare to cause my first slide to get a bit off).

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Neat Chat - Quickly Create an Ad-Free Chatroom
Five Platforms for Classroom Back-channel Chat
Back-channeling During a Class Viewing of Glory

Week in Review - Blocked from my Google Account

This week I was at the Maine Maritime Academy in Castine, Maine for MLTI's Summer Institute. I was there to talk about Google Maps, Blogger, and some lesser-known Google tools like Google Books. Everything went well the first day. On the second day, the day that I was to run two workshops about Blogger, I was blocked from my Google Account just minutes before the start time. Without getting into a bunch of networking geek-speak, let's just say that some computers could get through the network to Google accounts while others couldn't.

Just when I thought it was going be a flop of a day for presentations, my friend Harold Shaw rescued me by letting me use his MacBook Pro for the first morning session. Alice Barr let me use her MacBook for the second morning session. And in the afternoon computer science guru Tim Hart created a work-around for my machine that got me onto the network. I barely understood what Tim did so I just nodded my head while he went to work typing a series of commands. Thank you to these fine folks who made it possible for me to go on and have a great conference.

Here are the seven most popular items of the last week:
1. Learn It In 5 - Tech How-to Videos for Teachers
2. Ten Uses for In Education
3. Nine Survey Tools for Teachers and Students
4. 3 Common Craft Videos That Should Be In Your Training Library
5. How to Use for Free
6. Copyright Office Clarifies Fair Use Rules
7. Weekly Video Tip - Cheap Whiteboards

Thank you to everyone that helped spread the word about the great resources listed above. Together we can help spread the word to other teachers about the great free resources that can make our students' learning experiences better.

If you enjoyed the links above, please consider subscribing to Free Technology for Teachers if you haven't already done so.
Subscribe via RSS. Subscribe via Email. Become a Facebook Fan.

Get Free Technology for Teachers on Kindle.

Please visit the official advertisers and marketing partners that help keep this blog going. is a provider of free educational games for K-5. powers the job board on Free Technology for Teachers.
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Infographic - College Drinking, More than a Problem

Degree Scout has recently published an infographic illustrating the problems that are caused by college students' drinking behaviors. The infographic contains statistics and citations to support the information presented.

You can view the whole infographic and grab the embed code for it here.

Applications for Education
This infographic might be useful for health and wellness educators to provide their students with a quick visual reminder of some lessons they're teaching.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Food Play - Resources About Food and Diet
Sugar Stacks - How Much Sugar is in Your Snack?

Cool Food Kidz Teaches Kids About Diet & Fitness

Friday, July 30, 2010

Good Resources for Geography Teachers

My Wonderful World is an excellent resource for geography teachers and geography students. My Wonderful World provides a host of great ideas, lesson plans, games, videos, and visual aids for teaching and learning geography. Some of the items on My Wonderful World that immediately stand out are great links to resources about geocaching and earthcaching activities, preparation materials for the National Geography Bee, and free classroom maps for teachers. My Wonderful World also has a Youtube channel where teachers will find educational geography videos.

Applications for Education
My Wonderful World has a list of the top ten reasons for teaching and learning geography. In each of the items on the list are links to great teaching and learning materials. One of the best items on the list is #6, "make it extracurricular." My Wonderful World suggests making geocaching or Earthcaching an extracurricular activity to get parents and community members involved in Geography education. This is a great idea because geocaching gets students outside while providing a hands-on learning experience.

A Simple Explanation of Geocaching

Geocaching can be a fun and educational outdoor activity. The video below from explains in simple terms what geocaching is and how you can get started. There's clearly a plug at the end for's subscription service (they also have a free service) but otherwise it's a good introduction to geocaching.

Applications for Education
Having students participate in geocaching activities can be a good way to move geography lessons out of the classroom.

Math in Outdoor Recreation

The Math of Rock Climbing is a video that I discovered through the Open Culture blog. I have done some rock climbing so I was interested just by the title. As I watched the video I realized that there is an opportunity to incorporate a mathematics lesson into a physical education class. My school has a ropes course that the students use during physical education classes. If your school has the same or there is a rock climbing gym in your area that you can take students to, you have an opportunity to have students physically experience mathematics. Watch the video below.

Cloud Canvas - Edit and Create Images Online

Cloud Canvas is a free online image editing and image creation tool. Cloud Canvas fits in a niche somewhere between a simple drawing tool and a full-blown image editor like Aviary. If all you need is a tool for drawing simple pictures and diagrams, Cloud Canvas has you covered. If you need to do some basic work with vectors and layers, Cloud Canvas can help you there too. If you have photos or drawings that you want to edit, you can do that with Cloud Canvas.

Cloud Canvas uses HTML5 instead of Flash so you should be able to use it on the iPad. Cloud Canvas integrates with your Google Docs account so that when you save an image edited in Cloud Canvas it is saved and accessible in your Google Docs account. You can also export your images as PNG files.

Applications for Education
One sure way to make sure that your students don't violate anyone's copyright when using images for multimedia projects is to have them create their own images. Cloud Canvas is a free tool that your students could use to create images for their multimedia projects.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
7 Resources for Creating Cartoons & Comics
Five Online Drawing Tools
Nine Tools for Collaboratively Creating Mind Maps

Thursday, July 29, 2010

How to Choose a Safe Password

How to Choose a Safe Password is an educational video produced by Animated Explanations. The video does a nice job of explaining the common mistakes people make in choosing passwords for their online accounts. The video then walks viewers through how to create a strong passwords for their online accounts. The video is embedded below.

How to choose a safe password - Animated Explanations

Why Pay for a Free Video?

Yesterday, I wrote a post about the three Common Craft videos that should be in every technology integrator's training library. In that post I mentioned that if you're using the videos you should probably pony-up the money for the licensing (it's cheap). I've gotten a couple of emails this morning asking why should someone buy the video when it can be viewed for free online. I wrote about that question last fall so rather than rehashing it, I've included that post below.

A couple of days ago I Tweeted that I was buying a copy of Common Craft's video Wikis in Plain English. The fact that I bought anything may come as a shock to some readers. After all, this is Free Technology for Teachers and you can watch all of the Common Craft videos for free at various places on the Internet. So why did I purchase Wikis in Plain English? I purchased a copy of it because I will be conducting some workshops over the next few months in which Wikis in Plain English will be useful. Since I will be getting paid for those workshops, using the free version of the Common Craft videos would not be right. Put another way, Lee and Sachi put a lot of their time and effort into the production of their videos, for me to profit from their work without paying for that work would be like stealing. Therefore, I bought a copy of Wikis in Plain English and will purchase other videos from Common Craft as needed. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people that haven't come to the same conclusion that I have and have abused the work of Lee and Sachi Lefever. Because of those abuses, the newest Common Craft video is not embeddable although you can still view it for free on Common Craft.

I know this post might sound like a sales pitch for Common Craft so please know that I don't have any affiliation with or financial interest in Common Craft. I posted this just to share that even for a cheapskate like me there are times when it is appropriate to spend money for quality online content.

Update: Common Craft offers a discount to schools. Click here to get the details from them.

A Great Alternative to Traditional Book Reports

Book Trailers for Readers is a student/ teacher wiki that was recently featured on the Wikispaces blog. Book Trailers for Readers was started by Michelle Harclerode. The wiki features dozens of book previews and book reviews produced by students for students. There's also a section of book trailers featuring the books that teachers loved when they were growing-up.

Applications for Education
Creating book trailers is a great alternative to having students write boring book reports. To help you implement the book trailers concept in your classroom Michelle Harclerode has a how-to page on Book Trailers for Readers. Featured prominently on that how-to page is the presentation embedded below.

If you don't have access to or funds for video editing software, take a look at the free web-based video creation tools featured in my free guide Making Videos on the Web. While not visual, another way that you could have students create book trailers is by creating audio podcasts. Here are five free tools for creating and hosting podcasts.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
60 Second Recap - Short Summaries of the Classics
Guys Read - Getting Boys to Read
Seven Places to Find Free eBooks

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

3 Common Craft Videos That Should Be In Your Training Library

I've spent the last couple of days with Alice Barr, Sarah Sutter, and Thomas Cooper at MLTI's summer conference working with teachers interested in learning about Google tools in their classrooms. The bulk of my responsibility was to help people create blogs. At the beginning of both of my sessions today I asked if anyone had heard of Common Craft. Surprisingly to me, only a couple of hands went up. I then showed Blogs in Plain English. My experience today reminded me that somethings that I take for granted and think everyone knows about, are often still new materials to many people.

I like Common Craft videos for the clear simplicity of their presentations. For that reason I actually purchase copies of the videos to save on my hard drive. I encourage you to do the same if you use their videos for trainings. (No, I do not have any financial affiliation with Common Craft). Here are three Common Craft videos that everyone responsible for teaching technology to school faculty should have in their libraries.

Blogs in Plain English.

Wikis in Plain English.

RSS in Plain English.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Great Video - Study Like a Scholar, Scholar
Learn It In 5 - Tech How-to Videos
Seven Videos All Teachers Should Watch

Video ANT - Discuss and Annotate Videos

Video ANT is a free tool developed by Brad Hosack at the University of Minnesota for the purpose of providing a platform on which students and teachers view and annotate videos. Video ANT plays your specified video and while watching you and your students can and marks along a timeline and write comments alongside the video. Annotations are archived and emailed to you when you've completed the annotation process. Video ANT works with YouTube videos as well as with some video files that you can upload to the site. Click here to watch a screencast created by Brad Hosack of Video ANT in action.

Thanks to Desert Diver on Twitter for sharing this great resource along with a sample of one of his annotated Video ANT videos.

Applications for Education
In the past I've used back-channels while my students are watching videos so that they can discuss the footage as they're seeing it. Annotating videos with Video ANT could take that process a step further by creating an archive that matches the various points in the footage.

Viddler also allows you to annotate videos, but the drawback to Viddler is that you're somewhat limited as to the length of comments you can write. Also Viddler may be blocked in some schools. Video ANT provides a clean, easy-to-use interface in which you and your students can annotate and discuss videos.

Knotebooks - Create Multimedia Math & Science Articles

Knotebooks is a neat service that allows users to create, customize, and share lessons composed of videos, images, and texts from all over the Internet. Knotebooks uses the term "lesson" to describe what users build, but I think a more appropriate description is "multimedia reference article."

Using Knotebooks you can organize information to create a reference article for yourself or to share with others. You can also browse the articles published by others, add them to your account for later reference, and or alter the articles that others have written to suit your needs. For example if I find and article in Knotebooks about Newton's Laws but some parts of the article are too difficult for me to comprehend, I can click the option for "easier content" and Knotebooks will change the article to meet my needs. Knotebooks is a great concept, learn more about it and see it in action in the video below.

Applications for Education
Creating Knotebooks could be a great way for mathematics and science students to build multimedia reference libraries for themselves and for their classmates. The feature that I think makes Knotebooks really shine is the one click article change that gives students instant access to easier or harder verbiage and concepts.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
The Interactive Periodic Table
A Taste of Med School - Stanford Mini Med School
Canvas Mol - 3D Models of Molecules

One Click Document Translation in Google Docs

Google Docs has had a translation option for quite a while, but until now you had to copy and paste your text in order to create a new translated document. Yesterday, Google announced that in the new version of Google Docs you can now create a new translated document with just one click. To create a new translated copy of your document just select "tools" then "translate document." Google Docs will then prompt you to select a language. Once you've specified a language a new translated document will appear in your list of Google Docs. Google Docs now supports translation for 53 languages.

Applications for Education
If you have students that live in homes in which English is not the primary language, the new Google Docs translation option could be very useful. Now when you need to send a letter home, you can easily print it out in multiple languages.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Flisti - Quickly Create and Share a Poll

Flisti is a free and easy-to-use polling tool. Registration is not required in order to create a poll with Flisti. In fact, registering doesn't seem to be an option at all. To create a poll using Flisti just enter your question, specify some answer choices, then click "create new poll." Your poll(s) can be embedded into your blog, website, or wiki.

Pepsi or Coke?

H/T to Larry Ferlazzo for the link.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
MicroPoll - Web Polls Made Easy
Nine Survey Tools for Teachers and Students

What You Wanted to Know About Blogging

Sue Waters has written another follow-up post from the questions and comments generated by our ISTE Unplugged session on blogging. In What You Wanted to Know About Blogging Sue addresses topics such as blog design, post frequency, gaining more readers, and tracking your blog's visitation statistics. Sue has some great advice that new and old bloggers alike can learn from.

Wolfram Alpha Launches a Custom Widget Builder

Computational search engine Wolfram Alpha has just launched a new widget building tool. The Wolfram Alpha widget builder will allow anyone to create a computational search widget. Once created the widgets can easily be embedded into Blogger, WordPress, iGoogle, and just about any other website or blog service. Published widgets appear in a gallery that is accessible to anyone that registers with Wolfram Alpha.

Creating a Wolfram Alpha Widget is a fairly straight-forward process. To get started, enter a search phrase such as "distance from Boston to New York in inches." In the second step you define the variables for your widget. This second step is the crucial step that I had to try a few times before I got it right. After completing step two the rest of the process is a simple matter of selecting the output format, widget theme, and writing a description of the widget.

Applications for Education
The Wolfram Alpha Widget Builder could be a great tool for teachers and students to build custom conversion widgets and other data-based search widgets. Teachers can place the widgets into their blogs for students to use to check their computations or to simply access computational information from one site.

Copyright Office Clarifies Fair-Use Rules

Yesterday, the US Library of Congress which oversees the Copyright Office handed down some decisions in favor of the Electronic Frontier Foundation's appeals regarding cell phones and fair use. The decisions mean that iPhone owners can now jailbreak their phones (the ruling isn't limited to iPhones, but iPhones were mentioned because Apple was opposed to the ruling). Here's an excerpt from the decision:
"When one jailbreaks a smartphone in order to make the operating system on that phone interoperable with an independently created application that has not been approved by the maker of the smartphone or the maker of its operating system, the modifications that are made purely for the purpose of such interoperability are fair uses."

Another decision announced yesterday makes it easier for people to create remix videos under the guidelines of fair-use. The Copyright Office declared that amateur remix artists don't violate DMCA rules when the use short excerpts from DVDs (or video cassettes if you can find one these days) to create new, noncommercial works for the criticism or critique.

Read more about these decisions in this EFF article. Read the full transcript of the decisions from the Copyright Office here (opens as PDF).

Applications for Education
These decisions from the Copyright Office mean that teachers and students can use, reuse, and remix materials with fewer worries of violating copyright rights.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Comprehensive Lesson Plans for Teaching Copyright
Creative Thinking - Lessons About Copyright
Copyright for Educators

Monday, July 26, 2010

Learn Boost - Free Online Gradebook

Learn Boost is a new free gradebook system that looks promising. Learn Boost is still in a closed testing mode, but according to their product tour Learn Boost will offer a lesson plan manager that will allow teachers to match state and national standards to their lesson plans. Learn Boost also plans to give teachers the option to integrate their Google Calendars into their Learn Boost accounts. Visit TechCrunch to learn more about Learn Boost.

Applications for Education
Learn Boost could provide schools and teachers with an excellent alternative to expensive student management systems.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Schoology - Online Course Management
Gradebook Portal - Free Online Gradebook
RCampus - Create and Conduct Courses Online

Music from North Korea & Around the Globe

The BBC Radio World Music Archive is comprised of music recordings gathered over the course of ten years from countries all over the globe. The collection includes recordings from some dangerous and hard to reach places like North Korea and Iraq. In fact, the BBC reports that the recording from North Korea is the first radio recording done by anyone outside of the North Korean government.

Applications for Education
The BBC World Music Archive could be a good resource for teaching lessons on world culture through music.

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
Music Theory Lessons and Tutorials

Search Credible - 26 Search Engines in One

Search Credible is a search service that allows you to access 26 different search engines from one location. Included in the list of search engines Search Credible searches are Wolfram Alpha, EBSCO, ERIC, and the usual suspects such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo. To use Search Credible just enter your search term(s) then click on the search engine of your choice.

Applications for Education
Search Credible's utility for teachers is that instead of having to tell students to go to multiple individual search engines it gives them one place to direct their students to. Teachers could use Search Credible as the basis for a comparison exercise in which students evaluate and compare different sources of information on the same topic.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Beyond Google - Improve Your Search Results
Mashpedia - The Real-time Encyclopedia
Wolfram Alpha for Educators - Free Lesson Plans

Learn It in 5 - Tech How-to Videos for Teachers

Learn It In 5 is a relatively new site that features short how-to videos for teachers. The videos are intended to help teachers quickly learn how to use some of the the web tools are essential to being a successful user of classroom technology. The videos cover tools like Skype, Diigo, VoiceThread, and more. I learned about Learn It In 5 from Lee Kolbert who directed my attention to the video about Google Reader embedded below.

Applications for Education
Videos like those found on Learn It In 5 can be great resources for helping teachers learn about web-based tools they can use in their classrooms.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Google for Teachers - Free Ebook
Google for Teachers II - Free Ebook
Seven Videos All Educators Should Watch

Google Compass - Plot and Record Routes

The Barcelona Field Studies Centre has developed a neat little compass tool that works with Google Maps. Google Compass overlays a compass on a Google Map. Users can drag the compass and position it to point in any direction. Users can then plot a route on the map using the compass. The compass tool will account for magnetic declination when necessary. The compass tool will also provide users with the coordinates of their routes.

Applications for Education
Google Compass could be used to teach students about the difference between magnetic north and true north. Students can position the compass on various places on the map to see how the difference between magnetic north and true north varies depending upon where you are on the globe.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Google Earth Across the Curriculum
Free 33 Page Guide - Google for Teachers
Using Maps in an Elementary School Math Lesson

Sunday, July 25, 2010

MicroPoll - Web Polls Made Easy

Yesterday, I gave a run-down of nine survey tools that teachers and students can use. Today, I came across another survey tool that should be added to that list. MicroPoll makes it very easy to create a poll, customize it, and embed it into your blog or website. To use MicroPoll just enter your question, enter answer choices, and enter your email address. After completing those first three steps you can preview your poll, change the theme (look) of your poll, and get the embed code for your poll.

Applications for Education
Conducting surveys is a good way for students and teachers to collect data that can then be used for lessons on fractions and percentages. I remember in elementary school my class surveyed the school about breakfast cereal preferences then we had to create pie charts and other data displays using the survey results.

Mapped Bird Migration Patterns & Habitat Ranges

Project FeederWatch is a project administered by the Cornell Ornithology Lab and Bird Studies Canada. Project FeederWatch collects data from backyard bird observers across the United States and Canada. The data is used for a variety of purposes including providing the public with information about the birds that can be found in their areas at various times during the year. The Project FeederWatch map room allows you to select a species and see its migration pattern mapped over the course of a year. There are data sets available for the current year as well as past years.

eBird is a website run by the Cornell Ornithology Lab that provides more maps, graphs, and charts along the same lines as those found on Project FeederWatch. eBird has maps of the global distribution of birds (Project FeederWatch is limited to North America) and charts of seasonal distributions of birds. eBird also has a bird tracker map set-up just for birds affected by the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Applications for Education
Project FeederWatch and eBird are both good examples of using maps to display data. Placing the data sets on maps gives students a visual reference that means more than simply studying a list of which birds appear in which states.

Teachers could use the migration information available from Project FeederWatch and eBird to develop a simple lesson in statistical analysis and predictions. You could have students look at the migration data for a bird that appears in their area and try to predict when the first one of those birds will be spotted outside of your classroom windows.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
See Animal Ranges on Encyclopedia of Life Maps

Teacher Linx- Create and Share Lesson Plans
Science Netlinks - Dozens of Science Lessons

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

It's Saturday morning in Maine and I just came inside from some bug collecting and soccer playing with my neighbor's six year old. Before I'm summoned for some more soccer I want to share this week's most popular posts.

Here are the seven most popular items of the last week:
1. Hey Seth, How About Some Practical Ideas?
2. Simple Diagrams - Free Diagram Creation Tool
3. Every Teacher Should Have a Blog & How to Create One
4. Great Video - Study Like a Scholar, Scholar
5. Ten Uses for in Education
6. New from Common Craft - Secure Passwords
7. USGS Multimedia Gallery

Thank you to everyone that helped spread the word about the great resources listed above. Together we can help spread the word to other teachers about the great free resources that can make our students' learning experiences better.

If you enjoyed the links above, please consider subscribing to Free Technology for Teachers if you haven't already done so. Subscribe via RSS. Subscribe via Email. Become a Facebook Fan.

You can also get Free Technology for Teachers on Kindle

Please visit the official advertisers and marketing partners that help keep this blog going. is a provider of free educational games for K-5. powers the job board on Free Technology for Teachers.
SimpleK12 is my blog marketing partner. Download their Web Cam Toolkit.

Nine Survey Tools for Teachers and Students

On many occasions in the past I've written here and shared on other forums that I think placing a survey or poll on your classroom blog or website is a great way to get informal feedback from your students. I usually put a survey on my class blog a week or so before any formal assessment that my students are going to take. That feedback helps me identify the areas that my students need more help and or clarification on.

Here are nine tools that you can use to put a survey or poll on your class blog.

Using Yarp you can create a simple one question survey or one line event invitation. To create a Yarp survey select "survey" on the homepage, type a question, then select your answer format. All answer formats present only two options along the lines of "true or false" or "yes or no." Yarp invitations use the same format styles as Yarp surveys.

Vorbeo is a free service for creating polls for your blog or website. To use Vorbeo just type your question, enter your answer choices, select a background color, and specify the width of your polling widget. Then copy the embed code provided by Vorbeo and paste it into the html editor of your blog or website.

Urtak is a free and simple polling service that can be used on any blog or website. The polls you create can have multiple questions, but they must be "yes or no" questions. But Urtak isn't that limited because visitors to your poll also have the option of writing in their own questions. You can get started using Urtak in seconds by registering with your Twitter or Facebook account. You can also use your email address to create an account with Urtak. Urtak polls can be embedded into your blog or you can direct people to your poll by sharing the unique url Urtak assigns to your poll.

Buzz Dash is a free polling service that allows anyone to create a poll to use on any blog or website. There are a lot of survey and polling widgets that you can use on your blog (in fact, Blogger has one built-in), but what I like about Buzz Dash is that your poll results instantly update whenever someone votes. The update happens without the need to refresh your page in order to see the new poll results. Buzz Dash has gone out of business. Read about it here if you like.

Obsurvey gives you the flexibility to create multiple choice surveys or open-ended surveys. Setting up a survey with Obsurvey is an easy process. To set up a survey simply select your question format and then edit the questions and answer choices using the text editor. The video here shows you how to set-up Obsurvey.

Fluid Surveys is a good tool for quickly creating surveys that offer multiple response formats. Many free survey programs only allow one type of response format, multiple choice or text. Fluid Surveys allows you to combine both formats in one survey. The drag and drop interface is so easy to use that you can build a survey in less than a minute. Watch the video here to see how easy it is to use Fluid Surveys.

Stellar Survey offers free surveys that teachers and school administrators can use to get feedback about courses and instructors. Users can select from a predefined template and questions or create a survey from scratch. The free, basic account only allows 50 responses per survey so it is not ideal for large classes, but for most teachers 50 responses will adequate.
No list of survey tools would be complete without mentioning the following two very popular services.
Polldaddy is one of the most recognized platforms for online polling. The free Polldaddy plan allows you to create polls or surveys containing up to ten questions. Poll/ survey results are displayed in real-time.
Poll Everywhere is a poll/ survey service that allows you to collect responses via text messaging. Post your question(s) on your unique Poll Everywhere survey and the audience can voice their opinion(s) using their cell phones. Survey results are available instantly. The free plan allows you to collect responses from up to thirty respondents.

Friday, July 23, 2010

How to Use for Free

Earlier today I posted a list of ten ways that teachers can use There was some confusion about whether or not is free. is completely free for anyone to use. I figured out why some people thought it was not free and the reason lies in the format of the homepage. Watch the screencast video below to learn how to use for free.

Click here if you cannot see the screencast video.

Weekly Video Tip - Cheap Whiteboards

In this week's video I share a resource that isn't free, but could save you or your school some money when purchasing whiteboards.

Thanks to Janet Morrison for the tip about shower boards.

Ten Uses for in Education

More than two years after its initial launch, is still one of my favorite all-around web-based tools for teachers. Here are ten ways that teachers can use

Update: As of December 15, 2010 will no longer exist. 

Update for clarification: is completely free up to 100mb of storage. Beyond that, you can either pay a premium or simply create an additional drop. I just tested this a minute ago by creating a brand-new drop for free. Important: You DO NOT need to create an account to use In fact, if you try to create an account using the "sign-up" link you will be signing-up for Manager which is not what you want to do.

Update #2: See the screen capture below to see how to use for free.

1. Post documents and PDFs for others to view and download.
2. Post documents, links, videos, audio files for others to access and comment on.
3. Create voice recordings in MP3 format.
4. Establish a voicemail box at no cost to you.
5. Host online presentations.
6. Chat with others accessing your page.
7. Create an anonymous email account.
8. Create a "drop box" to collect work from students using the upload widget. No longer available, it has been replaced by a "hidden uploader" which is not embeddable.
9. Use bookmarklet to bookmark links and add them to your page.
10. Offer RSS feed for updates to your page.

(Click to enlarge) Important DO NOT try to sign-up using the account log-in and password field. Use only the steps to the left. You DO NOT need to create an account to use

Here's a video overview of

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Impress Your Boss (and Colleagues) With Wikis

Here's another of the cartoon slideshows that I made a couple of years ago. It's still very relevant in many schools. The only thing I'd change about it now is the title as the term Web 2.0 seems to be falling out of favor.

Benefits of Cloud Computing for Students

Here's the third in the series of cartoon slideshows I made a couple of years ago. It's amazing to me that in the world of an ever-expanding web, these cartoons are still relevant in a lot of school situations. For clarification, the web-based word processor mentioned in the cartoon is Zoho Writer.

Every Teacher Should Have a Blog & How to Create One

A few days ago I was reminded of a cartoon slideshow that I created a couple of years ago. The purpose of the slideshow was to demonstrate one of the reasons why teachers should blog. The slideshow is embedded below.

If you're in need of directions for creating your own classroom blog, I have posted directions for Blogger, Edublogs, and here.

Gone Fishin' for the Day

Just a quick note: I'm taking the day off from the online world to relax and fish before a stretch of five workshops and presentations in seven days. I'll be moderating comments on Friday.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Yale Open Course - Civil War & Reconstruction

Here's another great example of the kind of free education that can be found on the web today. Yale University has published all of the lecture videos, the syllabus, and the required texts for Professor David Blight's course Civil War & Reconstruction Era 1845 - 1877. The course can be viewed on YouTube EDU or you can download the video and audio files through Open Yale Courses where you can also find the course syllabus and required readings list.

Embedded below is the introduction to the course.

H/T to Open Culture.

Screenjelly - Quick and Easy Screencasting

Screenjelly is a free web-based tool that allows anyone to quickly create a screencast video. To use Screenjelly all you need to do is go to and click the big red "record" button. Once clicked Screenjelly will begin recording your screen and your voice (if you choose) for up to three minutes. When you're done recording press "stop" and you can then share your video on Twitter and other social networks. You can also embed your Screenjelly recording into your blog or website.

Applications for Education
I have a colleague who, in order to get students to familiarize themselves with their netbooks, has her students create small tutorials and presentations about the various programs installed on their netbooks. It's an exercise designed to get students to focus on being clear in their communications. Screenjelly could be a nice asset for those students as they could supplement their instructions with a short screencast video.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
3 Web-based Tools for Creating Screencast Videos
Using Screen Captures to Enhance Instructions

Great Video - Study Like a Scholar, Scholar

Thanks to Janet Kenney for alerting me to the following funny and relevant to education video.

Applications for Education
Why isn't this video embedded into every school library website yet? At my school the librarian conducts a library orientation for incoming freshmen, I'm going to recommend that she include this in her program.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
A Fun Video for Introducing Google Docs
Seven Videos All Educators Should Watch

TinEye - Reverse Image Search

Yesterday, Google announced that they were completely revamping the way that image search results were displayed. It's a neat new display, try it out. But what if you've located an image and want to see how it's been used and reused on the web? That's where TinEye comes in. TinEye is a reverse image search engine. Here's how it works, upload an image to TinEye or paste an image url into TinEye and it will scour the web to locate other uses of that image. TinEye will give you the links to where your specified image has been used.

Learn more about TinEye in the video below.

Applications for Education
TinEye could be useful for teaching students to be aware of their digital footprints. You could use TinEye to show them that an image they upload to a social network could get reused in multiple places.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Google for Teachers - Free Ebook
Google for Teachers II - Free Ebook
Seven Videos All Educators Should Watch

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

User Policy Management Added to Google Apps

Google made a significant addition to Google Apps for Education in the form of a user policy management tool. The user policy management tool will enable administrators of Google Apps for Education to create and segment user groups. This means that administrators of Google Apps for Education can enable some applications while disabling other applications. For example, administrators can enable chat for teachers but disable chat for students. Click here to read more about user policy management in Google Apps.

USGS Multimedia Gallery

In the past I've written about Google Earth files and some other educational media from produced by the USGS (here and here). Today, I want to make sure that you're aware of some other great materials available through the USGS Multimedia Gallery. The USGS Multimedia Gallery contains large collections of educational videos, animations, podcasts, and image galleries. You can search each collection by topic and or keyword tags. RSS feeds are available for each gallery. In addition to the videos in the USGS Multimedia Gallery you can find many videos on the official USGS YouTube channel.

H/T to Lucy Gray who shared the USGS social media center on Facebook.

Applications for Education
If you need images or videos to help you deliver a lesson to your Earth Science students, the USGS Multimedia Gallery should be one of the first places you visit. Likewise students developing multimedia presentations for their Earth Science classes would be well-served to visit the USGS Multimedia Gallery.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Video - Two Cases of Global Warming
Climate Change, Wildlife, Wildlands Lesson Plans
An Immersive Virtual Tour of the Grand Canyon

The Story Behind the Iroquois and Lacrosse

Last Saturday the Iroquois Nation was officially excluded from the world lacrosse championships because UK officials would not recognize their Iroquois Nation travel documents. The players could have traveled on US passports but they refused on the grounds that accepting the passports of another nation would be a strike against their sovereignty and nationality. So the world lacrosse championships were held without the nation that invented the game. Read more about the story here. For more on the history of relationship between the Iroquois and lacrosse, watch the video below.

Applications for Education
The story of the denial of Iroquois' attempts to travel on the passports of their nation could be the beginning of a lesson exploring the issues of Native American sovereignty rights. I can see myself using the story above as a modern connection to the 1830's legal attempts of the Cherokee people to prevent their forced relocation by the US government. In particular I can see connecting this to the 1832 case of Worcester v. Georgia.

IEAR - Mobile Education Apps Review is a community powered review of educational applications for mobile devices. IEAR is primarily focused on iPod, iPhone, and iPad apps but there are also some mentions of Android apps. Contributions from teachers are welcome through the online submission form. Students can also make contributions if their teachers apply for student app reviewer access.

I learned about IEAR through a recent post by Vicki Davis.

Applications for Education
The increasing number of schools trying to implement the use of mobile devices in their classrooms creates a demand for a site like IEAR. IEAR's reviews could become a great resource for teachers and administrators searching for quality applications to use in their classrooms.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Smart Kit - Puzzles, Games, and Riddles

Smart Kit (no affiliation with SMART) offers a large collection of games, puzzles, and riddles for students of all ages. The content of the collection ranges from simple drilling-style games to challenging word puzzles. There are sixteen categories of games offered by Smart Kit. The categories of most interest to educators are probably the math puzzles and word puzzles categories.

Applications for Education
In addition to the online games, Smart Kit offers a selection of games and puzzles that can be printed for offline use. The printables collection could make Smart Kit a good resource for teachers whose students have limited access to the computers in their classrooms.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
HeyZap - Strategy Games for Your Class Website
ABCya - Fun, Educational Games for K-5
Starfall - Interactive Reading Lessons and Games