Thursday, April 1, 2010

Follow-up on Magic Grade

Earlier today I wrote a post about Magic Grade. Just to clarify, it was an April Fool's Day joke. It's not a real service. Sorry if I caused confusion or frustration.

With my luck someone will develop the Magic Grade idea and make millions.

VisWiki - Visual Wikipedia

I discovered Visual Wikipedia in early 2009 and really liked it, in fact I had my special education students using it for a time. Then it went offline for a while. Tonight I was happy to learn that Visual Wikipedia is back online as VisWiki.

VisWiki has a great concept and layout that could meet the needs of a variety of learning styles. Visual Wikipedia shows students connections between topics through web diagrams and videos. VisWiki takes Wikipedia entries and then shows a web of related topics. In addition to the web of connections there is a video (often many videos) connected to each topic. Each item on the connections web is linked to more information about that particular topic. Clicking on each link in the connections web also generates a new web about the link clicked. Below you will see the connections web for Economy of the United States.

The video below demonstrates VisWiki in action. The video does not have sound.

Applications for Education
VisWiki could be a great reference source for students in elementary school through high school and beyond. The connections web is a good tool for students to narrow their research from a general topic to a more specific and focused topic. The videos connected to the Wikipedia entries could be very helpful for students that comprehend information better when they can see and hear it.

Examples of PD Opportunities on the Web

Last week I had the opportunity to watch the live Ustream of Wesley Fryer's Technology 4 Teachers course at the University of Central Oklahoma. I've known since last fall that Wes was webcasting the course, but I hadn't found the time to watch the stream until last week. The part of the course that I watched was about screencasting. The students were learning how to screencast and learning about the educational uses of screencasting. During the livestream Wes left the chat open which I used to say hello, add a couple of (hopefully constructive) comments, and even lend a brief moment of tech support.

The point of this post is not so much to talk about the nuts and bolts of Wesley's course, but rather to share an example of the type of professional development that is available for free on the web. Sure, you don't get university credits for watching all of courses online, but you do get access to all of the course materials and the learning that comes with that access. In essence you're auditing the course for free.

Another example of a free professional learning opportunity provided by Wes Fryer appeared on the web yesterday. Yesterday, Wes and his daughter Sarah presented at a school in New Hampshire. Again, the presentation was streamed live on Ustream and was recorded. I watched the recording in chunks last night and throughout the day. The focus of the presentation was on the educational value of creating, remixing, and sharing digital content online. I've embedded the video below. Two of the highlights of the presentation are a student-created video about Pi and a short question and answer session with Wesley's daughter Sarah.

Again, this post wasn't intended just to sing the praises of what Wes Fryer is doing for education (although I think it does that). The purpose is to highlight the fact that the web offers teachers more professional development opportunities than even the biggest schools with the biggest budgets can offer.

Mathematics and Multimedia

Mathematics and Multimedia is a great blog that I discovered early this morning. The author of the blog, Guillermo P. Bautista Jr. offers excellent ideas and tutorials for using Google Sketchup and GeoGebra to teach mathematics. Most of the posts focus on Geometry and Geometry-related topics although there also quite a few posts on Algebra topics as well as number theory and probability. If you're a high school mathematics teacher, it's definitely worth your time to look through the archives of Mathematics and Multimedia.

Applications for Education
Mathematics and Multimedia could be a good blog for mathematics teachers to add to their RSS readers. Mr. Bautista's posts and tutorials may provide mathematics teachers with new teaching ideas.

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

Virtual Field Trip Planning Kit

Those of you who visit Free Technology for Teachers directly may have already noticed, but for those of you who read this only in RSS, I'd like to point out a new element in the side bar of the blog. Starting today and running until April 30, you will see an offer to download a free virtual field trip planning kit from Simple K12.

Applications for Education
Just like going on a real field trip, taking students on a good virtual field trip takes planning. The virtual field trip planning kit is designed to help you develop and plan effective virtual field trips. The ideas put forth in the kit can be applied to almost any K-12 classroom.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Create a National Parks Virtual Tour
Explore and Tour Presidential Log Cabins
Tour the Sistine Chapel Online

In the interest of full disclosure, Simple K12 did not pay for the placement. We simply swapped blog space, as they have a logo for Free Technology for Teachers on their blog now too. I looked over the kit and I would not give it valuable top-of-the-fold placement if I didn't think the kit was a good free resource.

Magic Grade - This is Unbelievable!

Magic Grade is a new service that is simply magical! Magic Grade takes the tedium out of grading essays. Here's how it works, students create their essays just as they always do using any word processing platform of their choice. When they've completed their essays, they simply upload their essays to your classroom Magic Grade account. Magic Grade then analyzes the essays based on the criteria you've outlined in your account preferences and assigns each essay a grade. This should revolutionize the way we grade essays.

Applications for Education
Magic Grade will give teachers their nights and weekends back while providing students with nearly instant feedback about their writing.

Here is a related item that may be of interest to you:
History of April Fool's Day