Friday, December 31, 2010

Amazon Introduces Kindle Book Lending

Earlier this week I shared some places where you can find free ebooks for your Kindle or other ereader. Yesterday, Amazon introduced lending of purchased Kindle books. So if you have bought Kindle books you can now lend them to others for up to 14 days. Borrowers do not have to have a Kindle device in order to read titles that you lend to them. Borrowers can read titles you lend to them on a PC, Mac, iPad, and other devices that have a Kindle reading app installed.

Not all Kindle books are eligible for lending. Books that are eligible for lending are marked as such. When you lend a title you cannot read it until it is returned to you. While that is an inconvenience, it isn't any different than what happens when you lend a physical book. Click here for directions on how to lend Kindle Books.

Applications for Education
Lending Kindle books could add a new dimension to school library programs. I didn't see anything in Amazon's documentation that would prevent school libraries from lending titles to students to use on their personal Kindle devices. The automatic expiration of borrowing after 14 days should mean that school libraries won't have to go chasing down "late returns."

Link Within - A Related Posts Widget

This post is more of a blogging tip than it is about a teaching resource.

Some of you have noticed that for the last couple of years I've manually posted a short list of related items at the end of most posts here on Free Technology for Teachers. There are widgets and blog plugins that will do that automatically, but all of the ones that I've tested resulted in significantly slower page load times or didn't work quite the way I wanted it to. That practice could be changing if Link Within works as well as I've heard it does.

What does it do?
Link Within is a free plugin (widget) for Blogger, WordPress, and Type Pad that will post a short list of related posts below each of your blog posts. The related posts come from your blog's archives. Each item in the list is displayed with text and a small image from your previous posts (if you used an image).

Why am I trying it?
Linking to related posts from your own blog is a good way to show visitors, especially first time visitors, some other work that you've done and keeps them on your site a little longer. It also helps readers find some more content that they may find useful. For example, if I write a post about "product X" but you've already tried "product X" you might be interested in a post I previously wrote about "product Y" that performs a similar function. Finally, for me this is the best benefit, using a product like Link Within saves the time of searching through the archives to manually generate a list of related items. If you're trying to produce 4-5 new posts a day, every minute counts.

Have you tried Link Within? Do you like it or hate it? Please let me know.

Pollmo - A Quick & Easy Poll Creation Tool

Pollmo is a free service offering an easy way to create and post simple polls online. Getting started with Pollmo is easy. Just head to their site, type your question, type your response choices, and select a color theme for your poll. Then just copy the embed code provided to place your poll on your blog or website. Don't have a blog or website? Then just direct people to the url assigned to your Pollmo poll.

Applications for Education
Placing a poll or survey on your course blog can be a good way to get some informal feedback from students about any number of things. Or you could have students create surveys and use that data in a lesson about mean and median. Students could create a poll and then try to determine what the results say about their class or school as a whole.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
MicroPolls - Web Polls Made Easy
Quiz Snack - Create Simple Polls and Surveys
Nine Survey Tools for Teachers and Students