Friday, September 30, 2011

Famigo - Find Family-Friendly Apps for Your Phone

If your child can't wait to grab the iPad or Android tablet out of your hands, Famigo is a website that you need to check out. Famigo offers categorized reviews of thousands of Android and iOS apps and games for kids. You can search Famigo by age group, app type, game type, and whether or not the app is free or paid. The video below offers an overview of Famigo.

Applications for Education
Famigo is designed for parents to find apps and games for their kids. It could also be a good place for teachers to find apps to use in their classrooms. Another site with a similar purpose is

H/T to TechCrunch.

A Horse Connection

This week's Snag Learning film of the week is A Horse Connection. A Horse Connection is a short documentary about Nancy King, her equine therapy program for people with special needs, and five of her clients. As always Snag Learning has a set of discussion questions to use with your students after viewing the documentary.

YouTube Policy Myths Clarified

This morning on their official blog YouTube posted a list of nine common myths about YouTube policies. It's an informative list that I'd encourage you to view and perhaps review with any of your students that are posting content to YouTube.

One myth that I wish they had included in the list regards downloading of content from YouTube. From my reading and research it seems that you should only download works that have been labeled for that purpose such those labeled with a Creative Commons license. Of course, there are plenty of tools out there on the web for downloading videos from YouTube, a quick Google search will yield plenty of links to tools for that purpose.

Speak It - Text to Speech in Google Chrome

Speak It is a Google Chrome extension that enables you to have the text on most webpages read to you. With Speak It installed just highlight the text on a the page you're viewing then right-click to activate Speak It. Then click the play button to have the text read to you. The voice is very digitized, but it is clear.

Installing Speak It takes just a few seconds. To install it go to Speak It's page in the Chrome Web Store and click the install button. Restarting your browser is not required in order to activate Speak It. If you decide that you don't want to use Speak It any longer you can uninstall it by right-clicking on the Speak It icon in your browser and selecting uninstall.

A video demonstration of Speak It is embedded below.

Applications for Education
Speak It isn't a perfect text to speech app, but it is adequate for having webpages read to students. For the student that needs to hear a word pronounced or needs a sentence read to him or her for clarification, Speak It could be a handy extension to have installed in Google Chrome.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

My American Farms - Games for Learning About Agriculture

My American Farm is a website produced in part by the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture. The purpose of the site is to help students develop their knowledge of agriculture through online games. There are thirteen games that students can play for free. Each game addresses a set of math, science, and or social studies standards related to agriculture. Teachers can see the list of standards that correspond to each game by accessing this reference sheet (clicking the link will open a PDF) available through the educators' resources page of My American Farm.

The video below offers a three minute overview of everything My American Farm offers to students and teachers.

Applications for Education
Many students are disconnected from the process of food production. Through My American Farm young students can become familiar with some of the steps of getting food from fields to the dinner plate while learning some math and science content along the way.

Youngzine - News & More for Young Students

Youngzine is an online source of news, sports, and entertainment stories for elementary school students. Students will find stories to read and videos to watch in each of the information categories. Each news story is accompanied by a Google Map that has a placemark indicating where the story takes place.

Applications for Education
For elementary school or middle school teachers looking for current events materials that will suit their students' reading abilities, Youngzine could be a great resource. Youngzine also offers students the option to contribute their own reporting in the U-Write section. Students can sign-up individually to contribute to Youngzine's U-Write section or a teacher can register his or her entire class.

Interactive Shaded Relief Map of the World

Google is continuously working to improve Google Maps, but there are still some things that it lacks. For those times when I want more detail in my maps I'll switch over to using Google Earth. Unfortunately, not all of my readers have that same option. Therefore, I'd like to introduce you to Shaded Relief.

Shaded Relief is an interactive map built on top of Google Maps. As the name implies, Shaded Relief features shaded relief maps. Shaded Relief offers more than just that feature. On Shaded Relief you can quickly measure elevation, distance, and area in a variety of units. You can also use Shaded Relief to search for things like tracts of land leased by the government, cultivated land areas, or railroad causeways. The list of place types that you can search is quite extensive and can be as specific (use the exact name search) or general (use the "names like" search) as you want.

Applications for Education
Depending on what you're searching for or what land features you're trying to measure, Shaded Relief is a big step up from standard Google Maps. It's not as feature laden as Google Earth, but if you cannot use Google Earth in your school Shaded Relief could be a great alternative.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

QRPedia - QR Codes for Wikipedia Entries

QRPedia is a neat website that was featured on Read Write Web this morning. RWW called it "the coolest QR thingy ever made." I don't think it's the coolest ever, but it is pretty neat. QRPedia is a tool for creating QR codes for any Wikipedia page in any language. When scanned the codes generated by QRPedia will automatically recognize the language of your phone and delivers the corresponding Wikipedia page in that language. Watch the video below to see how QRPedia is being used in museums.

Applications for Education
One way that you might use QRPedia in your school is to have students add QRPedia codes to collage-type assignments to enable the sharing of more information in the same amount of space as before. For example, you could have students add QRPedia codes to a Glogster collage.

Add Data Visualizations to Your Google Site

If you're a Google Docs users, and especially if you're a user of spreadsheets in Google Docs, you probably know that Google Docs has some nice data visualization tools built into it. Starting today you can use many of those same visualizations in Google Sites. To do this just open the "insert" menu in Google Sites, select "charts," then select the data set you want to create a visualization of. Visit the Google Docs Blog to learn more about this new option in Google Sites.

Applications for Education
Give students a big spreadsheet or large unorganized data set and they might sit and wonder what to do with it. Take that same data and put it into a easy-to-read graphic and they can do a lot more with it. If you use Google Sites for your course website now, it just got easier to give students accessible data to work with.

What is CNG? An Animated Explanation

If your any part of your science or social studies curriculum deals with alternative fuel sources, Explania has a short video that may be of interest to you. What is CNG? is a short explanation of compressed natural gas, where it comes from, and the benefits of using it compared to gasoline or diesel.

What is CNG? - Explania

The video was sponsored by a compressed natural gas company so you will want to have a discussion about bias with your students if you do choose to show the video.

7 Good Screen Capture Tools for Teachers

Introducing new technology tools to your students or to your colleagues can become a frustrating exercise if you end up repeating the same step-by-step directions over and over again. Not only is it frustrating for you to repeat those directions, it can also be frustrating for the students who want to go ahead but can't because you're waiting until everyone is on the same page. One way to avoid that is to create annotated screen captures of the tools you're introducing. Another way to avoid repeating directions over and over again is to creating screencast videos in which you explain each step of the process. Here are seven tools that you can use to create annotated screen capture images and screencast videos.

The tool that I use most often of creating annotated screen capture images is Jing. Jing enables you to take a picture of part of your screen or all of your screen. Once you've captured the area you want in your picture, you can type on it, draw arrows on it, and highlight sections of text within it.

To use Jing you must download and install the free software for your Mac or PC. Once it's installed, launch it and it runs in the background until you need it. You'll know that Jing is ready for you to use because you will notice an orange ball in one of the top corners of your screen. It takes up very little screen real estate and is ready to use whenever you need it. You can also use Jing to record a video of your screen. Simply select the area of your screen that you would like to show, click the record button and begin talking. Jing will capture everything you say and do for up to five minutes. A free Jing account allows you to store your videos and screen captures. For $15/year you can upgrade to a "pro" version which will allow you to resize videos and share them directly to YouTube.

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.

Screenr is a very simple, easy-to-use tool for creating screencast videos. Screenr is an entirely web-based tool that you can use to record part or all of your screen. To use Screenr sign-in with your Twitter, Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Windows Live, or LinkedIn account. The recordings you make using Screenr can also be published to YouTube or you can download your recordings. Screenr offers a universal player that you can embed into your blog or website. This universal player will automatically display the right kind of video for the device it's being viewed on. So if people view your site on their phones they will be shown a video that plays correctly on their screens.

Sketchcast provides tools to demonstrate ideas and concepts through drawing and voice. Using Sketchcast is as easy as drawing on a white board while explaining a concept. Sketchcast provides users with a place sketch diagrams while speaking at the same time. The sketches can then be embedded into a blog or shared via email.

Aviary is best known for offering a comprehensive set of online image editing tools and audio editing tools. They also offer a free screen capture tool called Talon. Talon is available as a Chrome extension and as a Firefox extension.

Awesome Screenshot is a great Chrome and Safari browser extension for capturing, annotating, and sharing screenshots. Once you've installed Awesome Screenshot you can simply activate it from your browser to capture a page or region on a page, draw boxes, draw lines, blur out information, and add text to your screenshot. When you're satisfied with your screenshot you can save it locally or share it via the url provided by Awesome Screenshot. Watch the short video below to see Awesome Screenshot in action.

Bounce is a neat application that not only allows you to make annotated screen captures of websites but also allows you to instantly share those screen captures with others. To use Bounce go to their website then type in the url of any website you like and click "Bounce." Bounce will then create an image of that website on which you can draw boxes and annotate those boxes. You can create as many boxes and notes as you like. When you're done creating notes, Bounce will provide you with a unique url for your screen captures that you can share with others. If you create a Bounce account (optional) you and other Bounce users can annotate the same screen capture.

File Info - What Kind of File Are You Receiving?

If you're in the habit of collecting assignments via email or in a Dropbox through a service like DropItToMe you've probably received a file or two whose extension you don't recognize. Before you open that unfamiliar file check out File Info to determine the type of file you're about to open. File Info is a registry of file extensions with explanations of what each file type is and what programs you can use to open it.

Applications for Education
File Info could be a handy reference for teachers and students who are gathering documents and media files from a variety of sources. You might encourage students to use the registry to determine if the file type they have created on their home computers can be opened by one of the programs on the computers they use at school. Of course, if you're working with text documents the best way to avoid file compatibility issues is to use Google Docs or Zoho Writer.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Avoiding Burn-out - What's Your Advice?

The pay is low.
The hours are long.
You're almost guaranteed to catch the "cold of century" every year.
We welcome new people to the profession every year and we see almost as many leave it every year citing "burn-out."
Also every year we celebrate the folks who have made it ten, twenty, thirty, or more years in the classroom. You're the people we want to hear from. What's your advice for avoiding burn-out as a teacher?

Doodlers Unite! The Positives in Doodling

In the TED Talk embedded below Sunni Brown, author of Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers, presents the case for encouraging rather than discouraging doodling in the classroom and in the boardroom. Her talk might give you some new ideas about why your students are doodling in your classroom.

Warning: Ms. Brown does use one analogy in her talk that is not appropriate for the classroom.

If you're interested in learning more about using sketches and doodles as thinking exercises, I also recommend Dan Roam's The Back of the Napkin.

Google Search Lesson Plans and Webinars

Give your students any kind of research assignment and for better or worse the first place they're likely to turn to is Google. As educators part of our responsibility to our students is to teach them how to search more effectively. To that end the Google Search Education Evangelism site has a selection of lesson plans that you can use and modify to teach search techniques to your students. On the Search Education site you will find nine lesson plans covering the basics of search through advanced techniques to get students beyond the first page or two of search results.

If you're not sure what exactly Google offers for advanced search options or how you will teach them, check out the archived webinars Google offers in which many of the techniques and strategies are explained.

I have previously shared some resources of my own on the topic of advanced Google search tools. You can see one of those resources below.

Thanks to Alice Barr for Tweeting the link to the Google Search Education Evangelism site.

What's Delicious Doing Now? Making Stacks

Delicious, the popular social bookmarking site whose future has been in limbo since last December, just relaunched with a new feature they're calling Stacks. Stacks is a new way to display and share your bookmarks with others. Stacks are essentially multimedia previews of links that you have organized according to the tags you assigned to them. The video below provides a nice overview of Delicious Stacks.

Another change to Delicious that you should note is that you can now tag your bookmarks with phrases rather than just one word labels.

Applications for Education
Delicious Stacks could be a good visual way for students to explore a set of links that you have shared with them about a topic. You or your students could create multimedia playlists about a topic to share with each other.

If you're wondering why you should use an online bookmarking service at all, just consider the time and frustration you'll save yourself if your computer ever unexpectedly crashes on you taking all of your most important bookmarks with it. By saving them online, you can always access your favorite bookmarks from any Internet-connected computer.

"Classic" Educational Videos

As I mentioned on Google+ this morning, even old videos can be informative sometimes. This morning my students were working on a quick in-class research assignment about the branches of US government. As I circled the room to talk with students, one of my typically "less-focused" students said, "hey Mr. Byrne have you seen this?" What he was referring to was an old School House Rock video about the branches of government. There is an entire 44 set playlist of old School House Rock videos available on YouTube.

Thanks to my student Brad for reminding me about these.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Vocalyze - Listen to the Web

Vocalyze is a free service that reads the content of popular websites to you. You can subscribe to popular sites across twelve different categories. To build up your playlist just click on a category then click on a site. If you want to delete a website from your playlist just click the "x" next to it in your favorites list. Vocalyze works on your computer, Android device, and iOS device.

Applications for Education
Vocalyze makes news and other content available to students with vision impairments that prevent them from reading online. Vocalyze could also be used to support struggling readers as you use current events stories in your classroom.

Aww App - A Collaborative Whiteboard that You Can Add to Your Site

Aww App is a super simple browser-based application for creating drawings. To get started just go to and click on "start drawing."  To invite people to collaborate on your drawing just send them the link assigned to your drawing board and they can join in the drawing fun.

If you would like to use Aww App on your classroom or school website and you have familiarity with editing the code of your site, you can install Aww App for free. The free version of Aww App when installed on your own site does not allow sharing. For $10/month you can enable sharing. Please note, itself is completely free with sharing options. The pricing only applies if you want to run it on your own website.

Applications for Education
There is not a ton options for your drawing tools on Aww App, but there are enough that you can certainly illustrate your point(s). I actually like that there is a limited selection of drawing tools because it will force students to focus on illustrating and diagramming their points rather than worry about making them aesthetically pleasing.

TenMarks - A Free Math Program for Your Class

Disclosure: TenMarks recently became an advertiser on Free Technology for Teachers. Prior to that I wrote about it a couple of times without any input from them.

TenMarks offers a free online mathematics program designed to supplement your in-classroom mathematics instruction. The free TenMarks program covers materials for students in grades two through ten. In the program there are more than 2,000 video lessons available to students to view on demand. Teachers can use the TenMarks program to assign lessons and problems to individual students or to an entire class. Teachers can track the progress of individual students and the progress of an entire class. Watch the video below to learn more about the free TenMarks mathematics program for your classroom.

One of the questions that I'm often asked about free services is, "how can we know it will stay online and free?" While I can never answer that definitively (see Ning as example of a company changing policies) I can pass along the information that TechCrunch reported TenMarks as recently receiving $3million in venture capital. So hopefully, that keeps TenMarks going for a while.

JavaScript for Teachers - A Free Webinar

This is kind of late notice, but I just learned about this promising webinar and have to pass it along. Today, at 2pm PT, 5pm ET Google is hosting a free webinar JavaScript for Educators webinar. This webinar will introduce teachers to creating helpful time-saving scripts to use in Google Spreadsheets. For example, teachers will learn how to send emails from a spreadsheet using a script.

Thanks to Lucy Gray for sharing this on Google+.

GeoGebraTube - Shared Resources for GeoGebra Users

GeoGebraTube is a community site for teachers who teach with GeoGebra to share and find a wide range free resources. On GeoGebraTube visitors will find user-created tutorials, lessons, and worksheets. Visitors can search for resources by age group, language, and material type. All materials are freely available for noncommercial reuse.

Applications for Education
If you're a mathematics teacher whose school is using GeoGebra, GeoGebraTube could be a good reference to bookmark. When you start planning your next lesson browse through GeoGebraTube before trying to reinvent the wheel (or a lesson plan that someone else has already published).

H/T to Mathematics and Multimedia.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Concept Board Comes to Google+

Concept Board, a collaborative online whiteboard that I reviewed in August, recently released a Google Chrome App that integrates with Google+ Hangouts. Concept Board for Google+ allows you to collaborate on mind maps and other whiteboard activities through Google+ Hangouts. Invite your collaborators to hangout with you on Google+ and you can talk while developing a mind map or other diagram together. The video below offers a demonstration of Concept Board for Google+.

Applications for Education
Concept Board for Google+ could be a great way for students to collaborate on the development of an outline for a group project. By using Google+ Hangouts students can quickly make clarifications to each other regarding the various elements of the mind maps that they've created.

Pronunciator - Lessons for Learning 60 Languages

Pronunciator is a free service offering self-paced lessons for sixty languages. Each lesson is comprised of flashcards that are read to viewers in the language that they are trying to learn. Additionally, each flashcard has each word written in the student's native language and the language that he or she is trying to learn. There are practice quizzes available with the Pronunciator lessons. You can watch a demonstration of the quizzes in the video below.

Applications for Education
Pronunciator could be a good study resource for students to use as supplement to the classroom instruction that they receive from you.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good morning from Maine, USA where I'll be spending the morning on all of those housekeeping tasks that seem to slip through the cracks during the week when school is in session. I hope all of you are doing something equally or more fun. Before jumping to the list of the most popular posts I have to say thank you for the overwhelmingly positive response (both in comments and emails) to my post about the business of Free Technology for Teachers.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Three Good Sites Where Teachers Can Learn Tech Skills
2. About Reusing Blog Posts - How to do it properly
3. The Business of Free Technology for Teachers
4. Google+ Adds Screen Sharing, Google Docs, and More!
5. YouTube Teachers - Ideas for Using Videos in Your Classroom
6. The Aurora Borealis Explained in Five Minutes
7. Make Beliefs Comix Daily Comics Diary

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Friday, September 23, 2011

Video - The Last U.S. Veteran of WWI

Frank W. Buckles was the last surviving U.S. veteran of World War I. He passed away in February of 2011 at age 110. In the video below, which I found via Open Culture, Mr. Buckles talks about his life, experience in WWI, and shares his thoughts on the state of war in the 21st Century.

Buckles from Sean Dunne on Vimeo.

Applications for Education
For teachers of US History this video could definitely be worth sharing with your students to give them some first-hand information from a veteran of WWI. Not to mention offering the advice of someone who spent an extraordinarily long time on this Earth.

The Nature of Things: Man and Dog

I'm a little late this week in posting it, but here it is. This week's Snag Learning Film of the Week is The Nature of Things: Man and Dog. This forty-five minute documentary explores how the relationship between humans and dogs has evolved over centuries from one of confrontation to one of collaboration and companionship. The film examines two theories about the origins of domesticated dogs.
My loyal companion Morrison
Click here to watch the film and find the discussion questions.

Food for Thought - Schools for Tomorrow

Yesterday, The New York Times hosted their Schools for Tomorrow Conference. I'll admit that I don't know as much about it as I probably should, but I am looking forward to learning more through the recordings of yesterday's panel discussions and presentations. The panel discussions and presentations are now available online at the Schools for Tomorrow website. The first one that I plan to watch/ listen to tomorrow morning while drinking my Saturday morning coffee is the school environment panel moderated by Ewan McIntosh whose blog I have followed for quite a while. The video of that panel is embedded below.

Watch live streaming video from schoolsfortomorrowa at

Are You On Google+

Earlier this week Google opened up Google+ to the world. I've been on it since late July but now that it's really open, I plan to spend more time on it. I like that it offers the option for conversations of a longer form than that which can be held on Twitter. So are you going to join? Are you already on it? If so, you can find me here.

Reel App - Share Your Slides and Get Feedback Online

Reel App provides a nice service for sharing your PPT, PDF, and image files with the world. A lot of other services do the same. What Reel App adds to it is the option to get feedback from your audience on each slide or image in your shared file.

Here's how Reel App works. Upload your file to have Reel App provide  you with an unique url for sharing of your file. Send your audience to that url to view your presentation. Your audience can view your presentation on their laptops, mobile phones, or tablets. As you go through each slide, your audience can give it a "thumbs up" or a "thumbs down" to provide you with instant feedback. After everyone has gone through the presentation you will get summary page containing the overall feedback.

Applications for Education
Reel App could be a good way for students to get feedback on presentations that they give in your classroom or that they give online. Teachers could use Reel App to perform quick checks of understanding on each slide in a deck. Have students use the "thumbs up" if they think they understand the topic of the slide and have them use the "thumbs down" if they aren't sure that they understand the topic.

Reel App is produced by the same folks who created Bounce, a collaborative screen capture tool that I reviewed last year.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

We Video - Collaborative Online Video Editor

For the last two months since my favorite online video editing service JayCut got bought out by Blackberry, I've been looking for a new online video editing service that is equally robust. I think I have found that in We Video.

We Video is a collaborative online video creation tool. In the video editor you can upload your own media clips or use stock media clips to produce your video. The video editor provides tools for trimming the length of display and or sound of each element you add to your video project. What makes We Video collaborative is that you can invite other people to create and edit with you. We Video offers four different user plans. The free plan allows you to upload your videos to YouTube and Vimeo but does not allow local downloads.

Applications for Education
I've only spent about thirty minutes with We Video so far but I already know enough about it to know that I want to have my students using it in a couple of weeks when they start a video creation project about early sectional differences in US History. My students have netbooks which do not have a good video editing tool installed on them. We Video will allow them to develop their videos online and with a partner.

Because I will be introducing We Video to my students, I'll be writing up detailed directions on how to use it soon. I wiil be sure to post those directions here on Free Technology for Teachers too.

Vimeo Music Store - Find Free Music for Your Videos

I always encourage people to use their own music creations in the videos they produce, but I recognize that that is not always possible or practical. My next recommendation then is to use Creative Commons licensed music (here are seven good sources). This morning through Pitchanan Gaysornmas I learned about another good place to search for and find Creative Commons music, the Vimeo Music Store.

The Vimeo Music Store offers more than 45,000 music tracks. Not all of the tracks are free or Creative Commons licensed, but roughly one-third or more of them are. In the Vimeo Music Store you can search for music by genre, license type, price, and length.

Applications for Education
The next time your students are developing multimedia projects for your class, have them take a look through the Vimeo Music Store to see if they can find a tune to enhance the message of their productions.

Beautiful Teenage Brains

The cover story on this month's issue of National Geographic is all about the brains of teenagers. As usual the National Geographic website has a couple of complementary resources to support the article. On the website you'll find a photo gallery and a video that attempts to portray through images the various aspects of the emotions of teenage brains. The feature that is probably most applicable to a high school classroom is the risk taker quiz.

Applications for Education
Are You a Risk Taker? is a seven question quiz that is designed to measure how risk averse you are. I'm not sure how scientific the quiz really is, but it could be a nice little conversation starter in an introductory psychology or sociology class.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Aurora Borealis Explained in Five Minutes

Image Credit: Mabufeu
One of the truly great displays of nature that I hope to see in person some day is the Aurora Borealis. A Google Image search using the term will yield more than one million results, but I think that even if you looked at all of those images it wouldn't come close to seeing the real thing. So what makes the real thing happen? The following five minute video by Per Byhring offers an explanation of what causes the beautiful imagery of the Aurora Borealis.

The Aurora Borealis from Per Byhring on Vimeo.

H/T to Open Culture.

Convert and Resize Images With Just One Click

Today's episode of Tekzilla Daily features a useful little program called Sage Thumbs. With Sage Thumbs installed on your Windows-based computer you can right click on an image to quickly resize it or convert it to another format. Watch the video below to learn more about Sage Thumbs.

If you're viewing this in RSS or in email you may need to click through to see the video.

Applications for Education
If you work in a Windows-based environment, Sage Thumbs could be a handy tool to have installed on your school's computers. Students needing to convert formats or resize images for multimedia projects will be able to do so quickly and get back to developing quality content that demonstrates their learning.

Vocabulary Widgets for Your Blog or Website

Last week, in response to one of my new teaching assignments, I posted a list of seven resources for teaching and learning vocabulary. Today, I went searching for some vocabulary widgets that could be added to classroom blogs and websites. In my search I found a jackpot of vocabulary widgets at Widget Box.

Widget Box currently hosts 48 vocabulary widgets that you can place on your classroom blog or website. To use the widgets just copy the embed code provided for you and paste it into one of the side bars on your blog. If you're a Blogger user, you can do this by going to your Design panel, selecting "add a gadget," choosing the "HTML/Javascript" gadget, then pasting the code into the gadget. You could also just put your desired vocabulary gadget as a new blog post.

I've placed the Vocab Ahead widget below.

Applications for Education
If you're looking for an easy way to display a "vocabulary word of the day" to your students, Widget Box probably has something for you.

My Open Letter - A Simple Way to Share Letters to the World

Last month I wrote about five ways students can publish online in less than a minute. Today, I discovered another service that allows students to publish their thoughts online without the need to register for another online account.
My Open Letter is a simple service through which students can compose "open letters" and share them on the web. Content written in My Open Letter can include hyperlinks and images. My Open Letter assigns an unique url to each letter. Even after publishing students can revise their letters online. Users of My Open Letter have the option to allow or disallow commenting on their open letters. You can see my sample Open Letter here.

Applications for Education
If you're looking for a quick and easy way for students to share their thoughts online, My Open Letter is worth giving a good look to. I like the service for two reasons. First, students do not have to register for an account thereby enabling them to spend more time on their writing. Second, I like that students have the option to allow or disallow commenting. If a student is looking for constructive feedback, he or she might allow commenting. But if a student doesn't want public feedback, he or she can could disallow commenting.

YouTube Teachers - Ideas for Using Videos in Your Classroom

YouTube Teachers is a new YouTube channel launched today by YouTube itself. The purpose of YouTube Teachers is to inform teachers about the many ways that they can use videos in their classrooms. YouTube Teacher features video-based lesson plan suggestions, suggested playlists for a variety of content areas, and suggestions for creating your own videos with students like this set of "choose your own adventure" videos.

Applications for Education
While YouTube Teachers won't, on its own, fix the problem of access to it being restricted in many schools it could help show some decision-makers the educational uses of YouTube in the classroom. And if you are able to access YouTube in your classroom, YouTube Teachers could be a good source of lesson ideas for you.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Simple Meet Me - A Simple Way to Chat Online

Simple Meet Me is a free service for quickly creating an online chat room with anyone you like. To use the service just go to SimpleMeet.Me and click on the link below the chat code. That code appearing when you visit is the code you can give to anyone you want to join your chat. Anyone joining your chat just needs to enter that code to join you. Registration on is not required.

Applications for Education
I've written about using chat rooms and backchannels in the classroom quite a bit over the last couple of years. My most recent post on the topic can be found here. SimpleMeet.Me could be used as a place for students to brainstorm and share ideas about a topic. It could also be used as a simple help forum for students to ask questions of each other and of you.

This is Real Democracy - A Music Video of Sorts

Ophir Kutiel, better known as Kutiman, is Internet-famous for his remixes of YouTube videos. His latest remix, titled This is Real Democracy, mashes together music clips and news clips of important events around the world in 2011. The video is a bit "noisy" sounding at the beginning but after the first thirty seconds it dives into some good, quick news clips.

Applications for Education
I first watched this video on Open Culture and I didn't think a whole lot about it. But after some reflection I realized that there are two things I could possibly do with it in my Global Studies course. First, it might be interesting to see if my students can recognize the news clips and the context they were taken from. Second, it could be a neat model of remixing and repurposing content to promote a message.

Three Good Sites Where Teachers Can Learn Tech Skills

One of the obstacles that some teachers face when trying to use technology in their classrooms for the first time is lack of comfort and or confidence with technology. That's where folks like me can be helpful in getting teachers started on the path to comfort and confidence with technology tools to use in their classrooms. While it's great to be able to get some one-on-one attention, a person new to using technology in the classroom often needs some handy digital or print resources to consult when an expert isn't available. For those times here are three good places to look.

Think Tutorial is a site providing free, easy to follow tutorials on a variety of web services and software. On Think Tutorial you will find tutorials for taking advantage of the many features of popular email services like Gmail, Apple Mail, Hotmail, and Yahoo mail. You will also find tutorials for using iWork and Word. Want to learn how to use LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook? Think Tutorial has you covered there too. Need to know how to alter settings in your favorite web browser? Think Tutorial has tutorials for that too.

Learn It In 5 is a relatively a site authored by Mark Barnes that features short how-to videos for teachers. The videos are intended to help teachers quickly learn how to use some of the the web tools are essential to being a successful user of classroom technology. The videos cover tools like Skype, Diigo, VoiceThread, and more. The latest video from Learn It In 5 is embedded below.

If printable guides are more your speed, Make Use Of offers dozens of free downloadable ebooks and cheat sheets for a wide variety of software and web applications. You will find guides for making the most out of your iPad, guides for learning the ins and outs of computer hardware, and much much more. The cheat sheets are handy reference guides for shortcuts on Windows and Mac computers as well as on a handful of commonly used web tools.

One last resource that I have to point out is my own collection of helpful Google tools tutorials. You'll find more than thirty tutorials on that page. Some of the tutorials were created by me and others were not.

Google+ Adds Screen Sharing, Google Docs, and More!

Google+, you know, that new social network that everyone is talking about but not everyone understands yet, has just added some awesome new features that should know about.

The most notable new features that teachers and students should be aware of are the additions to Google+ Hangouts. Google+ Hangouts now support screen sharing. Google+ Hangouts now offers a collaborative sketch pad. But probably the most significant addition to Google+ Hangouts is support for Google Docs. Now you are able to collaborate in real-time on a document while discussing that document.

Some other things of note added to Google+ today are an Android App for having mobile Hangouts, the option to name a public Hangout and have anyone interested in the topic join, and improved search functionality in Google+. Finally, Google+ is now open to everyone, invitations are no longer required.

Applications for Education
The new Google+ Hangout features could be excellent for online peer tutoring. If you work with students who can use Google+ you could also use the new Hangout features for homework help or other distance learning options.