Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Month in Review - November's Most Popular Posts

Here are the ten most popular posts from the month of November, 2010. The list is based on the number of clicks and unique views of each post.

1. Twenty Google Tools Tutorials for Teachers
2. Ten Steps to Better Web Research
3. Computational Thinking Lessons from Google
4. Road to Grammar - 365 Grammar Quizzes
5. Google Apps for Education Demonstration Video
6. Seven Ways to Build Your Own Educational Games
7. Ten Marks for Educators - Online Math Instruction
8. Create Audio Slideshows With Shwup
9. Class.io - Course Management in Google Apps
10. Try DropItToMe to Collect Assignments Online

Firefox Add-on - Simple Timer + Clocks

Simple Timer + Clocks is a Firefox add-on that offers count down timers, stop watch settings, and a clock reminder. Simple Timer + Clocks can be used to run multiple timers simultaneously to track the time you spend on different tasks. Once installed, Simple Timer + Clocks appears as a small alarm clock icon in the status bar of your browser. 

Applications for Education
If you occasionally find yourself struggling with the pacing of your class or with providing sufficient "wait time", Simple Timer + Clocks could be a handy tool to have open on your laptop. Simple Timer + Clocks could also be used track the time students spend completing tasks online.

If you don't want to install anything on your computer, a good web-based timer is Online Stopwatch.

Tours from Above - Aerial Views of Cities

Tours from Above hosts panoramic aerial imagery of cities and landmarks around the world. In all there are 49 panoramic aerial views of places and landmarks including the Eifel Tower, Victoria Falls, and various sites throughout New York. You can locate imagery by choosing from a drop-down menu or by selecting placemarks on the Tours from Above Google Map.

Image from Seattle, Washington USA

Applications for Education
One of the avantages of tools like Google Maps, Google Earth, and Tours from Above over standard textbook maps is that students can visually explore places in more detail than is available on a printed map.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
4 Ways to View the World in Panoramic
Vista Zoo - Panoramic Tours in Google Maps

GeoGebra Help for Beginners

This post was inspired by a request for help from one of my colleagues. My colleague wanted to know more about how to use GeoGebra in his classroom. Not being a mathematics teacher, I didn't have a lot of ideas right off the top of my head but I did know of some links to send him.

The GeoGebra website you will find the GeoGebra Wiki which lists teaching materials and directions by grade level and content area. If you're a first-time or relatively inexperienced GeoGebra user, you will want to check out the GeoGebra quickstart guide and introductory ebooks. To ask questions and converse with other teachers using GeoGebra, the user discussion forum is the place to go. Finally, visit the GeoGebra YouTube channel for video tutorials.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Teaching Real Math With Computers
The Economics of Seinfeld
Mathematics in the Movies

Wylio - Creative Commons Images for Bloggers

Wylio is an image search engine designed to help bloggers and others quickly find, cite, and use Creative Commons licensed images. Wylio results only return images that are listed with a Creative Commons license. Wylio makes it easy to give proper attribution to the creator of the image by providing you with html code that includes attribution. All you have to do is copy the code and paste it into your blog post or webpage.

Applications for Education
Wylio could be a great resource to have students use when they are writing blog posts for your class. There's no worry about students improperly citing work or not giving attribution because the html provided by Wylio includes attribution links.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Creative Commons Search
7 Places & Ways to Find Copyright-friendly Images
ImageBase - Hundreds of Free Stock Images

Monday, November 29, 2010

Data Masher - State Data Mash-ups

Data Masher is a neat tool for creating visual comparisons of data sets about the United States. Data Masher displays data comparisons on maps and in list form. To use Data Masher just select a data set, select an operator, and select a second data set. After making those selections Data Masher will generate a map and lists for comparing data sets state by state. If you don't like the way your comparisons turned out, you can go back and edit your choices. Learn more about how Data Masher works in the video found here.

Applications for Education
Data Masher could be useful for social studies students to quickly compare collections of data by state. Students can create all kinds of mash-ups from which they can investigate more information about the states. For example, students could create a mash-up of SAT data and income data by state to see if there is a correlation between the two.

Google Apps for Education Webinar Recordings

Last week I posted the announcement about some Google Apps for Education webinars that are being held in December. If you miss those webinars they will eventually be available in the Google Apps for Education webinar archives. If you go there now you can find past webinar recordings including Google Sites for Educators which is embedded below.

Snag Learning Film of the Week - Immersion

This week's Snag Learning Film of the Week is Immersion. Immersion is a short film (12 minutes) that illustrates the challenges ESL/ELL students face when taking some standardized mathematics tests. The story follows Moises, a student who is good at math, as he struggles with the decision to take the standardized mathematics test or to skip school that day.
Watch more free documentaries
Applications for Education
Immersion raises some good discussion questions that could be used in a classroom or in a professional development setting. Should Moises be allowed to take a Spanish version of the standardized test? How can you prove that you know something when there is a language barrier in place? What is the purpose of a standardized test?

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Snag Learning Film of the Week - The Luckiest Nut in the World
Snag Learning Film of the Week - The Family Meal
Voxy - Learn a Language from Life

A Benefit of Collecting Students' Work Online

One of the tasks of teaching that I've always struggled with is returning graded student work consistently on-time. Evaluating and assigning the grades is not the problem, the problem is actually sacrificing classroom time to pass back students' work. I know I'm not the only teacher who struggles with this. To combat my "problem" I've stopped accepting paper assignments.

My school is in the second year of being 1:1 with netbooks and this year I'm only accepting assignments in electronic form (with a couple of minor exceptions made for extenuating circumstances). What this means for me is that I can evaluate students' assignments and return them to students without having to spend instructional time passing-out papers. For assignments like rough drafts this gives me a few more minutes to conference with each student about his or her work. Online collection and return of work also means that both the student and I have a copy of his or her work. Finally, the services I use for collection timestamp the work so there is no dispute about whether or not an assignment was submitted on time.

I use two tools to collect students' work online. Most of my students are using Google Documents for their written work so "turning-in" their work is a simple matter of sharing their documents. The same is true for Google Maps projects and any slideshows they create.

I also use DropItToMe to collect students' work. Using DropItToMe students can upload files to my Drop Box account without seeing any other files in the Drop Box. Students who don't have internet access at home and use a desktop word processor use DropItToMe when they get to school in the morning to submit their assignments. I'm also using DropItToMe to collect video and audio files from students. You can learn more about using DropItToMe here.

Another Drop Box service that I haven't tried yet, but has potential to be good is Air Dropper.

CNN Student News - Tensions in Korean Peninsula

This morning's episode of CNN Student News leads off with a segment about the latest tensions between North Korea and South Korea. The segment concludes with an explanation of why the US would get involved if North Korea declared war on South Korea. Watch the episode below.

For more resources about tensions in the Korean Peninsula see this page set-up by CNN.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Why Can't We Walk in Straight Lines?

Last week on my way to school I heard an interesting story on NPR. The story, A Mystery: Why Can't We Walk Straight? examines an excerpt of the book Right Hand, Left Hand: The Origins of Asymmetry in Brains, Bodies, Atoms and Cultures. In the story we learn that without visual, audio, or touch input humans cannot walk in straight lines for very long. The story examines a couple of possible explanations for why we can't walk straight, but in the end all of those explanations are wrong and it remains a mystery. Below there is a video from the story on the NPR site.

Applications for Education
Once a week one of my colleagues and I share a thirty minute Common Block class (homeroom is what most schools call it). In that time we talk about all kinds of things. Lately, we've been looking at some TED Talks and other interesting stories that don't necessarily fit in any curricula, but are interesting for us and the students. It gives us time as teachers and students to explore topics that are none of us are the perceived experts on.

When I heard this story on NPR I immediately knew what we would talk about this week. I think it will be interesting to have students try out a couple of the walking tests and develop their own ideas about why we can't walk in straight lines. It should be a fun exercise in hands-on testing of hypothese.

3 Years, 3800 Posts, And A Lot of Learning

Image Credit: robokow
Three years ago today I started Free Technology for Teachers. I didn't know much about blogging then, in fact I knew almost nothing about blogging. I didn't know that three years later I would have written more than 3800 blog posts and I certainly didn't expect to have nearly 30,000 people subscribed to anything I was writing.

Over the last three years I've learned a lot about blogging, I've learned a lot about education through reading other people's blogs, and I've learned a little bit about marketing too (at this point the IRS says I'm running a small business so I might as well admit that there is some limited marketing taking place). I've met some wonderful people who have been a tremendous help with many things, they know who they are. Thank you to everyone that has read, commented, shared, and subscribed to Free Technology for Teachers, but a special thanks to those who have been with me since the very early days of this blog folks like Jeff & Dan, Mark, Harold, Skip, Jim & Jim, Lee, Denise, and my mom.

Here's a post I wrote on this day last year:
What Kids When They Create With Digital Media

Here's a post I wrote on this day two years ago:
The Networked Student
Twitter 4 Teachers

Here's what I wrote the day I started this blog:
Getting Started

North Korea v. South Korea Incident Map

The Guardian's Data Blog has created a map of every incidence of diplomatic or armed hostilities between North Korea and South Korea over the last sixty years. The map was created using Google Fusion Tables and a database of incidents published by the Congressional Research Service.

Google Fusion Tables is a tool for creating a variety of data visualizations including maps. You can learn more about using Fusion Tables in this post I wrote last winter.

Applications for Education
Last week's violent incident between North Korea and South Korea has put their tensions back in the news. If you're planning to have students investigate this story in your classroom this week, this map of past incidents could help students understand some of the underlying tensions leading up to last week's outbreak of violence.

For more resources about tensions between North Korea and South Korea see Larry Ferlazzo's list.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Week in Review - Thanksgiving Edition

Greetings from Maine where winter has arrived in the form of snow and sleet turning my driveway into a skating rink. I hope everyone who celebrates Thanksgiving had a great day with friends and family. And if you went shopping 3am on Black Friday, I hope you got the best deals possible.

Here are the most popular posts of the week:
1. Ten Steps to Better Web Research
2. How to Enable New Services in Google Apps
3. Synch Microsoft Office with Google Docs
4. Three Ways to Cut, Mix, & Mash YouTube Videos
5. Google Apps for Education Demonstration Video
6. An Easy Way to Make Online Booklets
7. Seven Ways to Build Your Own Educational Games

An update from last week's Week in Review. The head of the Free Technology for Teachers health & wellness initiative has successfully gotten the head blogger to walk and throw sticks everyday.

If you enjoyed the links above, please consider subscribing to
Free Technology for Teachers if you haven't already done so.
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Browse the Web Using Gestures

Four really smart guys in the Fluid Group at the MIT Media Lab have come up with a new way to browse the web that doesn't require a mouse, a keyboard, or a touch screen. Depth JS is a browser extension that allows users to navigate the web using hand gestures. Depth JS utilizes Microsoft Kinect and Javascript to make this happen. Depth JS isn't available as a finished product yet, but you can get the code on GitHub. Watch the video demonstration to see Depth JS in action.

DepthJS from Fluid Interfaces on Vimeo.

Depth JS does require that you have Microsoft Kinect so in that sense it's not free, but I couldn't resist sharing this promising technology.

Save Paper - Reprint Me Calendars

If your school is anything like mine, when you go to a network printer you probably find quite a bit of wasted misprinted papers. Rather than just throwing those papers in the recycling bin, use Reprint Me to turn those papers into weekly or monthly planning calendars. Reprint Me offers PDF templates for weekly and monthly calendars. New calendar templates are released each quarter so that you can print a couple of months in advance. Right now you can get calendars for December 2010, January and February 2011.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
3 Tools to Help You Save Ink & Paper in Your Classroom
Free Online Gradebook LearnBoost Goes Live
Teachers Pet - Free Printable Resources

Enter the Group - Collaborative Project Management

Enter the Group is a new free service offering collaborative project management for groups. Enter the Group features a calendar, messaging, and file sharing for your group members. If you want to keep your project just between friends, you can create a private group. If you want the whole world to see your project, you can make a public group.

To get started you can create an Enter the Group account or sign-in using your Twitter or Facebook credentials. Once you're logged in, click "create new project." Then specify some details about your project and invite others to your group. It really is quite easy to get started.

H/T to Kristen Swanson.

Applications for Education
Enter the Group could be useful for teachers that work in academic teams to plan interdisciplinary projects. Enter the Group could also be used by students to coordinate the completion of group projects. The fact that users can log-in using Facebook credentials removes the hurdle of having to remember another username and password.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Vanilla Forums - Open Source Forum Software
NING Ends Free Networks - Try These Alternatives
RCampus - Create & Conduct Courses Online

Friday, November 26, 2010

Seven Ways to Build Your Own Educational Games

There are hundreds of places to find educational games and quizzes on the Internet. That said, sometimes you still cannot find quite what you're looking for. In those cases you're better off creating your own games. Here are seven good tools you and your students can use for creating games.

Sharendipity makes it possible for students and teachers to quickly create and share simple video games. Sharendipity's drag and drop creation tools can be used to create a game in as few as four steps. For new Sharendipity users the tutorials provide clear directions and helpful game ideas. Games created on Sharendipity can be embedded in your blog or website. Now offline.

ClassTools.net is a free service teachers can use to create their own educational games. Games made on ClassTools.net can be shared via email or embedded into a blog or website. (Yet another reason for having a class website or blog). ClassTools.net provides fifteen easy to use templates with which teachers can make educational games for their students. There are also pre-made games on ClassTools.net which teachers will find useful.

Purpose Games is a free service that allows users to create custom games, share games, and play games. There are two styles of games that you can create and play on Purpose Games. The simpler of the two styles is a fairly basic multiple choice game. The other style uses images and maps on which players have to name the places represented by placemarks on the image or map. For an example, try this game about the skeletal system. Purpose Games gives game creators the option to make their games public or private. If you select the private option, only the people to whom you send invitations will be able to play your game.

What 2 Learn is a website offering more than two thousand educational games for middle school and high school age students. If that library doesn't have what they're looking for, teachers can create custom games using twelve different templates provided by What 2 Learn. What 2 Learn also offers teachers the option to monitor their students' scores. What 2 Learn is a European based website so some of the games, particularly the math games where money is expressed as Euros and Pounds, may not be appropriate for US students. Aside from that most games are appropriate for use with US students.

YoYo Games hosts hundreds of relatively simple online games created by amateur and professional game developers. That's not why I'm pointing it out to you. I'm pointing it out because YoYo Games offers a free (for PC) game development tool called Game Maker 8. Game Maker 8 enables users to develop simple video games using a drag and drop editor. Game Maker 8 gives users the ability to customize backgrounds and actions throughout their games. For the first-time user YoYo Games offers a series of free Game Maker 8 tutorials

Jeopardy Labs is a free service you can use to create your own online Jeopardy game. Jeopardy Labs provides a blank template on which to build your game. You do not need to register in order to build your own game. However, if you want to be able to edit your game at a later point you will want to create a password before you create your game. When completed your game is given its one unique url. Post that url on your blog, wiki, or website and anyone can then play your game.

ProProfs Brain Games allows you to build interactive crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, word searches, hangman games, and sliding puzzle games. The games you create can be embedded into your blog or shared via email, Twitter, Facebook, or Myspace. If you don't want to take the time to create your own game, you can browse the gallery of games. All of the games in gallery can be embedded into your blog.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
35+ Educational Games
25 More Educational Games
32 Puzzles and Logic Games

New Ways to Share Your Favorite Posts

I don't know why I've waited so long to do this, but I've finally added an Add This sharing widget to every post on Free Technology for Teachers. This mean that you can now share posts with your friends and colleagues with just a click or two. You can share posts to Twitter, Facebook, and your favorite social bookmarking sites. You can also email and print posts from the Add This widget embedded at the end of every post. Try it now on one of your favorite posts.

To get the latest posts delivered directly to your email inbox you can subscribe to daily email updates here.

Free Technology for Teachers is also on Facebook and you can "like" it here.

There's also an RSS feed for Free Technology for Teachers that you can grab here.

Finally, if you want to see what I'm sharing outside of this blog you can follow me on Twitter.

One Click Navigation in Street View

Google Street View has recently become easier to navigate. Until recently, moving from place to place in Street View required double-clicking. Now a single click moves you from place to place in Street View. Just click on the square (what Google calls a pancake) of the next place you want to see and you're taken there.

Applications for Education
This enhancement to Street View might not seem like much to a lot of users, but for those who have tried to use Street View with younger students who have trouble with double-clicking, this is a nice enhancement.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Google Earth Across the Curriculum
Trip Line - Create Travel Maps
Historic Maps in K-12 Classrooms

Mark Your Calendars for Google Webinars

If you're interested in learning more about using Google Apps in the classroom, next month Google is hosting two webinars that you might be interested in attending. On December 7 Google is hosting a webinar titled Taking the Core Features of Google Apps to the Next Level. This webinar, designed for intermediate users of Google Apps, will explore tips and tricks for Docs, Search, Forms, Sites, and Calendars.

On December 21, Google is hosting a webinar titled The Collaborative STEM Classroom. That webinar will demonstrate five STEM projects that incorporate Google Apps. You can get preview of that webinar by exploring the companion website STEM Collaboration in the Cloud.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone celebrating the holiday today! I hope everyone enjoys the day with the people they care about. For your Thanksgiving listening and viewing pleasure:

Alice's Restaurant Illustrated (Part I)

Alice;s Restaurant Illustrated (Part 2)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Put an Image Editor in Your Website

Aviary, a free image editing and sound editing service that I've featured on Free Technology for Teachers a number of times in the past, recently launched a free image editing tool that you can put into your own website. Aviary's HTML5 Photo Editor can be embedded into your own website.

After learning about the Aviary HTML5 editor from Larry Ferlazzo, I gave it a quick test. While I was able to get to operate correctly in demonstration mode, I couldn't quite get it right on my blog. I'm sure that's a result of something I'm doing incorrectly rather than an issue with Aviary. I'll continue tweaking it and post proper directions when I get it right. In the meantime, you can see what my demo looked like below.

Applications for Education
Aviary's new HTML5 Photo Editor could be a great resource to add to a school or classroom website. Students could edit their images on the same site that they frequent for assignments and information about their classes.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
GooEdit - Image Editing in Google Chrome
7 Places & Ways to Find Copyright-friendly Images

Create Drawings Online With Crayola

Walk into almost any elementary school classroom and Crayola products are there. For decades Crayola products have been used by children to make all kinds of art work. Now Crayola products can be used online too. There are two free online products from Crayola that I'd like to highlight for you.

Crayola's online drawing canvas provides students with a blank canvas on which they can draw using virtual markers, crayons, pencils, and paints. Drawings cannot be saved online, but they can be printed.

Pre-K Teachers looking for coloring pages can create their own or have students create their own using Crayola's Create & Color tool. Create & Color provides templates for creating custom coloring pages. You can pick a background template and modify it by adding speech bubbles and pictures. Coloring pages cannot be saved online, but they can be printed.

Thanks to Shannon Miller for sharing the link to Crayola's online drawing tools.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Strip Generator - Drag & Drop Comic Creation
Cloud Canvas - Edit and Create Images Online
Formats for Visual Thinking in the Classroom

The Year We Had Two Thanksgivings

Image Credit: WishUponaCupcake
Yesterday, the National Archives' featured document was George Washington's 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation. Exploring the additional links on yesterday's National Archives post led me to a story and collection of documents on the FDR Presidential Library titled The Year We Had Two Thanksgivings.

The Year We Had Two Thanksgivings tells the story of Thanksgiving 1939. In 1939 Thanksgiving was going to fall on the last day of November which caused merchants to be worried about a shortened shopping season. In response to this concern President Roosevelt proclaimed that Thanksgiving would be moved up one week. Some states chose to ignore this proclamation and celebrate Thanksgiving on the last day of the month anyway. The conflict was finally resolved in 1941 when Congress passed a law stating that Thanksgiving would always be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of the month.

Applications for Education
The Year We Had Two Thanksgivings is supported by ten primary source documents. Included in those documents are letters from merchants appealing to FDR to change the day of Thanksgiving and letters opposing the change. You could distribute a different document to groups of students and have them defend a choice of either moving Thanksgiving up a week or leaving it on the last day of the month.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Free Scientific Calculator for Your Website

Web2.0calc is a free online scientific calculator. While it won't replace the TI-84 Plus, it can do what your average high school student needs it to do. The best part is, you don't have to use it on the Web2.0calc site because they offer three widgets that you can use to embed the calculator into your own blog or website. You can see one of those widgets in action below (if you're reading this in RSS you might need to click through to see the widget).

Web 2.0 scientific calculator

Thanks to Ann Gregson for sharing the link on Twitter.

Applications for Education
One of the problems the mathematics department in my school faces every year is "disappearing" scientific calculators. Web2.0calc could solve that problem by being placed into teachers' websites where students can use them anytime they like without having to sign-out a calculator for use outside of the classroom.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Who Wants To Be A Mathionaire?
Computational Thinking Lessons from Google
Math Live - Animated Mathematics Lessons

Capturing the Atom Bomb on Film

Capturing the Atom Bomb on Film is an audio slideshow from The New York Times. The slideshow features the voice of George Yoshitake who is one of the few remaining photographers who attempted to capture on film the atomic bomb tests run by the US Government between 1945 and 1962. The slideshow contains twenty-two images in all.

Applications for Education
There is a set of seven images in Capturing the Atom Bomb on Film that really demonstrate the power of nuclear bombs. In those seven images (slides 14-20) show how a nuclear explosion produces enough heat to almost instantly incinerate a school bus. Some of the other images in the slideshow along with Mr. Yoshitake's narration demonstrate how little was known about the effects of atomic bombs in the early days of their development.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Create Audio Slideshows with Shwup
Audio Slideshow - Kenya's Drought
Bush's Eight Years in Office - Audio Slideshow

Google Apps Terminology Explanation

Someone asked me today for clarification on the differences between Google Apps. This is not an uncommon question because the terminology can sometimes be confusing. Hopefully, the following explanations will offer some clarity.

The term Google Apps generally refers to the suite of Google services (Gmail, Docs, Sites, etc) that a person or organization uses under their own registered domain. For example, I have a Google Apps account for Free Technology for Teachers through which I access Gmail, Google Sites, Docs, Voice, Alerts, and other Google services. This is slightly different than a standard Google account because all of my services are linked together under the banner of Free Technology for Teachers which is why my email is richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers (dot) com even though it's powered by Gmail.

There are four different versions of Google Apps. Here's how Google explains them on their official blog.

  • Google Apps is our free service geared towards families, entrepreneurs and other groups up to 50 users.
  • Google Apps for Business offers 25GB of email storage per user, a 99.9% uptime guarantee, data migration capabilities, advanced management tools, telephone support, added security features and more, all for $50 per user per year.
  • Google Apps for Government is FISMA certified and designed with local, state and federal agencies in mind.
  • Google Apps for Education offers many benefits of Google Apps for Business, but at no cost to schools, universities and qualifying non-profits.

An Easy Way to Make Online Booklets

There are some good services on the web that will turn PDFs into books and booklets and some services that will even allow you to create embeddable booklets online, yet few are quite as simple to use as Simple Booklet. Simple Booklet is a new service offering free online booklet creation and publishing.

To create a book using Simple Booklet just sign-up for a free account and click create. Select the layout template that suits your needs. To add content click anywhere on the blank canvas and a menu of options will appear. You can add text, images, audio files, videos, and links to each page of your booklet.

Each page of your Simple Booklet can have multiple elements on it. To include videos you can upload your own files or select from a variety of provides including SchoolTube, TeacherTube, YouTube, and others. To add audio to your pages you can upload your own files or again select from the online hosts Last.fm, Sound Cloud, or Mix Cloud. When you're done building pages in your Simple Booklet you can share it online by embedding it into a webpage or you can share the unique link generated for your booklet. (In my testing, when embedding Simple Booklet you cannot resize it and have it still display correctly. You need to have a large online canvas like that found in Wikispaces to display your booklet correctly). You can see my short story here.

Thanks to Vicki Davis for the link.

Applications for Education
Simple Booklet could be a good tool for students to use to publish multimedia stories. Students could use Simple Booklet to create a small portfolio of their work using videos, images, sounds, and text. Lately, I've been thinking a lot about having students create more in-depth research analysis by combining critique of written and audio/visual content they find online. Simple Booklet could be used for that purpose.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Youblisher - Publish PDFs as Online Magazines
Booklet Creator - Turn Any PDF Into a Booklet
Yudu - Publish Your PDFs as Online Magazines

You've Got Monkey Feet! - Fun Science Activities

Hey LHS Kids is a science activities website for kids developed by the Lawrence Hall of Science at UC Berkeley. Hey LHS Kids features some good activities for elementary school students. The activity that inspired the title of this post is Measure Yourself. Measure Yourself asks students to measure the size of their ears, feet, and overall height in centimeters. Students then plug those numbers into Measure Yourself and are shown a list of animals that have similar dimensions. I tried it and learned that my ears are almost as big as an armadillo's ears, my feet are longer than a bear's, and I'm taller than a grizzly bear walking on all four feet.

Thanks to Kristen Swanson for the link.

Applications for Education
Measure Yourself could be a fun way to introduce students to measurement using the metric system. The activity give students some familiar animals by which to gauge metric measurements. Overall, Hey LHS Kids offers a variety of similar activities that can be useful for introducing some basic science and math concepts to elementary school students.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Activity TV - Kids Activities with Video Directions
Interactive Exploration of the Galapagos Islands
Wild Sanctuary - Sounds of Nature on Google Earth

Buzz Dash Dashes Out of Business - Get Your Data

I just received an email from Buzz Dash, a polling service that has been mentioned a couple of times on Free Technology for Teachers, informing me that they are shutting down their services effective tomorrow. It's very short notice, but at least they sent out a notice. If you have a poll running through Buzz Dash, you're going to have to find another solution. Most blogging platforms have some type of polling widget available for easy integration into your blog. You might also want to investigate the eight other options available here.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Synch Microsoft Office with Google Docs

If you're a Microsoft Office user who has been flirting with the idea of trying Google Docs or you've been dabbling in it but just haven't taken the plunge, Google has announced a free product just for you. This morning Google announced the launch of Google Cloud Connect.

Cloud Connect is a free plugin for Microsoft Office that will enable you to synch your documents to Google Documents. Every time you edit and click save on your Microsoft Office documents it will also save the revisions in Google Docs. Synched documents can be accessed through Google Docs or through the original Microsoft Office file. Google Cloud Connect works with Microsoft Office 2003, 2007, and 2010. For now Cloud Connect is only available to Google Apps for Business, but should be rolled out to all Google Apps users in the near future. There are a lot of reviews of Cloud Connect on the web, but the best one I've read today is found on TechCrunch.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Edit Google Docs on a Field Trip
Twenty Google Tools Tutorials for Teachers
New Visualization Charts in Google Docs

Absolute Zero and the Conquest of Cold

Absolute Zero is a NOVA program that originally aired in 2008. I recently stumbled upon it and thought it would be of interest to science teachers, mathematics teachers, and perhaps to history teachers. Absolute Zero traces the history of the study of cold temperatures from the first thermometers to the work of modern scientists studying the science of cold. Along the way viewers pick up bits of information about how harnessing the power of cold changed daily life, industry, and trade around the world. Watch the video below.

Watch the full episode. See more NOVA.

Applications for Education
On the PBS Video site, where you can watch the entire program, you will find some excellent supporting materials including interactive displays and timelines. A Sense of Scale is an interactive display that enables students to put temperatures they're familiar with (room temperatures for example) in the context of a greater temperature scale that includes absolute zero and Planck temperature. A Matter of Degrees is an interactive display that asks students to create their own temperature scales using two fixed reference points. Milestones in Cold Research is a timeline of significant developments in the study of temperature. Finally, if you're looking for more ideas about using Absolute Zero in your classroom, NOVA has a teacher's guide that you can read online or print.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
NOVA on Hulu
Winter Physical Education Activities - Igloos and More
Understanding Genetics - Online Exhibits

Snag Learning Film of the Week - The Luckiest Nut in the World

This week's Snag Learning Film of the Week is The Luckiest Nut in the World. The Luckiest Nut in the World is a short (8 minutes) video that tells a story about free trade through peanuts. In the video students will learn the terms trade liberalization and free markets. The video explains how trade liberalization and free market policies have affected Senegal's peanut trade. Finally, some musical numbers introduce students to the IMF, the WTO, and the World Bank. Watch the film and find discussion questions here.
Watch more free documentaries

Applications for Education
I like this film for two reasons. First, it puts some important global trade vocabulary into terms that most middle school and high school students can understand. Second, it does it in a way that doesn't require them to endure a long, boring lecture or documentary.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Snag Learning Film of the Week - The Family Meal
Snag Learning Film of the Week - Becoming Barack
Snag Learning Film of the Week - Emperors of Ice

Why I Write Free Technology for Teachers

This morning Scott McLeod posted a list of things that we would do if we were serious about educational technology. His list could be viewed as a checklist of mindsets schools should be striving to adopt.

I'm often asked why I write this blog. And the answer is simple, to help teachers learn about technology that they can access and use in their classrooms. Two of the items on Scott's list really speak to the need for the work that folks like myself, Larry Ferlazzo, Kelly Tenkely, Adam Bellow, and many others do everyday.

  • "better educate and train school administrators rather than continuing to turn out new leaders that know virtually nothing about creating, facilitating, and/or sustaining 21st Century learning environments." 
  • "treat seriously and own personally the task of becoming proficient with the digital tools that are transforming everything instead of nonchalantly chuckling about how little we as educators know about computers."

Three Ways to Cut, Mix, & Mash YouTube Videos

This post was inspired by a request from a reader for a tool that can be used to mash-up YouTube clips. YouTube is full of great content that can be useful in the classroom (YouTube is also full of nonsense that causes schools to block it). Sometimes you only need to show a part of a video to illustrate a point. Other times it could be useful to string together a series of videos. The following tools can be used to cut, mix, and mash-up YouTube clips.

Disclaimer: Some of these tools might be interpreted as a violation of YouTube's terms of service. I'm not a lawyer so I'll let you interpret the T.O.S. for yourself and determine if you should use these tools in your school.

TubeChop gives you the ability to clip a section from any YouTube video and share it. This could be useful if there is a section of long YouTube video that you want to share with your students. One such instance could be if you want to show students studying public speaking a section of commencement address as a model.

Splicd is a service that lets users select and share a segment of a YouTube video. Splicd is a simple and easy service to use. To use Splicd all you have to do is select a video from YouTube, copy the video's url into Splicd, then enter the start and end times of the video segment you wish to watch. This service will be particularly useful for those times that you want to share only a part of a long video. Click here to see Splicd in action.

If you made mix tapes in the 80's, the concept of Drag On Tape will be familiar to you. Drag On Tape makes it easy to string together a series of YouTube videos and or sections of YouTube videos. Create your mix tape of videos just launch the Drag On Tape editor, enter a search term for videos, then drag videos on to the Drag On Tape timeline. You enter searches and drag videos as many times as you like. To trim video timings and string videos together just match them up on the timeline editor. Drag On Tape allows you to collaborate with others on a mix.

On a related note, if you have raw video footage that you want to edit or you have a collection of your own videos on YouTube that you want to edit, the YouTube video editor is quite easy to use. You can find the directions here.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
47 Alternatives to YouTube
Auto-captioning Available for YouTube Videos
Downloading Videos for Use in the Classroom
Free Guide - Making Videos on the Web

Educational Games & Toys for Your Holiday Lists

The holiday shopping season kicks-off in full force at the end of this week. To help those who will be shopping for children's gifts this year, I recently talked with The Toy Guy, Christopher Byrne about his picks of educational games and toys for the season. Fans of Regis & Kelly, Oprah, or the Today Show may recognize The Toy Guy. While The Toy Guy does love toys and games, he also recommends taking kids on a good old fashioned trip to the public library. The video of our conversation is embedded below.

Make sure you check out Time to Play Magazine for more games and toys reviews.

Here are the toys and games The Toy Guy mentions in the video.
vTech V.Reader Animated E-Book System
LeapFrog Leapster Explorer Learning Game System
Hyper Dash Extreme
Woody's Run Around Round Up Game

This one is not mentioned in the video, but I found it while exploring Time to Play Magazine and thought it had potential to be good. LeapFrog Tag Maps

If you're looking for educational games and toys to add to your classroom, I recommend reading Gary Stager's recent post 'Tis The Season for Technology.