Friday, January 22, 2010

Week in Review - The Most Popular Items

It's Friday evening in Maine which means I'm ready to watch the Celtics, but first I'll share this week in review post.

Here are the seven most popular items of the last seven days:
1. Youblisher - Publish PDFs as Online Magazines
2. Google Earth Across the Curriculum
3. Google Earth Layer About the Earthquake in Haiti
4. Active Science - Interactive Periodic Table
5. Two Lesser Known Google Docs Options
6. Placefy: A Picture-Based Geography Game
7. Washington Post's Best Education Blogs for 2010

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Google Adds Answer Highlighting

Earlier today Google announced a new enhancement to the way it displays search results. Now when you search using a fact searching phrase such as "height of Mount Everest" Google will highlight the answer at the top of the search results. This is similar in style to the way Wolfram Alpha handles fact searching phrases.

Applications for Education
The new way that Google displays results for fact searching phrases should save you and your students time when looking for basic information. Rather than having to open a link you will be able to see the answer right in the results list.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Google Wonder Wheel In Action
Google Squared - Better Examination of Search Results
Google Swirl is Like Wonder Wheel for Images

Seven Places to Find Free eBooks

Every year schools around the world spend thousands of dollars on textbooks that are often outdated by the end of their first year in the classroom. Ebooks, many of them free, can represent huge savings for schools over purchasing textbooks. Here are seven places that you can find free ebooks.

1. Planet eBook is a free service where teachers and students can find classic literature titles available as free downloads. Planet eBook adds new titles at regular intervals. Subscribe to the Planet eBook blog or newsletter to keep track of the latest additions to the collection. For browsing purposes, Planet eBook offers previews of titles through the Issuu pdf publishing service. Using the previews students can get an overview of a title without committing to downloading the entire ebook.

2. E-Books Directory contains nearly 1700 titles. The E-Books Directory provides freely downloadable textbooks, documents, and lecture notes. You can search the directory by keyword or browse through hundreds of categories.

3. Science Books Online is a directory of free ebooks for all areas of science. The books range from small PDF pamphlets to full-length texts made available in electronic form for free. Most of the materials have to be downloaded in order to be viewed but there are some materials that you can view directly within your browser.

4. Free Book-s is a search engine that scans many collections of ebooks to find free content that matches your search. I gave Free Book-s a test drive using academic terms like "physics" and terms like "fly fishing" to see what kids of results would be generated. In both cases I found Free Book-s returned very relevant results.

5. BookServer is a search engine for finding, borrowing, downloading, and purchasing books in digital form. A search on BookServer will yield results listing both free ebooks and ebooks for sale.

6. Flat World Knowledge provides free textbooks created by experts in various academic fields. A quick look at the "find my class" section of Flat World Knowledge reveals that these textbooks are being used in few dozen colleges across the United States.

7. Google Books hosts thousands of books that are in the public domain. Many of the public domain books can be viewed and downloaded in their entirety for free. To find public domain books go into the advanced search options and select the "public domain only" and "full text" options to find free full-length books.

Find Free, Local Books on Your iPhone

I've never written about iPhone apps on this blog, in part because in my part of the world an iPhone is about as useful as a cup and string, but I'm sharing one today that I read about because I think some readers will find it useful. Local Books (download link) is a free iPhone application that helps you locate libraries and bookstores in your area that have copies of the books you're searching for. Local Books draws this information from Library Thing. Library Thing is a crowd-sourced catalog of books.

Applications for Education
Local Books could be a useful application for quickly locating available copies of the books you want.

Edit the Size of Videos Embedded in Your Blog

From time to time I'll visit a blog and see an embedded video that spills over the parameters of the blog's main column and or shows only a portion of the video screen. I'm sure you've seen it too. Perhaps you have done this yourself and have wondered how to fix the problem. Fixing that problem is the purpose of this post.

As the vast majority of embedded videos come from YouTube, I'm going to be using a YouTube video in the following directions. The concepts demonstrated can also be used on videos found on TeacherTube, SchoolTube, and many other video sharing sites.

In case you would like to print this or save it for reference, at the end of this post I've included a link for downloading a PDF of these directions.

Step 1 (After locating a video):
Open the embed options.

Step 2:
Select a video size that you think is close to the parameters of your blog's main column. In this step you can also select a border and whether or not related videos should be shown after your video plays. Copy the code provided in the "embed" box.

Step 3:
Paste the video embed code into your blog's post editor. (Depending on your blogging platform, you may have to do this in the "edit html" mode rather than "compose" mode). Now locate the "object width" and "object height" with the code you've copied. Following "object width" you should see a three digit number. That number is an indication of the number of pixels wide your video will be. Reduce the number to make the video player narrower. Now locate "object height" and reduce the number following it by an amount equal to the amount you reduced the width. You're almost done. "Width" and "height" dimensions will appear again at the end of the code you've copied. Alter those dimensions to match the dimensions at the beginning of the code.

For those that haven't seen it before, here's the video I used in the images above.