Sunday, July 31, 2011

Fresh Brain - Fun Tech Projects for Students

Fresh Brain, a non-profit funded in part by Sun Microsystems, provides teachers and students with ideas for technology projects. On Fresh Brain students and teachers can find projects in which they build games, build iPhone and Facebook apps, make web pages, and mash-up videos. Fresh Brain provides space and a forum for students to connect and collaborate. To complete each project, Fresh Brain provides a list of suggested tools and getting started guides for completing each task.

Applications for EducationThere is no shortage of project and activity ideas on Fresh Brain. Teachers looking for creative ways to bring digital content creation into the classroom should explore Fresh Brain. The projects and tools suggested on Fresh Brain are intended for middle school and high school use.

Month in Review - July's Most Popular Posts

Well another month has come and gone in 2011. This summer I have been busier than ever traveling and speaking at conferences and at schools across the country. It has been great to meet so many of you in person. Unfortunately, all the travel has taken a little bit of a toll on the frequency of blog posts. Not to worry though because when school starts in less than a month I won't be traveling and the blog post frequency will return to the normal four per day average.

Here are the most popular posts of July 2011: 
1. 7 Task Management Tools for Students
2. Three Ways to Create Fake Facebook Profiles for Historical Characters
3. 7 Tools for Creating Mind Maps and Outlines Online
4. 10 Free Online Image Editing Tools
5. QR Code Treasure Hunt Generator
6. Augmented Reality in Plain English
7. Google Maps for Educators - A How-to Guide
8. Google Books for Educators - A How-to Guide
9. 10 Ideas to Help You Prepare for Teaching in a 1:1 Classroom
10. eEtiquette - 101 Guidelines for the Digital World

This month the Facebook page for Free Technology for Teachers received its 14,000th "Like." Also this month Free Technology for Teachers received its 36,000th subscriber. Thank you all for sharing and spreading the reach of this blog that started four years ago as a small project and has grown more than I ever imagined.

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Please visit the official advertisers and marketing partners that help keep this blog going.
Edublogs provides blog hosting for teachers and students. is a provider of free educational games for K-5.
Lesley University offers quality online graduate programs for teachers.
SimpleK12 is my blog marketing partner.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Speech to Text in Google Chrome

Speech recognition software can be very pricey, but adding a speech recognition option to your computer doesn't have to be expensive. If you use Google's Chrome web browser one of the apps you can add it to is a Speech Recognizer. The Speech Recognizer available through the Chrome Web Store is free and easy to use.  

To use the Chrome Speech Recognizer just install it from the Chrome Web Store, launch it, then click the microphone to start taking and recording your voice. The Speech Recognizer will type out your text when you finish recording. You can then copy and paste your text to the paragraph box below the Speech Recognizer or to a document you have open in Google Docs.
Applications for Education
The Speech Recognizer from the Chrome Web Store could be a good resource for students who, for a variety of reasons, might need assistance generating text documents on a computer.

H/T to Paul Hamilton for sharing this useful app.

Bears and Punnett Squares

This month's issue of National Geographic magazine features a cover story about the "Spirit Bears" of British Columbia. "Spirit Bear" refers to the Black Bears that are white in color due to a recessive trait called Kermodism. As always the National Geographic website has some neat resources to support the main article. One of the online resources for the Spirit Bear article is a Punnett Square that explains how two black Black Bears can produce a white Black Bear.

On a related note, National Geographic has a short video about photographing Polar Bears in their natural environments that you might find interesting. The video is embedded below.

Applications for Education
The story of the Spirit Bear could provide a good backdrop to an introductory lesson in genetics.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Have You Changed Your Passwords Recently?

It's the end of the month and this is a time when I like to share simple reminders of things that we all know we should do, but often forget to do. So this month I'd to remind you that it is important to periodically change your frequently used passwords. And if you're currently using weak passwords like "DAD123," please watch the short video below and start creating strong, secure passwords.

Click here if you cannot see the video.

Show Me What's Wrong - Help Your Friends With Their Computer Problems

Show Me What's Wrong is a free service offered by Screencast-O-Matic. The service is designed to help you help others with their computer problems. To use the service enter your name and email address to have a custom url assigned to you. You then send that url to the person who needs help. They open the link and can start recording their screens and talk about the trouble they're having. When they finish recording the screencast is sent directly to you. Watch the two minute video below to see Show Me What's Wrong in action.

Applications for Education
If you're the person in your school that everyone goes to for tech help, you know that trying to a fix a problem that someone can't quite describe correctly can be a trying experience. Show Me What's Wrong could make it easier for others to show you what they need help doing on their computers.

One Day on Earth - Mapped Videos of Life Around the World

One Day on Earth is a global collaborative project that launched last fall for the purpose of documenting 24 hours of life around the world. On October 10, 2010 (10.10.10) people around the world filmed life in their parts of the world. Those recordings were then contributed to a massive film project that will eventually be edited down to showcase the diversity, conflicts, tragedies, and triumphs that take place in a 24 hour period across the globe. The film is not ready yet, but you can explore many of the contributed videos by visiting the One Day on Earth map.

On the One Day on Earth map you can search for videos by location, browse the map by scrolling and zooming, search for videos by keyword, or browse videos by cause. I've embedded below one of the videos I found by zooming in on Mali.

ODOE UNDP Mali River from UNDP on Vimeo.

Applications for Education
Exploring the One Day on Earth map could be a great way for students to see how people in other parts of the world really live. Things like the One Day on Earth map provide a huge advantage over
old ways of teaching Geography in which students used static paper-based atlases. With resources like the One Day on Earth map students can explore their curiosities instantly and in more depth than they could with books and atlases.

H/T to Google Maps Mania

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

New Geographic Features Labels in Google Earth

Earlier this week Google added some new labels to Google Earth. Now when you turn on the "Borders and Labels" in the Layers menu you can view labels for mountain ranges, deserts, and plains. For large mountain ranges, deserts, and plains that can't be viewed in their entirety without zooming way out, you can mouse over a feature to see the full extent of that feature.

Applications for Education
Google Earth has added these new labels just in time for back-to-school season. Try them out with your students by opening the Layers menu on the left-hand margin of Google Earth and clicking the "+" icons to expand your options.

5 Google Plus Tips from Tekzilla

Tekzilla Daily is one of my favorite web shows for learning about fun and useful apps, sites, and technology tricks. The short episodes provide me with just enough information to get started exploring something new on my own. Today's episode of Tekzilla Daily is about Google Plus. I'm currently using Google Plus, but still learning the ins and outs of it. By watching today's episode of Tekzilla Daily I picked up a couple of handy bits of information and I think you can too. Watch the episode below.

Applications for Education
Even in my limited use of Google Plus I have seen that it could be another good place for educators to connect with each other and share professional resources.

CNN Student News Explains "Debt Ceiling"

What is a debt ceiling? This week's special summer edition of CNN Student News tackles that topic in five minutes. The episode explains what the term "debt ceiling" means and what it means in the current political landscape of the United States.

Click here if you cannot see the video.

Three Purposes for Classroom Blogs

blog logo
image credit: 
One of the most common requests for workshops that I receive is to help teachers create and utilize blogs in their classrooms. Over the last few years I've run blogging workshops many times and each time the workshop is a little different and hopefully a little better than the last.

This year I've run my blogging workshop more frequently than ever and have now arrived at what I think is a simple, but strong framework for introducing teachers to classroom blogging. I now introduce workshop participants to classroom blogging by outlining three fundamental purposes of blogging. Those purposes are distributing, discussing, and demonstrating. What follows is a brief break-down of each of these purposes.

At its most basic blogging is done for the purpose of quickly and easily distributing information to others. In the context of education this means distributing information to students and their parents. That information could be anything from assignment due dates to course notes to articles and videos that supplement your classroom instruction. Here's a cartoon explanation that I made about one of the benefits of teachers having blogs. 

This is where blogging becomes more than just an exercise in disseminating information. As a teacher you can post prompts to which your students write replies in the form of comments. Better yet, make students authors on a blog and have them post prompts for their classmates to respond to. The prompts could be in the form of a reflection written by a student, a thought-provoking article from the web accompanied by questions, an image, a video, or perhaps an embedded VoiceThread

The great thing about using blogs for classroom discussions is that it provides students with more time to reflect on what they're being asked before sharing their responses. Blog discussions also provides a forum for shy students to express themselves with written words instead of possibly staying out of a in-classroom conversation. 

By making students authors on a group blog or by having them maintain their own individual blogs they can demonstrate what they've found through research, what they learned, and what they have created to demonstrate their learning. In other words, your students' blogs become digital portfolios of what they have done in your classroom. One of the benefits of putting these portfolios on the web is that other students can view and learn from them. Another benefit is that now other teachers, school administrators, and your students' families can quickly discover the great work your students have done. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Do You Use RSS? Where are Your Bookmarks?

This morning Tom Daccord and I are introducing a group of educators to RSS, Google Bookmarks, Diigo, and blogging. I like to start with RSS because it then gives us content we can use for social bookmarking activities. One of my favorite resources for introducing RSS continues to be Common Craft's RSS in Plain English (embedded below).

And, of course, one of my favorite resources for introducing social bookmarking is Common Craft's Social Bookmarking in Plain English. (embedded below).

Applications for Education
Some of the ideas we'll share this morning regarding RSS is to keep up to date on the sites and blogs you use for professional learning. We also discuss the idea of creating folders in Google Reader in which you subscribe to a set of blogs that you want students to read and sharing that folder with students through email or a widget on a classroom blog. For example, if every student in your classroom has a blog that he or she maintains you could create a folder that contains all of those blogs' feeds.

The reason that we introduce teachers to online/ social bookmarking services is for the fairly obvious benefit of being able to access your bookmarks from any computer. More importantly we introduce teachers to sharing bookmarks with other professionals and with students. By sharing bookmarks everyone can benefit from a community's bookmarking activities.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Snag Learning Film of the Week - Home Base

This past weekend the National Baseball Hall of Fame held its annual induction ceremony. Therefore, I thought it would be appropriate to make Home Base this week's Snag Learning Film of the Week. Home Base is an hour-long documentary about the Baseball Hall of Fame. The film takes viewers on a tour from the creation of the Hall of Fame through its current work to preserve a slice of Americana in the form of baseball history.

Watch the film and grab the discussion questions here.
Watch more free documentaries

Thinglink - Make Your Blog Images Interactive

Thinglink is a neat service that allows you to make any image on your blog an interactive image. To do this you have to install the Thinglink plug-in (available for Blogger, WordPress, and Tumblr). Once you have Thinglink installed (it took less than 30 seconds on Blogger) you can tag and label anything in the images on your blog. Your tags appear as simple dots on your images. Whenever someone places her cursor over a dot in the image, the information in the label appears. You can include descriptions and or links to more information in each tag. Watch the video below to learn more about Thinglink.

Applications for Education
Thinglink could be a good way to have students take group blogging to a new level. Students working on a group blog could upload images then work together to add more information to the blog post in the form of image tags. One way that I'm thinking that this could be done in my US History classroom is to have students upload pictures representative of  concepts from the Industrial Revolution then tag different parts of the images to link out to further explanations and examples.

Easy Notecards - Easy Flashcards

Easy Notecards is a new online flashcard service that I recently learned about through Vicki Davis's blog. Easy Notecards allows you to create flashcards that are text-based and create flashcards that utilize images.

Like many other online flashcard services, Easy Notecards provides a gallery of public sets of flashcards. Some of the flashcard sets in the public gallery are connected to textbooks. This is accomplished when users creating flashcards opt to enter information about the textbook from which they are working to create flashcards. For example, if I was creating a set of flashcards about the American Civil War and using the textbook The Americans, I could enter the book title and chapter that matches the flashcards I am creating. Then when others search the gallery of flashcards they could search by topic or search by textbook title.

Applications for Education
Easy Notecards is quite new so the selection of public flashcard sets and textbooks is somewhat limited right now. That said, I think the option to associate textbooks with flashcard sets could be a great feature as more content is added to Easy Notecards.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Quizlet Now Offers "Speller" Mode in 18 Languages

The popular online flashcard service Quizlet recently made two big announcements. First, they now offer text-to-speech in eighteen languages. Second, they launched a new study mode that they've name "speller." Speller mode plays words for you that you then have to type correctly into the space provided. If you misspell the word that is read to you, Quizlet will show you your errors.

Applications for Education
Quizlet was already a popular and useful service, the addition of more languages and the new "speller" mode should make the service even more useful than before. Quizlet is one of those services that I show to students once in my history classroom and they often end up using it in many of their other courses because they like it so much.

$100 off Many Tablets at Staples

This post marks the second time I've ever written a post just to pass along savings on a product, but it just seems too good not to pass it along. Through July 30, Staples is offering a $100 off coupon for many popular tablets. This offer appears to include the Samsung Galaxy Tablet, Motorola Zoom, Blackberry Playbook, and many others. It does exclude the HP tablet, Kindles, and Nooks. The offer applies to in-store purchases only. Grab the coupon here. I learned about this offer from Allen Stern at Center Networks. I haven't been to Staples yet to confirm that the offer is valid in my area, but I plan to do that this afternoon. If it's good I could be looking at getting the Samsung Galaxy Tablet for $400 instead of $500 at Amazon.

Full Disclosure: The coupon link does not include any affiliate link. The Amazon image below is an affiliate link.

JayCut Bought Out by RIM (Blackberry)

I've promoted the heck out of JayCut since it launched in it's current version in early 2010. I've had my students create short documentary videos by using JayCut, I've shown it off in-person to a couple thousand educators, and even co-developed a video creation contest featuring JayCut. And now like so many other awesome online tools, JayCut has been acquired by a bigger company.

On Friday JayCut announced that they have been bought by RIM (Blackberry) and as of now they are not accepting new registrations. If you have an existing JayCut account you can still log-in and download your videos. It appears that the JayCut tools will live-on in some form as a Blackberry app, but as of now it's not clear what that form will look like or cost. My advice to those of you who have content in JayCut, download it now before it's gone.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Image Credit: Kretyen
Good morning from Maine where I'm still trying to get back on a normal schedule after a good, but hectic week of traveling and speaking in Tucson, Arizona and Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Thank you to the Arizona K12 Center and Southeast Missouri State University for inviting me to speak to and work with teachers desiring to learn more using educational technology. And thank you to all of you who have helped Free Technology for Teachers grow to a subscriber base of more than 36,000 readers which in turn has led to speaking invitations.

Here are the most popular posts of the week:
1. 7 Tools for Creating Mind Maps and Outlines Online
2. Augmented Reality in Plain English
3. 10 Common Challenges Facing Educators
4. Best of the Web - Updated Again
5. Edublogs Removes Ads from All Blogs

Please visit the official advertisers and marketing partners that help keep this blog going.
Edublogs provides blog hosting for teachers and students. is a provider of free educational games for K-5.
Lesley University offers quality online graduate programs for teachers.
SimpleK12 is my blog marketing partner.

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Image*After - More Than 27,000 Free Images

Image Source
Image*After is a repository of more than 27,000 free stock images and textures that can be downloaded and reused for noncommercial and commercial uses. The images and textures in the galleries have been donated by amateur photographers and artists. You can search Image*After by image category, image size, and base color. When you find an image you like you can either download it directly to your computer or clip it to a temporary online account while you browse for more images.

Applications for Education
Image*After could be a good resource to have bookmarked for the next time your students start developing multimedia projects.

US Debt Clock

Just how quickly is the US national debt accumulating? What about state debts? Get the real-time answers to those questions and more at The US Debt Clock provides real-time information about the national debt including information like "debt per citizen," revenue sources, largest budget item spending, and interest on debts.

US Debt Clock offers options for viewing state debt information. The state debt information isn't as detailed as the information available for the national debt, but it still offers real-time updates for GDP, debt, and debt to GDP ratios.

Applications for Education
US Debt Clock could be a neat resource for teachers of Civics and Government. You could use the clock to introduce an activity in which students develop and propose ideas to slow the growth of the national debt. Keep the clock running throughout the time that students are developing and proposing their ideas. Then show them how much the debt has grown in the time it took them to develop and share their ideas.

Friday, July 22, 2011

7 Task Management Tools for Students

It's getting close to that time of year when teachers and students will be returning to school for the fall semester. The great thing about the start of a new school year is that it brings new resolutions for both teachers and students. If your students have the resolution to keep track of their assignments this year, here are some tools that could help them toward that goal.

42 Tasks is a free online task management tool. The appeal of 42 Tasks is the simple user interface that it features. After you have registered for an account on 42 Tasks, adding tasks to your calendar is a very simple process. To add tasks just type them into the blank description line in your dashboard then select a date from the calendar. Tasks are automatically arranged in chronological order. You can also place tasks within task categories that you've created.

Pegby is a good website for organizing the tasks that you and or your team need to get done. Pegby is set up like a corkboard with index cards stuck to it. The corkboard has three columns to place your index cards on. A column for things to do, a column for things in progress, and a column for things that are done. Each of index card can be assigned to a person, can have files attached to it, and can have due dates assigned to it. You can use Pegby as an individual or you can share your corkboard with others

Thought Boxes is a task management service with a hint of mind mapping in its user interface. At its most basic Thought Boxes is a place to create to-do lists. You can organize your to-do lists into groups that Thought Boxes refers to as "trains." Your lists can include basic text notes as well as links to other sites. The "trains" you create in Thought Boxes are basically categories for your to-do lists

Remind Post is a simple, free service for sending task reminders to anyone you choose including yourself. Here's how Remind Post works; enter the email address of the person who needs a reminder, enter the task he or she needs to do, select a completion date, then enter your email address. Remind Post sends a reminder on your behalf to the recipient who will confirm completion of the task. If the recipient doesn't confirm completion by the due, Remind Post will send reminders until the task is completed.

The task manager or "to-do list" feature in Gmail can be a handy mechanism for keeping track of the things you need to get done. The only problem with it is is you have to be in your Gmail account to see the list. Tekzilla offers a solution to that problem in the form of a Google Chrome extension called New Tab to Tasks. New Tab to Tasks opens your Gmail to-do list every time you open a new tab in Google Chrome. It's a little reminder of what you need to do before you open Facebook for the tenth time in eighteen minutes.

Soshiku is a free personal planner designed for high school and college students. Soshiku lets students organize their assignments by course, add assignments, and receive text message and or email reminders before each assignment is due. Students can add assignments to their calendars directly on the Soshiku website or via text message. Registering and getting started with Soshiku is quick and the user interface is very intuitive and easy to learn.

Remember the Milk is a free personal organization tool that works online, with mobile phones, and with iPads. Remember the Milk allows students to add assignment due dates to their to-do lists via text, email, or directly on their account homepage. A word of caution, while this services is free, students could incur a lot of charges from text and data communication on their mobile phones so be sure to discuss these options with parents before having students use the text/ data tools.

QR Code Treasure Hunt Generator

Open a magazine, a catalog, or take a look at sign in your local grocery market these days and you're likely to see a QR code. (The QR code to subscribe to Free Technology for Teachers is pictured to the left). QR codes and QR code reader apps are one of the many ways that cell phones can be used in schools for academic purposes. To that end, Russel Tarr has developed the QR Treasure Hunt Generator.

The QR Treasure Hunt Generator provides you with all of the things you need to get started creating your own QR codes and using them in your classroom. To use the QR Treasure Hunt Generator type out a series of questions and answers, generate the QR codes using the tool Russel Tarr provides, then print and display the codes around your classroom or school. Click here to view a sample QR Treasure Hunt.

The QR Treasure Hunt Generator recommends having students visit Kaywa to get QR readers for their phones. My recommendation is if your students have Android phones have them try the free QR Droid app. If your students have iPhones they can try the free NeoReader App.

Applications for Education
Creating QR Treasure Hunts could be a great way to get students moving and learning at the same time. With a QR Treasure Hunt a quest for information can become a physical exercise as well as an intellectual exercise.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Learn Boost Adds New Administrative Features to Their Gradebook Service

Learn Boost, a free online gradebook service, has recently announced a new and important option for school administrators. The new administrator tools will allow users to import entire school rosters. From the imported rosters of the school class rosters can be created. Teachers can add students to their class rosters by selecting them from the master list for the school. The administrator panel provides options for assigning student IDs. And remember Learn Boost integrates with your Google Apps for Education domain.

Learn more about Learn Boost's new administrative features in the video below.

Introducing Admin 1.0 from LearnBoost on Vimeo.

Applications for Education
Learn Boost could be a good, cost-saving gradebook service for schools. When it launched last year it was designed for use on a class by class basis. The administrative options make Learn Boost a viable option for school-wide use.

7 Tools for Creating Mind Maps and Outlines Online

One of the presentations that I made this week was about having students create videos to demonstrate their knowledge of a topic. In that presentation one of the points that I stress is the need for students to create outlines of their videos before moving onto the technical aspects of constructing a video. Here are some tools for creating outlines and mind maps to plan video projects, podcasts, or essays.

Quicklyst is a nice tool for taking notes and creating outlines. Quicklyst provides a simple outline template that you can use to take notes. There are two neat features of Quicklyst that really stand out. First, you can do basic web searches within the framework of taking notes. To do a search just type a question mark (?) before a word then press enter. Quicklyst will then fill-in that line with some basic information about that word. For example, when I typed ?egypt that line on my outline was filled with some basic information about Egypt. The other useful feature offered by Quicklyst is the option to search within your notes. If you've created a lot of outlines in your Quicklyst account you can use the search function to quickly locate your notes about a particular topic.
Knowcase is a free tool for recording ideas and creating outlines. To get started using Knowcase just click create then start typing. Each time you press enter or return a new element of your outline is started. To rearrange the sequence of elements on your outline just drag them into a new order. Knowcase outlines can be made private or public. There are two public settings. A public setting that allows people to only view the outline and a setting that allows others to edit your outline.

Spider Scribe is an online mind map creation service. Spider Scribe can be used individually or be used collaboratively. I've reviewed a lot of mind mapping tools over the years. What jumps out about Spider Scribe is that users can add images, maps, calendars, text notes, and uploaded text files to their mind maps. Users can connect the elements on their mind maps or let them each stand on their own.

Folder Boy is a new service for recording, sharing, and organizing ideas with a team. At its most basic Folder Boy helps you organize your thoughts through an expandable outline format. You can create folders for each series of thoughts. Within each folder you can lists and sub-lists of typed thoughts.
Wise Mapping is a free collaborative mind mapping tool. Wise Mapping has fairly easy to use editing and sharing functions. Each cell created in a Wise Mapping mind map can be dragged and moved around in the mind map without losing any text or text formatting. Wise Mapping lets users collaborate on the creation of mind map. Mind maps made on Wise Mapping can be shared with others via email, url link, or be embedded into your blog or website.

Exploratree is a free graphic organizer creation tool. Exloratree users can use pre-made graphic organizer templates which Exploratree refers to as "thinking guides" or create their own templates. The Exploratree thinking guides can be used online or downloaded and printed for offline use. Thinking guides can be created collaboratively on Exploratree which makes Exploratree a good tool for students working in groups to design projects together.

Slatebox is a slick tool for collaboratively creating mind maps and organizational charts. Slatebox offers a variety of good-looking templates and intuitive tools for designing and editing mind maps and charts. Creating a mind map is a simple matter of selecting a template and using the visual editor to place text and images in boxes. Those boxes can be resized and rearranged using the drag and drop editor. If you need more text boxes, simply add more.

NT Camp Isn't Just for New Teachers

NT Camp is a free "unconference" being held on July 30 in Philadelphia for new teachers and others interested in sharing ideas about technology, best practices, and anything else related to education. The "NT" in NT Camp stands for new teacher, but participation is certainly not limited to new teachers. Veteran teachers, school administrators, librarians, and students are welcome to attend NT Camp. Click here to learn more about NT Camp Philly.

For those not familiar with the unconference model, it is a conference model in which the attendees propose and decide which sessions to hold on the morning of the conference. The first you attend it might seem a little chaotic, but trust me it works. Wikipedia has a good explanation of the unconference model.

Snag Learning Film of the Week - The Last Survivor

This week's Snag Learning Film of the Week is The Last Survivor.The Last Survivor is a film that tells the stories of four different survivors of four different genocides; The Holocaust, Rwanda, Darfur, and Congo. The film focuses on the themes of what it means to be a refugee and survivor of a horrible atrocity.

You can view the film here or as embedded below.
Watch more free documentaries

Applications for Education
This film addresses some heavy topics in ways that might not be appropriate for students below the high school level.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Best of the Web - Updated Again

This morning I had the privilege to present at the Missouri RPDC Technology Conference. There was a full room for my Best of the Web presentation. I recently made some updates to it and this morning presented the most current version which is embedded below.

If you're interested in having me give this or another ed tech presentation, please see the work with me page here on Free Technology for Teachers or email me at richardbyrne (at)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Playing With Media is a Great Blog and eBook About Remixing Media

Playing with Media is an ebook that Wesley Fryer is developing. To complement the development of that ebook, Wesley is maintaining a blog related to the topics to be included in the book. Most recently, Wesley posted a blog entry about How to Talk to Your Students About Copyright. In the blog you will find sections about working with text media, videos, audio media, and how to handle Copyright-related issues.

Applications for Education
Wesley Fryer's blog was one of the very first I ever added to my RSS Reader and now I'm going to add Playing With Media to my subscriptions too. Playing with Media is already an excellent resource for educators and is sure to get better as Wesley adds more to it. If you have questions about creating multimedia projects for your classroom, check out Playing with Media.

Edublogs Removes Ads From All Blogs

The popular blogging platform Edublogs announced today that there will no longer be advertisements placed on Edublogs-hosted blogs. This includes the free blogs that they offer. According to the announcement from Edublogs part of the reason for doing this is to try to reach one million blogs hosted by Edublogs.

Applications for Education
In the past, one of the drawbacks to using the free version of Edublogs is that you didn't have any control over the advertising that appeared in your blog. The removal of advertising from free blogs should enable more teachers and students to use a WordPress-powered platform in their classrooms.

Full Disclosure: Edublogs has been a paying advertiser on Free Technology for Teachers for the last year.

10 Common Challenges Facing Educators

Today, I had the great pleasure and honor to keynote the opening of the Arizona K12 Center's Pima County Tech Camp. Below are the slides from my presentation.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Augmented Reality in Plain English

One of the aspects of the presentations that I'm giving over the next few days in Arizona and in Missouri address the question of what to do about cell phones in schools. As you might expect, I'm all for allowing students to use cell phones in schools for academic purposes. I also know that that change won't happen in a lot of schools until the administrators and teachers learn more about the positive uses of cell phones in schools. One of the ways that cell phones can be used for educational purposes is with augmented reality applications. I've previously reviewed four instances (here, here, here, and here) of augmented reality apps that are accessible to students. But I know that as I finish writing this paragraph some readers still aren't sure what augmented reality is. And while I could type out a long explanation, I think Common Craft offers a good explanation in the video below.

If you're reading this in RSS, click here to see the video.

Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good morning from 33,000 feet. By the time most of you read this I'll be well on my way to Tuscon, AZ where I am speaking at the Pima County Technology Conference. I was thrilled to be invited by Tony Vincent to speak at the event. Thank you to everyone that has helped Free Technology for Teachers grow and provide me with opportunities like this one.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Google Maps for Educators - A How-to Guide
2. Verbling - Practice and Learn a Language With a Partner
3. Pencamp- Quickly Publish Your Writing Online
4. Math 4 Mobile - Five Mobile Math Apps
5. 10 Free Online Image Editors

Please visit the official advertisers and marketing partners that help keep this blog going.
Edublogs provides blog hosting for teachers and students. is a provider of free educational games for K-5.
Lesley University offers quality online graduate programs for teachers.
SimpleK12 is my blog marketing partner.

How to Subscribe to Free Technology for Teachers
If you aren't subscribed to you can do so via these links.
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Friday, July 15, 2011

BLine Test Prep Offers Free SAT Prep

BLine Test Prep is a test preparation service that is now offering a free SAT and GMAT preparation program. Both programs offer full-length practice tests that students take online. After completing a practice test students receive instant feedback on the questions they answered. The feedback comes with animated and narrated explanations of the correct answers. For busy students who don't have time to work through a whole test in one sitting, there is an option to pause and come back to the same place later. Overall, this could be a good service for students to use as they prepare to take the SAT this fall.

ShowMe App Announces Outstanding ShowMe Contest

ShowMe, providers of an iPad app for creating and sharing whiteboard lessons, has announced the launch of the Outstanding ShowMe Contest. To enter the contest just create a lesson using the free ShowMe app and share it on the ShowMe Facebook page. The lesson that receives the most votes on the ShowMe Facebook page will receive a free iPad 2. You can read one of my previous posts about ShowMe and see a lesson created with the app here.

CNN Student News Offers Students Job Hunting Advice

This week's special summer edition of CNN Student News features interviews with a employee recruiter and professionals at CNN offering their best advice to students on the job hunt. The video is embedded below.

While the advice in the video is sound I would also add that students should be actively managing their digital footprints so when a potential employer does a Google search on that student nothing inappropriate is found. I would also encourage students to use a service like Visual CV to develop an online resume that links to examples of their work.

Slide Staxx - Create Slideshows of Your Web Findings

Slide Staxx is a new service that allows you to create slideshows using videos, images, and webpages that you have found or created. To create a slideshow with Slide Staxx you simply specify the URLs for the content that you want to include in each of your slides. Each slide can contain a video, an image, or a webpage. You can caption each slide or let the slides speak for themselves. You can rearrange the sequence of your slides by simply dragging and dropping them into the order you like. Your finished Slide Staxx slideshow can be embedded into your blog or website. I've embedded a sample Slide Staxx slideshow below.

Applications for Education
Slide Staxx could be a great tool for having students organize and share the media that they have found online relating to a particular topic. In the example above all of the media is related to the Space Race. As an introduction to a unit of study you could assign students a series of related topics and have them gather and share through Slide Staxx some preliminary information which they later research in more depth.

Knovio - Sync Your Slides to a Video Presentation

Knovio is a new service for delivering presentations online. To use Knovio you upload your slides to the site then use your webcam to record a video of yourself talking about the slides. When you're finished your video and slides will be synchronized and displayed side-by-side. Knovio presentations can be embedded into your blog or website. Knovio is currently in a private beta stage so you do have to register and wait for an invitation to the service.

Applications for Education
Knovio appears to be similar to Slide Six and Slideshare's Zipcast service. All three of these services could be used by teachers who are using the "flipped" classroom model.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

My Best Tip for Beginning Bloggers...

is to write something everyday.

I've written about my "blogging secrets" in the past so I won't go down that road in this post. I am frequently asked how I find the time and or ideas for writing 4-5 blog posts a day. The answer is really quite simple, I make time for it. I make it a priority to sit down and write every day. Sure there are days when the ideas are harder to come by, but if I "waited for inspiration" nothing would get written. You might not want to blog as much as I do, I don't know a whole lot of people who do, but if blogging is one of the new things you want try doing this summer and into the new school year start by making appointments with yourself to blog on a consistent schedule. Even if you don't hit "publish" on all of your posts, sit down and write for 10-15 minutes and you'll be surprised at what you can accomplish.

This post was inspired by a TED Talk that I watched today. In the TED Talk below Matt Cutts, one of Google's search engineers, talks about making a commitment to try something new for 30 days. Spend four minutes watching it and I think you'll be inspired to try something new.

By the way, my 30 days of trying something new is to make time for some yoga each day.

Name that Famous Painting - Music Video

This morning on the Open Culture blog I came across a music video that might be of interest to art teachers. The band Hold Your Horses (yeah, I'd never heard of them either) produced a music video in which they recreated the scenes of 24 famous paintings. Open Culture listed the paintings and their painters. Flavor Wire has images of all of the original paintings along with still images from the video for comparison. The music video is embedded below.

70 Million by Hold Your Horses ! from L'Ogre on Vimeo.

Applications for Education
At the high school level or higher this video could be used for a fun art history quiz.

eEtiquette - 101 Guidelines for the Digital World

eEtiquette is a simple site that exists for the purpose of sharing electronic etiquette tips. The tips cover everything from email etiquette to social network etiquette to cell phone etiquette. Although the title says there are 101 guidelines there are actually more than 101 guidelines on the site now. Some of the best etiquette guidelines are available on a free poster that you can download from eEtiquette.

Applications for Education
If we're going to have students using digital devices (laptops, tablets, cell phones) in our classrooms, it is a part of our responsibilities to teach students appropriate digital behavior. eEtiquette could be a good place to go to find some guidelines to share with students. You might consider downloading and printing the free poster for your classroom.

10 Ideas to Help You Prepare for Teaching in a 1:1 Classroom

A couple of years ago I was asked to participate in a brainstorming conference call with some folks from the Maine International Center for Digital Learning. On that day we constructed a list of important things teachers should know when they start teaching in a 1:1 classroom. I just came across the list again and thought it was worth posting again.

This list was generated with some help from my Twitter friends @ernieeaster @scmorgan and @edtech4me

1. Not all teenagers are digital natives.
2. The computer itself is not going to create student engagement.
3. Teaching with technology is a heterogeneous experience.
4. It takes longer than you think to get a room full of students on the same webpage.
5. You should keep a list of students' usernames and passwords.
6. Murphy's Law is strongest the first few times you try to teach 1:1
7. Close and Focus.
8. Project design is still about the content.
9. Better to stand behind students than in front.
10. Network administrators are not always up to date on Web 2.0 from the end-user perspective. (There's a difference between hardware people and software people).
Some of these ideas were included in a video series informing teachers about getting started teaching in a 1:1 classroom. The videos can be seen here.

What would you add to this list? Please leave a comment.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Clockwords - A Speedy Vocabulary Game

Clockwords is an interesting game that tests your vocabulary and your ability to type quickly. The game is set in the context of an inventors laboratory. To prevent the loss of the laboratory's secrets to secret-stealing spiders, you have to quickly type words into the dialogue box. The longer and more complex the words you type are, the more chances you have to kill the secret-stealing spiders. Once you get past the long introduction to the game it is actually quite fun.

Applications for Education
Clockwords could be a fun way for students to practice their typing skills while also trying to remember some of their more "impressive" vocabulary words.