Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Smart Tutor - K-5 Math and Reading Activities

Smart Tutor is a provider of online reading and mathematics lessons for students of elementary school age. A lot of what Smart Tutor offers is only available through a subscription, but they do offer a decent amount of free mathematics and reading activities. Smart Tutor offers twenty-seven free reading activities for students in grades K through 5. Eighteen free mathematics activities are offered by Smart Tutor.

All the free activities offered by Smart Tutor follow the same basic model. There is a narrated introduction, a short narrated lesson, and interactive elements in which students apply their new knowledge to a problem or set of problems. The screen image below is from a phonic lesson in which students sort words by long and short sounds. Each time a word is sorted correctly the narrator's voice explains why the student's action was correct.

Applications for Education
Smart Tutor's free mathematics and reading activities are designed for individual use, but some of them do look like they would also be good on an interactive whiteboard for group lessons. By including short narrated lessons Smart Tutor makes their free online activities a little better than just rote drill activities.

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

Chess Kid - Online Chess Games and Lessons

There are plenty of places to play chess online. There aren't, however, a lot of chess sites designed for kids that are as well designed as ChessKid.

One of the first things I noticed about ChessKid is that the word "learn" is prominent on the site. ChessKid offers some free video lessons for first time chess players. Of course kids can play games on ChessKid. Games can be played alone or against other kids in the ChessKid network.

To preserve privacy ChessKid only allows players to use predefined avatars and predefined, randomly generated usernames. This makes it impossible for kids to accidentally display their real names in any games.

Applications for Education
The free version of ChessKid does impose some limits on the number of games and the number of videos kids can access, but the video for first time players is completely free. The video for first time players alone makes ChessKid worth visiting.

Google Wave Opens to Everyone - Now It's Useful

When Google unveiled Wave last year, I was excited to try it out. After much waiting I received a beta invite and tried it out. After a week or so of using it I wrote that it could be useful for Personal Learning Networks. Then when I attended the Google Teacher Academy we discussed ways in which Google Wave could be used in the classroom. The one problem with all of these ideas was that Google Wave was only available to people who had beta invites. So while it was great to talk about what could be done, it could only be put into practice on a limited basis. Today, Google changed that by making Wave available to everyone. According to The Google Wave Blog now anyone using Google Apps for Education or other versions of Google Apps can add Wave to the list of services they're using.

The video below offers an overview of some ways that groups can use Google Wave.

Applications for Education
Google Wave could be a great way to have a backchannel discussion in a course. In Wave you can play back the entire course of a conversation. This option could be useful for students who were absent from a class meeting to see how a conversation developed. Being able to add images, maps, and videos into a Wave makes Wave more than just a chat or email service. Online conversations could take on a new depth when more media is introduced.

Free Webinar - Creating Websites for Elite Educators

Two of the great K-12 school administrators from my Twitter list of K-12 Administrators are hosting a free webinar next week. Next Thursday, May 27 Eric Sheninger and Patrick Larkin are hosting a webinar titled Creating Branded Websites for Elite Educators. Eric and Patrick both effectively use blogs and other forms of social media to communicate with their school's communities and with the ed tech community at large. See their blog here and here. The focus of their webinar is using the web and social media to improve communication with parents, students, and faculty. You can register for the webinar here.

Learn more about the webinar in the Prezi presentation below.

Click here if you cannot see the presentation.

Applications for Education
If you're a K-12 school administrator or an aspiring administrator, this webinar should provide you with some excellent information that you can apply to your practice.

Patrick Larkin was a guest blogger on Free Technology for Teachers earlier this year, his post Every Principal Needs a Blog was one of the most popular posts of the winter.

Mutapic - Combine Two Images to Create a Third

Mutapic is an interesting way to create original artwork online. The artwork users create with Mutapic is based on combining two images to create a third image. Mutapic users select images from a gallery generated within a set of parameters they can define. Then the users can experiment with filters which alter the newly created third image. There are sixteen different filters that users can apply to their images. Within each of the sixteen filters are more variables that can alter an image. On top of the filter options are overlay options and image mixing options. If this sounds like a lot of variables, it is.

Applications for Education
Mutapic may be a great tool for art teachers and art students to experiment with many shading, shape, color, and overlay options. Mutapic's high resolution images show much better detail and the effects of color, shading, and overlay than other free online art creation/ drawing tools.