Thursday, September 30, 2010

How to Create Self-Graded Quizzes in Google Docs

In my free ebook Google for Teachers I included directions for creating and publishing a quiz using Google Documents forms. Recently, Dr. Mark Wagner published a blog post that includes directions for creating formulas that will result in quizzes created in Google Docs forms being self-graded. His post includes a video screencast and slides. I've embedded the video below.

Applications for Education
Grading quizzes can be a tedious task if you have many students on your roster. Creating and administering quizzes through Google Documents forms can save you time and save paper at the same time. By saving time on grading you can give students feedback quicker than before.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
5 Tools to Create and Administer Quizzes Online
47 Alternatives to Using YouTube in the Classroom
Google for Teachers II - Free Ebook

Download TED Talks

TED hosts hundreds of thought-provoking and entertaining videos. Just last week I played this one in one of my classes as part of conversation about patience. TED Talks have been available through a Silverlight desktop client for over a year. Now TED Talks are available to Windows users through a Bit Torrent client. Read this TED Blog post to learn more about this new option for downloading TED Talks.

On a related note, Common Craft recently made a video explaining what Bit Torrent is and how it works. Watch the video below.

BitTorrent, Explained. from BitTorrent, Inc. on Vimeo.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
15 TED Talks to Watch Before 2010
Put TED Talks on Your Desktop
Teaching With TED Talks

Google Instant Updates - Navigate Without a Mouse

Yesterday, Google announced some useful enhancements to Google Instant search. First, you can now navigate through Google Instant's search predictions and search results without using a mouse or trackpad. Just use your keyboard's arrow keys and enter key to scan results and select a link. The second part of the announcement from Google informed us that Google Instant is now available in searches for videos, blogs, news, and books.

Watch the video below to learn more about the updates to Google Instant.

Applications for Education
A few years ago I had a student who physically could not use a mouse and had to use a keyboard for all of his web navigation. Needless to say, this was a challenge for him. Google's latest update to Instant will improve web search experiences for students who face similar challenges.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Google for Teachers - Free Ebook
Google for Teachers II - Free Ebook
Google Earth Across the Curriculum

Worried About Students Being Off-task? Watch This

I've seen Alfie Kohn vs. Dwight Schrute floating around the edu-blog-o-sphere for the last few weeks, but I finally took a few minutes to watch it today after Tara Weegar posted it on Facebook.

Almost every time I talk at schools or conferences about 1:1 computing environments, I'm asked questions along the lines of "how do you make sure the students are staying on task when you can't see their screens?" For the last few years my response to this has been, "I try to make sure that the assignments I give are engaging." If I design lessons and give students assignments that are engaging, the instances of students going off to a website or task that isn't productive is low. I'm not perfect and sometimes my lessons and assignments aren't as engaging as I hoped they'd be. Those are the times when students get off task.

Five Free Resources for Developing Typing Skills

A lot of readers might be surprised to learn that I have very poor typing technique. In fact, this post is being written primarily without the use of my thumbs or pinkies or ring fingers touching the keyboard. Over time I've developed a technique that works for me, but I do wish that I had learned to type correctly when I was young. Below are five free resources that can help your students develop proper typing techniques and avoid typing like me.

When selecting free typing programs I prefer tutorials and games that provide instant feedback about my typing skills, or lack thereof. Typing Web is one of those tutorials that provides instant feedback after every free typing lesson. Typing Web offers beginner through advanced typing lessons for free. You can register to track your progress or you can use Typing Web without registering.

Tux Type is a fun, open source, program designed to help young students learn touch typing skills. Students can play a variety of games which increase in difficulty as a student's skills improve. Tux Type is available for Mac and PC.

If you're looking for something for a typing program that doesn't require software installation try the program from Sense Language. The program is web based, but is also available for use offline. The best feature of Sense Language's typing program is the option of creating your own typing activities or using the standardized lessons. Sense Language's typing program has useful timing options and audio feedback features to help students develop their typing skills.

Power Typing hosts a small collection of five typing games that students can use to develop their typing skills. Power Typing also offers typing lessons for Qwerty and Dvorak keyboards. The two games that I found easiest to access are Alphabetic Rain and See Don't.

Good Typing is a free online typing skill development program. Good Typing provides 27 graduated lessons designed to help students learn to use their entire keyboards correctly. Unlike some free online typing programs, Good Typing offers support twenty different keyboard styles including US style, Japanese style, and several European languages.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

World Mapper - Mapped Displays of World Data

World Mapper hosts nearly 700 informative maps and posters. The maps are based on economic, scientific, and demographic data sets. The maps are drawn according to the data so the countries appearing on the map don't always match the geographic size of a country. For example, the World Youth Literacy map depicts each country's size based on the rate of youth literacy rather than just the population of a country. All of the maps created by World Mapper can be downloaded as a PDF. The PDFs include a brief description of the data and its meaning as displayed in the map.

In addition to PDF maps, World Mapper has a selection of animated maps that compares two maps. Click here to see an animated map that transitions from a standard land area display to a map drawn based on the population of each country.

Applications for Education
Looking at data on its own often doesn't mean much to students. World Mapper's maps should help students interpret data sets and make comparisons between data sets.

A Fun Offline Activity - Making Your Own Paper

Yesterday, as part of his textbook challenge Scott McLeod posted a list of resources that were very comparable to the content and activities he found in his daughter's Environmental Science textbook. (BTW, read Scott's post not just for the links, but for his commentary too). One of the links in Scott's list was to a paper-making activity that was very comparable to the activity outlined in the textbook. Make-Stuff offers directions for making your own recycled paper. The activity is intended not only to teach students how they can make their recycled paper, but also to teach students the value of recycling. I read through the directions and thought that it seemed like an activity that most middle school students could handle. To take the directions a step farther, I did a quick YouTube search for "how to make paper" and quickly found three videos that demonstrate the "at home" paper-making process.

This video is the most succinct of three.

This video comes from The Green Parent which specializes in environmentally-friendly at-home projects.

This video goes into the most detail about the at-home paper-making process.

Applications for Education
If you're looking for a hands-on project to connect to a lesson about recycling and Environmental Science, consider having students make their own recycled paper. It's certainly a lot easier than letting them try to make their own recycled plastic or sheet metal.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:Video - Two Cases of Global Warming
Climate Change, Wildlife, Wildlands Lesson Plans
Endangered Places Multimedia Map

Considering Google Apps for Education? Read This

Whenever I talk about Google Apps for Education or Google Apps in general at a school or conference there is almost always someone who tells me they've heard, "Google will own your information." And often there are people who have concerns and questions about privacy as well. These are good questions to ask before you switch your school to Google Apps for Education. To make it easy to find answers to those questions and concerns, Google Certified Teacher Lisa Thumann has written a blog post linking to resources that address common concerns and questions about Google Apps. Read Lisa's post here. And while you're there, consider subscribing to her blog as she always has good things to share.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Google for Teachers - Free Ebook
Google for Teachers II - Free Ebook
A Fun Video for Introducing Google Docs

Word Stash - Dictionary and Vocabulary Study Tool

Word Stash is a free service that describes itself as "half vocabulary builder, half dictionary, and full awesome." Word Stash is pretty true to its self-description. At its most basic Word Stash is a dictionary that provides contextual examples to support the definitions offered. For many words, Word Stash provides an audio pronunciation.

The vocabulary builder aspect of Word Stash lies in the fact that users can create accounts in which they create and save lists of words to study. Users can create as many lists as they like and expand existing lists as they go. Word Stash provides short quizzes based on the words a user puts into a list. In creating the study quizzes, Word Stash uses a spaced repetition algorithm to present users with words based upon how often they answer correctly or incorrectly. To create a list of words users simply need to click "stash" anytime they view a word in the Word Stash dictionary. Users can also share lists and study other users' shared lists.

Word Stash offers a Firefox and Internet Explorer word search plugin to enable users to quickly find definitions whenever they're browsing the web.

Word Stash's creator David Lynam told me about his site via Twitter. The English Blog also has a review of Word Stash that you might be interested in reading

Applications for Education
Word Stash could be a good resource for students preparing to take the SAT this fall or next spring. Word Stash offers pre-made lists of SAT words that students can add to their accounts and study for free.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

10 US History Google Earth Tours

America, A Narrative History is a text published by WW Norton. As a free supplement to the book, Norton has published ten Google Earth tours. These tours include major themes and events in US History. The list includes the Revolutionary War, the path to the Civil War, WWII, the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, Lewis & Clark's expedition, the Indian Removal Act, Pre-Columbian North America, the national parks system, and the 20th Century power grid. All of the tours include multiple images and references. Some of the tours also have "tour questions" for students to answer.

Update for clarification: Anyone can access these tours even if you don't own a copy of the book. 

Applications for Education
Norton's US History Google Earth tours could be a fantastic alternative to using slides to present a lesson on US History. These tours provide history lessons within a geographic context.

For the last few years I've had my US History students create Google Maps and Google Earth files about various events (Revolutionary War, Civil War) and themes (Manifest Destiny, Imperialism) in the course. Before they start creating their own projects I like to share some models, Norton's US History Google Earth tours are good models.

3 Registration-free Tools for Collaborative Writing

Google Docs, Zoho Writer, and other online word processing services are great tools for collaboratively writing with others. But to use those programs everyone you want to collaborate with needs to have an account and you need to have their email addresses or account names. To eliminate those steps and get collaborating faster, try one of these three registration-free tools for collaborative writing.

Using Primary Pad anyone can create a new document in one click. Your document can be shared with the world via email or by posting your document's unique url online. Each person that collaborates on your document can have their own text highlighting color. These colors help you keep track of changes to your document. Primary Pad also offers some additional services for educators, but those services do require a licensing agreement after a three month free trial.

Entri is a free document collaboration tool that doesn't require registration to use. Entri's goal is to make document collaboration as quick and easy as possible. To start a document on Entri, just click the big "create your entri" button. Entri assigns your document a unique url that you can share via email or with Twitter. Once your document is developed to a point at which you no longer want it edited by other, click the "lock" button to prevent any further changes by others.

Using 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.

Applications for Education
Students working in groups could use these tools to create outlines of lectures or share the burden of taking notes. These tools could be used by students to collaboratively write a short story. One student could start the document then each subsequent student could add a line or paragraph to the story.

Good Typing - Free Typing Lessons

Good Typing is a free online typing skill development program. Good Typing provides 27 graduated lessons designed to help students learn to use their entire keyboards correctly. Unlike some free online typing programs, Good Typing offers support twenty different keyboard styles including US style, Japanese style, and several European languages.

Applications for Education
To use Good Typing users do need to register, but an email address is not necessary for registration. This makes Good Typing available for use by students that don't have email addresses. Of course, if students register without an email address they will not have a way to reset their passwords in the event they forget them.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Starfall - Interactive Reading Lessons and Games
ChessKid - Online Chess Games and Lessons
Learning Chocolate - Activities for Learning English

Neotake - An Ebook Search Engine

There are plenty of search engines on the web for ebooks. Neotake is a search engine for ebooks that offers a couple of extras. Neotake provides the option to become a member (free registration) of a community that ranks and reviews ebooks. Registered members can also network with other readers.

To make searching for ebooks a little bit easier, Neotake offers a browser plugin for Firefox, Chrome, and Internet Explorer. The browser plugin allows users to search for ebooks without having to open Neotake in a separate browser window.

Thanks to Steven Anderson for the lead to Neotake.

Applications for Education
If you're in need of some new reading materials for your classes, but you don't have money to spend on new books, search for some free ebooks on Neotake.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Seven Places to Find Free eBooks
Audio Owl - Hundreds of Free Audio Books
Free Audio Books from Books Should Be Free

Internet Filtering - Does It Work?

Today, while looking for an image of an Internet filtering company's logo (for a presentation I'm giving in about a month) I came across the image you see below. I was going to just post the picture with the caption, "that just about says it all" but then I changed my mind. I changed my mind because I know that there are many schools that do believe that strict filtering of the Internet is the best course of action. Fortunately for me, I work in a school that doesn't use strict Internet filters. So my question for those of you who work in schools that strictly filter the Internet, does it work? Or will it result in more scenarios such as this one that Scott McLeod shared today.
Image Credit: Flickr User Sally06

Monday, September 27, 2010

Plus Maths Challenging Mathematics Puzzles

Plus Magazine is a free online publication dedicated to introducing readers to practical applications of mathematics. Plus Magazine strives to reach that goal through the publication of mathematics-related news articles, podcasts, and mathematics puzzles designed around "real-life" scenarios.

Thanks to reader Christine Lenghaus for sending me the link to Plus Magazine in an email

Applications for Education
Plus Magazine's mathematics puzzles provide students with challenges of varying difficulty. Most of the puzzles include some type of real-world scenario as a framework for the challenge. The puzzles could make excellent extra credit problems at the end of a mathematics test.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Math Class Needs a Makeover
Interactivate - Interactive Math Assessments
The Math and Science of Sports

Watch WatchKnow Without YouTube

One of the great things about the Internet is that new services are always appearing and existing services are always trying to improve. Try as I might, I can't keep up with all of them. That's why I was wrong when I left WatchKnow off of my list of 47 Alternatives to Using YouTube in the Classroom. I originally left it off my list because I mistakenly believed that WatchKnow was still relying on YouTube to serve videos. Over the weekend someone from WatchKnow corrected me by pointing out that there are over 4,000 videos available through WatchKnow that are not served by YouTube. Click the "classroom accessible" button to search for videos that are not hosted by YouTube.

Applications for Education
WatchKnow provides a good resource for locating educational videos that you can use in your classroom. You can search WatchKnow by content area categories and subcategories.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
3 Ways to Access Khan Academy Without YouTube
Hundreds of Reviewed Online Mathematics Resources
Downloading Videos for Use In the Classroom

Take the Dangerously Irrelevant Textbook Challenge

Dr. Scott McLeod has issued an interesting challenge to teachers and school administrators. The textbook challenge is based the idea that, in Dr. McLeod's words, "there's not much in your children's textbooks that isn't available in at least a dozen places online for free." The challenge is to prove that statement correct or incorrect. So grab your kid's textbooks and start searching. Then post a comment with your findings on this post on Dangerously Irrelevant to be entered to win a prize pack of books. The books are Tribes by Seth Godin, Catching Up or Leading the Way by Yong Zhao and Ignore Everybody by Hugh MacLeod. I listened to and read Tribes when it came out and although its technically a business book, many of Godin's ideas could be applied to an education setting. Zhao's blog is in my RSS reader and his book is on my "to read" list.

Ask 60 Minutes

The popular CBS News program 60 Minutes has partnered with YouTube to create Ask 60 Minutes. Ask 60 Minutes gives viewers the opportunity to ask reporters follow-up questions after watching a 60 Minutes segment. Viewers can ask their questions via text or through a video response on Ask 60 Minutes. Videos of the individual segments of 60 Minutes have been available on CBS News for quite a while, but now you can also watch them on YouTube.

This week Ask 60 Minutes gives you the opportunity to ask questions of Lara Logan about her report on the border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Applications for Education
I know of at least one Social Studies teacher who often uses clips from 60 Minutes to get students talking about and researching current news stories. Ask 60 Minutes gives students the opportunity to dig deeper and ask the reporters themselves about their reports.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
NachoFoto - Realtime Image Search Engine
FRONTLINE Teacher Center - Lesson Plans and More

Sunday, September 26, 2010

How's Your New School Year Going?

In late August 140 of you shared the new things that you planned to try this year. I'm curious, how are you doing with the new things you're trying this year? Leave a comment and let us all know.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
11 Techy Things for Teachers to Try This Year
How To Do 11 Techy Things In the New School Year
Free 33 Page Guide - Google for Teachers

Deviant Art Muro - A Free Drawing Tool

Deviant Art is known as a huge community of artists who share their work with each other and the world. What you might not know is that Deviant Art has a pretty good online drawing tool called Muro. Muro is a free tool that allows you to create original drawings containing multiple layers, backgrounds, and brush stroke styles. Creating drawings with Muro does not require you to create an account. When your drawing is complete you can export your work to your computer. 

Applications for Education
The best way to avoid any worries of Copyright infringement when students create multimedia projects is to have them create their own original images and sounds. Muro from Deviant Art is one tool that students could use to quickly create their own original drawings. 

Full Video of 1960 Kennedy-Nixon Debate

Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of the first televised debate between presidential candidates. The debate marked a significant change in the role of television in political campaigns. People watching the debate on television generally believed that Kennedy won while those listening on the radio believed that Nixon had prevailed. The Kennedy Presidential Library has now made the full video of debate available on YouTube. Watch the debate below.

Applications for Education
In the past I've used clips of the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon debate in my US History classes to demonstrate how and why television became important in Presidential campaigns. One way that you could use the video in your classroom is to divide your class and have one group watch the video and another group just listen to the audio. Then bring the students back together and have them decide which candidate did a better job.

For more lesson ideas about the role of media in politics check out The Living Room Candidate.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

It's Saturday morning in Maine, it feels like fall, and it's time for another week in review. At this time next week I'll be on my way to Missouri for the MOREnet MITC conference where I'll be giving the keynote talk. If you're going to be there too, please say hi. And if you're interested in having me speak at your school or conference, please click here for more information.

Here are the seven most popular posts of the week:
1. 3 Tools to Help You Save Paper & Ink in Your Classroom
2. Five Alternatives to Traditional Book Reports
3. Mr. Robb's Math - Hundreds of Math Videos
4. 3 Ways to Access Khan Academy Without YouTube
5. YouCanBook.Me - Appointment Booking in Google Calendar
6. A Map of Book Bans and Challenges
7. Eight Good Resources for Space Science Lessons

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What Makes Leaves Change Color? Video & Graphic

We're starting to approach the peak foliage peeping season here in northern New England. To help students understand why the leaves change colors in the fall, the Maine Forest Service has an animated video explaining why leaves change colors. The video is titled Maine's Autumn Magic and you can watch it here. To help students understand some of the terms in the video, the Maine Forest Service has a glossary of tree terms.

USA Today has a simple interactive illustration that students can click through to see how the weather affects the color of leaves. Students can select individual tree leaves to see what different leaves look like throughout the seasons. Thanks to Larry Ferlazzo for the USA Today link.

Applications for Education
Fall provides a great opportunity for students to see science in action in the form of changing leaf color. If you can't get your class outside to look at the various leaf colors in the fall, the two resources listed provide nice visuals to complement your lessons on changing leaf colors.

Friday, September 24, 2010

BBC Dimensions - How Big Is It Really?

BBC Dimensions, located at, is a neat tool for quickly comparing the size of famous objects and events to the size of your town, county, state, or country. BBC Dimensions runs on Google Maps. Here's how it works; pick one of the categories of objects or events then select an object and a small map will appear. Then enter your postal code or city name and BBC Dimensions will overlay your selected object over your city. Watch the Tekzilla video below to see BBC Dimensions in action.

This is what the Great Wall of China looks like when centered on my hometown.

Applications for Education
BBC Dimensions could be a useful tool for giving students a sense of the size of objects like the Three Gorges Dam or the size of Great Pacific Garbage Patch compared to their hometowns.

Progressive Phonics - Free Reading Program

Progressive Phonics is a free series of ebooks that teachers and parents can use to help their students learn to read and write. Progressive Phonics offers free ebooks that cover everything from learning the alphabet to learning to write to learning the construction of words and sentences. As the name implies, Progressive Phonics arranges the series of free ebooks to build upon each other. You do have to register for the service, but once you do you can download the ebooks.

Thanks to my Google Teacher Academy buddy Kristen Swanson for sharing this great resource. Subscribe to her blog today.

Applications for Education
Progressive Phonics could be an excellent free resource for anyone tasked with teaching children how to read and write. The directions for the activities in the books that I downloaded appear to be very clear so as to very accessible to young learners. 

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Seven Places to Find Free eBooks

Google Books Adds Shelving Options
Embedding Books Into Your Blogger Blog or Google Site

How to Craft Clear Explanations - A Podcast With Lee LeFever

Common Craft videos are world renowned for their clear explanations of often complex topics. The clarity of explanation is why I use some of their videos in my professional development work and use Electing a US President in my classroom when introducing the Electoral College to my students. Today, while eating lunch I listened to Lee LeFever on the Art Heros podcast explain the process of crafting the clear explanations that appear in the Common Craft videos.

Applications for Education
If you listen to the podcast I think you'll find that many of the ideas Lee has about creating clear explanations apply to the classroom as well as to video production. Listen to the podcast here. (Note, for some reason the podcast is marked "explicit" but there is nothing in the podcast with Lee that justifies that label).

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Learn It In 5 - Tech How-to Videos
Seven Videos All Teachers Should Watch

Wikipedia in Plain English

A Follow-Up to Five Alternatives to Traditional Book Reports

Yesterday, I ran a post titled Five Alternatives to Traditional Book Reports. I ran that post without including much in the way of explanation regarding why I think that teachers should explore alternatives to the traditional written book report. As a result I've had some people comment and email with questions along the lines of, "why are these things any better than traditional book reports?" Rob Wall even wrote a post on his own blog essentially asking the same question. Copied below is the comment that I left on Mr. Wall's post.

Hi Rob,

Since it's my post about book reports that you linked to, I thought I should offer some clarifications and explanations.

At first glance, yes some (perhaps) all five suggestions are just "jazzed up" book reports. However, what I have found is that when students know that their work is going to become, for lack of a better term, a "performance piece" they tend to invest more effort and care not only in making their products look good, but also in making sure that they look for and include as much information and insight as they possibly can in their final products. In my experience this happens because classmates, parents, and others are much more likely to look at one of these short performance pieces than they are to read a two page book report. Therefore, the students creating the alternative book reports take care to include as many details as possible.

I'm not suggesting that traditional book report assignments are inherently bad. They're not. In fact, they can be excellent exercises in analyzing and writing. I'm simply suggesting that if writing is not the purpose of a book report assignment, there are alternatives that students can use to convey the meanings and main ideas of a book.

(Granted, the following example is with a research assignment instead of a book report, but I think there are many parallels). In my own classroom over the last week and one half my 11th grade students, many of whom have in the past been reported as having a poor attitude toward school,  have worked on creating short videos about the Revolutionary War. Those students have worked as diligently as they possibly can to make sure they know their content and convey their stories as clearly as possible. Many of them have revised their works, without my prompting, three or four times. I know that I probably would not have gotten the same effort out of those students if I had made the assignment a standard research essay. Why? Because they know that the whole class is going to see their final product whereas if it were an essay assignment they know that the whole class is not going to read every student's essay. Are my students learning more about the content because I made their final product a video instead of an essay? Yes. Will there be times that my students do write traditional research papers? Yes, because I do believe that writing skills are important, but I'm sure that that process will not be as cheerily undertaken by my students as video creation projects are.


One last thing that I should add to this is I am not at all opposed to traditional book report assignments. I believe that learning to report and convey messages in written form is an essential skill that all students should develop. That said, we must find a balance between traditional communication skills and communication skills using new media creation tools.

And now back to my standard blogging voice of reporting on free technology resources for the classroom.

The Week in Rap

The Week in Rap is back again today with another short lyrical overview of the week's news. If you can't view it online, you can download it from The Week in Rap website as a WMV file. Teachers of my age might notice that this episode features Supa Dave West from De La Soul.

The Week in Rap - Sept. 24th from Week in Rap on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Five Alternatives to Traditional Book Reports

On Tuesday evening I gave a presentation in Second Life for school librarians and media specialists. One of the topics that I talked about was alternatives to traditional book report assignments. While this post is a follow-up to that presentation, the post on its own should give you some ideas for alternatives to traditional book report assignments.

1. Create book trailers. I ran a post about book trailers during the summer which you can read here. In short, a book trailer is a short video created by students to highlight the key points of a book. When creating their book trailers students should be trying to "sell" viewers on a book. To create their videos your students could use Animoto for Education, JayCut, or PhotoPeach. Learn more about these free video creation tools in my free guide Making Videos on the Web.

2. Create animated or stop-motion videos about a book's plot. To make an animated video try Memoov which is a free service that your students can use to create an animated video book review. Memoov allows users to create animated videos up to five minutes in length. Creating an animated video with Memoov can be as simple as selecting a setting image(s), selecting a character or characters, and adding dialogue.

If stop-motion videos are more your speed, Kevin Hodgson's Making Stopmotion Movies is a fantastic resource for directions and advice on making stop-motion movies.

3. Create literature maps. Using Google Maps or Google Earth students can map out the travels of character in a story. Google Lit Trips has many examples of teachers and students using Google Earth in literature courses. If you're not familiar with how to create placemarks in Google Maps, please see my free guide Google for Teachers for directions.

4. Create 3D augmented reality book reviews. ZooBurst is an amazing service that allows you to create a short story complete with 3D augmented reality pop-ups. Students could use ZooBurst to create short summaries of books that really jump off the screen.

5. Create multimedia collages about books. Glogster allows users to create one page multimedia collages. Students could create a collage containing videos, audio files, text, and images about books they've read. For example, a Glog about Into the Wild could contain images of Chris McCandless, chunks of text about the book, and this video featuring a song from the movie based on the book.

Sweet Search 2Day - Best of the Web for Students

Dulcinea Media, host of the academic search engine Sweet Search, has a new free offering for teachers and students called Sweet Search 2 Day. Sweet Search 2 Day is a one page stop for good, up to date, web content that can be used in Science, History, and Language Arts classes. Visitors to Sweet Search 2 Day will find some entertaining content, cartoons and image galleries, that is safe for classroom environments. Sweet Search 2 Day also hosts some useful reference materials, like "how to write a bibliography," for students and parents.

Thanks to Kyle Pace for the Tweet that drew my attention to Sweet Search 2 Day.

Applications for Education
If you're in need of some quick, relevant talking points or conversation starters for your classes, Sweet Search 2 Day might be a good resource for you to bookmark. Looking for some academic brainteasers? Sweet Search 2 Day has you covered there too.

One Week Left to Apply for PolarTREC 2011/2012

Are you an adventurous teacher? Do you prefer cold weather over hot weather? Do you blog or are you willing to start blogging? If you said yes to those questions, you might want to apply for PolarTREC's 2011/2012 field experiences. PolarTREC is looking for twelve teachers who are willing to spend a few weeks (possibly longer) on an Arctic or Antarctic research expedition in 2011 or 2012. Your responsibilities on the expedition may vary but at a minimum you'll be expected to share your experiences with your school and others through a variety of online and offline mediums.

The application deadline is October 1, 2010. You can find the application and FAQs here. Listen to an informational webinar recording about the application and expeditions here.

Google New - Find the Newest Google Offerings

Google maintains blogs for all of their various products and services. I subscribe to many of those blogs to stay up to date on the latest enhancements to the products I use on a regular basis. Yesterday, Google introduced a new and better way to stay current on their latest new offerings. Google New is a central location where visitors will find news on the latest updates to Google's products and the newest product offerings from Google. Embedded below is a short video introduction to Google New.

Applications for Education
While you don't have to be as obsessed as I am with the latest tech developments, but it is important for teachers to be aware of new tech developments that can be of use to their students. Visiting Google New from time to time is one way that teachers can find out what's new from one of the most widely-used service providers on the web.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Free 33 Page Guide - Google for Teachers
140 New Things Being Tried In Classroom This Fall
How To Do 11 Techy Things In the New School Year

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wikispaces PD Training Wiki

Today, on their blog Wikispaces introduced a new resource for professional development facilitators. Wikispaces's PD Presenter Toolkit is a wiki that is designed to help you introduce other educators to wikis. The PD Presenter Toolkit includes a presenter's guide, slides, and a series of six graduated activities that you can use to help other educators learn how to use Wikispaces and how wikis in general can be used in education. The PD Presenter Toolkit also includes a list of wikis used in a variety of grade levels and content areas.

Applications for Education
If you find yourself introducing educators to the concepts of and educational uses for wikis, the PD Presenter Toolkit is a wiki that you should check out. The PD Presenter Toolkit, based on a workshop developed by Dr. Mark Wagner, could be used as is or you could use some of the resources and blend them with your own ideas to make a PD workshop as relevant as possible for your school.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
11 Techy Things for Teachers to Try This Year
A Great Alternative To Traditional Book Reports

Win $100,000 for Your School from Bing Education

Bing Education (a division of Microsoft) is currently holding a contest which will award $100,000 dollars to the winning school and $50,000 to three runner-up schools. The Our School Needs contest asks schools to write essays, take pictures, and create a short video showing what they need. The essay and video should also explain how getting the things a school says it needs will improve the learning experiences of its students. The contest is accepting applications now through October 22, 2010. Apologies to readers outside of the US, the contest is only open to public and private schools in the United States. Find all of the contest details here.

Tips for Teaching Online

My ISTE 2010 roommate Cory Plough teaches all of his high school social studies courses online. If you're just starting out teaching online or you're considering doing it in the future, Cory has just written a post that you must read. Cory's latest post on his blog The Next Step points out some things that people new to teaching online might not think about when designing and conducting online courses. Read 4 Tips for Teaching a Course Online.

Overhauled & Improved Edublogs Help Center

If you use Edublogs to introduce your students or other educators to blogging, the recently overhauled Edublogs help center is a helpful resource for you and them. The Edublogs help center contains answers to the most commonly asked questions about Edublogs, PDF guides to using Edublogs, and helpful video tutorials. The help resources cover not only the basics of blogging, but also more advanced skills like modifying your blog's theme and linking within comments.

The video below from Edublogs shows users how to embed videos into their Edublogs blogs.

Embedding Videos from Video Sharing Websites into Your Posts from Incsub on Vimeo.

Disclosure: Edublogs is an advertiser on Free Technology for Teachers.

Google Docs Adds More Font Styles

One of the complaints that I occasionally hear about Google Docs is the lack of font choices. Yesterday, Google took some steps to offer more font choices. In an announcement on the Google Docs blog Google unveiled six new font choices for Google Documents users. For now the new fonts appear to be available in documents only and not in the Google Docs presentations. Hopefully, more font choices will be added to Google Docs presentations in the future.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Learn It In 5 - Tech How-to Videos for Teachers
Google for Teachers - Free Ebook
Google for Teachers II - Free Ebook

Just Paste It - A Simple Way to Share Notes

JustPaste.It is a free, simple note sharing service. At its most basic Just Paste It provides an online word processor for writing notes and documents. You can also insert images and videos into your Just Paste It notes. Sharing notes online with Just Paste It is a simple matter of clicking the "publish" button. Clicking publish generates a unique url for your notes that can share with others. Check out my note here.

Just Paste It notes don't have to live entirely online. Notes can be started online or started offline in a MS Word document and imported to Just Paste It for editing and sharing. If you need to print your notes, Just Paste It notes can be downloaded as PDFs for printing.

Applications for Education
Just Paste It could be an easy way for students to quickly share notes with each other. Just Paste It also provides a way for you and your students to convert MS Word documents to a format that can be easily used online.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Titan Pad - An Ether Pad Clone
Primary Pad - An Ether Pad Alternative
Entri - Free, Registration-Free Document Collaboration

CNN Student News - Genetically Engineered Salmon

Today's episode of CNN Student News contains a segment that could be used in science classes and social studies classes. The segment introduces students to genetically modified salmon and the questions about it before the FDA. The segment then asks students if they would eat it. Watch the video below.

Applications for Education
This segment of CNN Student News presents the opportunity to introduce students to the ideas of genetically modified foods. The segment could also be used in social studies classes to discuss the role of the FDA in the lives of Americans.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Map of Book Bans and Challenges

Next week is the ALA's banned books week. Just in time for that, Janet Kenney (Library Lady J on Twitter) shared with me a Google Map representing the places where books have been banned or challenged in the United States since 2007. Each placemark on the map contains the name of the book and a brief explanation of why it was challenged or banned. Check out the map below.

Applications for Education
Banned Books Week is good time for teachers to combine lessons in literature with lessons in Civics. It's a good opportunity to have a discussion with your students about freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

Wikipedia in Plain English

Last week I had a student tell me that one of his other teachers doesn't allow the class to use Wikipedia for anything. Unfortunately, that statement could be made about any number of classrooms around the world. Often those restrictive policies are made by teachers who don't understand how Wikipedia works. A good resource to help people understand how Wikipedia works is Wikipedia Explained by Common Craft uses Common Craft's In Plain English style to explain how Wikipedia works. The video explains how Wikipedia entries are written, updated, verified, and maintained. Watch the video on Common Craft.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Textbooks, Wikipedia, and Primary Source Research
Mashpedia - The Real-time Encyclopedia
VisWiki - Visual Wikipedia

3 Ways to Access Khan Academy Without YouTube

Khan Academy now has has more than 1800 mathematics and science tutorial videos online. There are even some videos covering topics in the humanities now too. While Khan Academy is best known as a YouTube Channel, there are other ways to access the Khan Academy content. Khan Academy can be accessed through iTunes U. Khan Academy can be watched and downloaded on Curriki. Finally, Khan Academy can be downloaded onto a flash drive for viewing on any computer.

Thanks to Miguel Guhlin for the tips about Curriki and the flashdrive download. Thanks to Open Culture for the iTunes tip.

Applications for Education
If you've always wanted to use some Khan Academy videos in your classroom, but couldn't because YouTube is blocked in your school, try one of the three methods listed above to bring that great content into your lessons. Khan Academy is a great reference source for teachers and students. Students can find all kinds of helpful mathematics and science videos to use when they get stuck on a problem or concept and can't get in touch with their teachers.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
47 Alternatives to Using YouTube in the Classroom
Hundreds of Reviewed Online Mathematics Resources
Downloading Videos for Use In the Classroom