Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Rant of the Year

A friend of mine posted this Huffington Post story on her Facebook wall today. I'll keep my political commentary about the story to myself. The reason I bring it up is because the article reminded me of this video from August in which Matt Damon sets the record straight about why teachers teach. For this, I give Matt Damon the first ever Free Technology for Teachers Rant of the Year Award.

(Warning,some PG-13 language).

And here is the video of the speech he gave at Save Our Schools in July.

Nine Neat NASA Resources for Teachers and Students

Almost every time I visit NASA's website I find something new and interesting to me. I just did a quick look through my archives and over the last few year I've written about NASA-related topics more than sixty times. Here are nine of those better NASA resources for teachers and students.

NASA's Lunar Electric Rover Simulator is a free iOS app that lets you explore the moon. The app is really a game in which players perform tasks to support the activities of a lunar outpost. Players transport items from place to place and along the way encounter lunar challenges to overcome. The app also includes an interactive gallery of images. You can download the app for free from iTunes.

NASA 360 is a twenty-two episode series of videos about NASA. The episodes examine NASA's technological and scientific work. The episodes discuss how NASA's work is used not only in space exploration but also in elements of our modern everyday lives. The episodes can be downloaded from the NASA 360 page or viewed on Hulu.

NASA @ Home and City is a virtual tour of NASA-related science in our homes and cities. Students visiting NASA @ Home and City can rotate buildings and take a look inside to discover everyday items whose development has been influenced by technology developed at NASA. Each item within a building has a narrated explanation of how that items was influenced by NASA technology. For example, students can take a look inside the bathroom of a house to learn how cosmetics have been influenced by technology used at NASA.

Moonbase Alpha is an online game developed by NASA to be played on the Steam online gaming platform. Moonbase Alpha a simulation/ role playing game in which players assume the role of an astronaut working to repair equipment in order to restore oxygen delivery to a settlement on the moon. The game can be played by up to six players at a time who communicate using voice over communication. (To play Moonbase Alpha you do need to install the Steam gaming platform (it's free) on a Windows-based computer.)

NASA Space Place is a sizable collection of fun projects, games, animations, and lessons about Earth, space, and technology. Before playing the games or attempting one of the projects, students should explore the animations and facts sections to gain some background information. The projects section of NASA Space Place provides teachers, parents, and students with directions for hands-on projects like building a balloon-powered rover, building relief maps, and building a moon habitat. The games section offers thirty games covering all of the subjects in the animations and facts sections.

NASA's eClips videos are arranged by grade level; K-5, 6-8, and 9-12. There is also a section labeled for the general public. The videos are short clips designed to show students the work NASA is doing and how that work impacts space science as well as its potential impact on everyday life. All of the videos can be viewed online or downloaded for use on your local computer.

 NASA Brain Bites is a series of videos designed to answer the questions the that kids typically have about the science of space travel and the "logistics" of daily life as an astronaut. Some the questions that are addressed include "what is the temperature of space?" and "how do you go to the bathroom in space?" All of the videos in the NASA Brain Bites collection can be viewed online or downloaded as QuickTime or Windows Media files.

NASA has an excellent interactive timeline tracing the history of astronomy and space exploration from the Greek philosophers through today. Planet Quest is actually three timelines combined into one. The three timelines cover technology, discovery, and culture as it relates to astronomy and space exploration. Each element on the timeline is narrated. Users can select individual elements on the timeline or choose autoplay to hear the narration of each item in sequence.

NASA TV streams many different feeds to the web. Viewers can see images from the International Space Station, educational content, mission control video, press conferences, and more. Today, through Tekzilla I learned that NASA TV can be viewed via a Windows desktop widget. Watch the episode of Tekzilla Daily embedded below to learn more about putting NASA TV on your desktop.

Virtual Keyboard - Play Piano, Organ, Drums,

Last month I outlined some good ways that students can experiment with sounds and create music online. Earlier this week through Danny Nicholson's Whiteboard Blog I learned about another resource to add to that list.

The Virtual Keyboard is an online keyboard that students can use to virtually play piano, organ, saxophone, flute, pan pipes, guitar, bass, and steel drums. Students can play individual notes and or create chords.

Applications for Education
The Virtual Keyboard could be a good way for students to experiment with creating chords and sounds on instruments that their schools might not have. I'm pretty sure my elementary school didn't have an organ for us to play, but something like the Virtual Keyboard could have been useful for us. - Browse Thousands of Infographics

Infographics are all over the web these days. Some infographics are excellent and some are not, but even the bad ones seem to get passed around. is a website that catalogs infographics from across the web. has more than 5,000 infographics arranged in twenty-one categories. Some of the infographics are useful displays of information and others, like the one below are just for fun.


Applications for Education
If you're looking for a nice infographic to spark a conversation with your students or to use as a model for your students when they create infographics, check out One thing to keep in mind, I probably wouldn't send students to site on their own because there are some infographics that are not appropriate for public school settings. And if you find an infographic that you want to embed into your blog or website, try using to make it fit correctly in your display area.

Interactive Biology - Videos and More

Interactive Biology is a website offering a series of videos, quizzes, and study guides for biology students. The site offers study guides for sale, but there some good free resources available too. The best free resource found on Interactive Biology is the Interactive Biology YouTube channel. There are ten multiple choice quizzes based on information in the videos and study guides. Each quiz offers immediate feedback and provides a hint if you get a question wrong and want to try it again.

Here is one of the videos from the Interactive Biology YouTube channel.

Applications for Education
For biology students in need of some Khan Academy-like tutorial videos, Interactive Biology could be a good  review aid. The videos won't replace your classroom instruction, but they could definitely make a nice supplement to the course notes and outlines that you post online.

H/T to Kyle Pace

Android 4 Schools - My New Blog

From the shameless promotion department:

As some of you know, I have started a second blog titled Android 4 Schools. I started it because I saw a need for a blog dedicated to discovering and sharing Android apps and devices that could be helpful to students, teachers, and school administrators. The posts won't be as frequent as they are here on Free Technology for Teachers, but there will be at least one new post per day.

After the New Year some posts on Android 4 Schools will be written by my brother Stephen Byrne who has just finished his course work for his M. Ed and is now slowly dipping his toes into the social media world.

If you're interested, you can subscribe to the Android 4 Schools RSS feed here and like the Android 4 Schools Facebook page here.