Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Month in Review - January's Most Popular Posts

It's hard to believe it, but the first month of 2012 is just about over (or is over depending on when and where you are reading this). 2012 is off to a great start for Free Technology for Teachers. Thanks to all of you and your sharing of the posts here, this month saw a new record for pageviews. In January, for the first time ever, Free Technology for Teachers surpassed 700,000 pageviews! When I started this blog four and a half years ago I never imagined that it would grow like it has. Thank you all for your continued support.

Here are the most popular posts from January, 2012:
1. 10 Useful Chrome Web Apps and Extensions for Teachers and Students
2. Evernote in Education
3. Investigating the Interest in Pinterest
4. The School That Launched 1,000 iPads
5. Seven Ways to Quickly and Easily Share Files
6. Video - How to Find Creative Commons Images
7. Get the Math - Multimedia Algebra Challenges
8. Free 2012 Calendar Templates
9. Interactive Animated Heart
10. Free Download - Ten Digital Storytelling Projects

Please visit the official advertisers and marketing partners that help keep this blog going.
LearnBoost provides a free online gradebook service for teachers.
MasteryConnect provides a network for teachers to share and discover Common Core assessments.
The Worth Ave Group offers insurance plans for school technology.
Edublogs provides blog hosting for teachers and students.
ABCya.com is a provider of free educational games for K-5.
Lesley University offers quality online graduate programs for teachers.
The University of Maryland Baltimore County offers graduate programs for teachers. In February I will be holding a free public webinar through UMBC.
Ed Tech Teacher offers professional development services for schools. I will be speaking at their winter conference on March 3.

How to Subscribe to Free Technology for Teachers
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An Animated Guide to Electric Circuits

The Blobz Guide to Electric Circuits is a neat series of interactive animations designed to help students of elementary and middle school age learn how electric circuits work. There are five sections to the series. Each sections builds upon the lessons of the previous section. The series starts with the basics of what makes a circuit complete and concludes with diagramming and building circuits. Each section in the series has a few short lessons and is followed by an animated interactive activity to which students can apply what they have just learned. 

Applications for Education
The name, "Blobz Guide to Electric Circuits" reminded me a bit of the Squishy Circuits activity that I wrote about last fall. The Blobz Guide to Electric Circuits could be a good way for students to learn about electric circuits before you attempt a classroom activity like that of Squishy Circuits

Thanks to Jen Deyenberg for sharing this great resource on Twitter. 

Announcify - A Great Text to Speech App

Announcify is a free text to speech application that is available as a Chrome browser extension and as an Android app. With Announcify installed in your browser any time you're viewing a webpage you can simply click on the Announcify icon in your browser and have that page read to you. A bonus aspect of using Announcify is that in order to make a webpage easier to read it enlarges the text of the webpage and removes all sidebar content. In the video below I provide a short demonstration of Announcify.

Applications for Education
As I mentioned in the video above, Announcify could be a great little tool for students that need audio support when they are reading online content. The enlargement of text and removal of sidebar content could also help students focus on what they are trying to read on a webpage.

What is a Tsunami? A Video Explanation

Explania is a good place to find video explanations and interactive images that explain all kinds of things from the worlds of science, technology, sports, and health. Today, on Explania I discovered this excellent animated explanation of tsunamis. The two and a half minute video explains how tsunamis are created and the impact of tsunamis when they reach land. The video is embedded below.

Tsunami Infographic from Shal on Vimeo.

Applications for Education
Unfortunately, the world saw plenty of footage last year of the tsunami in Japan. That provided plenty of visuals on the damage caused by tsunamis. This video provides a good way for students to see how a tsunami is formed. Here are a few other resources that you could also use in lessons about tsunamis: Tsunami Mapper, Tsunamis 101, Stop Disasters.

Meet and Learn About Maine's Black Bears

This morning I received an email from Maine's Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. The email, which I'm sure every person who bought a Maine fishing license last year received, was a promotion for Maine's Wildlife Research Foundation's Meet Our Bears campaign.

The Wildlife Research Foundation's Meet Our Bears website features a live bear den webcam and archived videos about Maine's Black Bears. In addition to the videos, the website offers some basic information about the lives of Black Bears. Hopefully, in the future there will be more educational content added to the website. For now though the site is a good place to see some bears in their natural habitats.

And from the "don't try this at home" department, here is a video of the researchers checking on a bear in her den. The Wildlife Research Foundation also has a video of a bear giving birth to twin cubs.

Applications for Education
For a comparison of the types of bears in the world you could pair the Wildlife Research Foundation's Black Bear webcam with some of these resources about Polar Bears and Brown Bears: Brown Bears Socializing, Asiatic Black Bears, Polar Bears on Explore.org, Bears and Punnett Squares.

Classroom 2.0 Fifth Anniversary Book - Call for Submissions

Like many of you, I am a member Classroom 2.0. While I'm not as active in it as I would like to be (a man only has so many hours in a day) I think it is an invaluable place for educators to connect. So when Classroom 2.0's founder, Steve Hargadon asked me to collaborate with him on the creation of a book of best ideas and examples for using Web 2.0 in schools, I immediately said yes. Yesterday, the project was announced across the Classroom 2.0 networks. We would like you to contribute to the book too!

If you're interested in contributing to the Classroom 2.0 Fifth Anniversary Book Project, you can read the call for submissions here. Here are some bullet points about contributing to the book.

  • All submissions will be displayed online on the Classroom 2.0 Scribd page. 
  • Some submissions will be chosen for inclusion in the printed version of the book. 
  • Our hope is that the printed book will be able to reach an audience that doesn't typically get involved in social media/ Web 2.0 and prompt that audience to investigate the benefits of using technology in schools.
  • As a contributor to the project you may be able to reach a wider audience than you could on your own. From my experience with other projects like this, all contributors end up reaching a larger audience due to the mutual sharing of content by all contributors. 
  • Here again is the call for submissions to the Classroom 2.0 Fifth Anniversary Book Project
Steve Hargadon, myself, and ZDNet's Chris Dawson will be organizing and editing submissions. 

Monday, January 30, 2012

Novels on Location

Novels on Location is neat use of Google Maps designed to help you find fiction works according to their geographical settings. When you visit Novels on Location you can find novels by clicking on the placemarks that you see or by using the location search bar in the upper, right corner of the site. If you want to contribute to Novels on Location you can do so very quickly by simply entering a location then entering the title and author of your favorite book set in that location.

Applications for Education
Novels on Location is a little lean on titles right now, but it has the potential to be a good place to find your next favorite read. You could have students contribute to Novels on Location. Or create your own classroom version of Novels on Location by creating a shared Google Map to which your students make their contributions. If you do develop your own version of Novels on Location, ask your students to include a short book review in the placemarks that they add to the map.

H/T to Google Maps Mania

Moglue - A Platform for Building Interactive eBooks

Moglue is a platform for creating interactive ebooks that can be viewed on iPads and soon will be available for viewing on Android tablets too. Moglue's creation tools can be used on Windows and Apple computers. I initially reviewed Moglue back in October. Since then it has made a few changes. Moglue is free to use and it is free to download your creations to view on your own device. If you want to publish your ebooks for others to access through the Moglue store or the Apple store, you do have to pay for those options. The video below offers a short overview of Moglue.

Applications for Education
The obvious question when looking at Moglue is, "how is this different from Apple's new iBooks Author?" The answer is, you can use Moglue on Windows computers. So if your school has Windows computers and you were feeling left out when Apple announced iBooks Author, Moglue has a tool that you can use to create your own interactive ebooks too.

You, Google, Ads, Search, and Privacy

As you probably know, Google's privacy policies were recently overhauled. The data that Google collects about your use of their services (including the Chrome web browser) is now shared across all of Google's services. In other words, what you do with Chrome can be shared with Gmail, Google Music, or any of the other Google services you use. Why did they do this? The answer is simple: advertising. Google wants to be able to display the ads that they think will be most relevant to you.

Now, it doesn't bother me that Google thinks I'm a geeky 35-44 year old (they've got my age wrong), but I know that it does bother some people. If it does bother you, there are a couple of simple things that you can do to limit the data that Google collects and shares about you. The obvious thing is to just not use Google products, but that might not be practical for you. And if you think that Google is the only Internet giant collecting data about you, you're wrong. The second thing that you can do is to use Incognito Mode if you are using the Chrome web browser. To stop display advertising from being targeted directly at you you can opt out of display ad networks. You can also opt out of targeted ads in Gmail and Search.

Here's a video about privacy in the Chrome web browser.

If you want to opt out of personalized search display there are two ways you can do this. First, don't log into your Google account before searching. Second, if you are logged into your Google account when you search you can quickly disable personalized results. See the screen capture below for directions.

AudioLiterate - Stream and Download Audiobooks

AudioLiterate is a new website offering free and paid audiobooks that you can listen to online or download to listen to on your favorite device. You can locate audiobooks on AudioLiterate according to author, genre, price, or title. The free audiobooks can be streamed chapter by chapter directly from AudioLiterate. The free audiobooks come from public domain sources.

Applications for Education
If you're looking for some audiobooks to support your students' reading of classics like Tom Sawyer, Aesop's Fables, or Treasure Island, AudioLiterate could be a great resource to bookmark.

Here are some other good sources of free audiobooks that I've reviewed:
Books Should Be Free
Lit 2 Go
Open Culture's audiobook collection
Open Library

The Nature of Things - Man, Dog, and Genetics

The cover story of the February issue of National Geographic is all about dogs and the genetics that create so many variations of looks and sizes in dogs. The online article and photo gallery is packed with interesting bits of information about man's best friend. Reading the article (I still get the print edition delivered to my home every month) reminded me of this documentary that I watched on Snag Films a few years ago.

The Nature of Things: Man and Dog, An Evolving Partnership is a 45 minute look at the evolution of dogs from wild pack animals to domesticated companions bred for specific purposes. A preview of the documentary is embedded below.

Seven Alternatives to Picnik

Last week Google announced another round of service and product closures. The popular image editing tool Picnik was included in the list of services that they're shutting down. I've had a few people ask me for recommendations for alternatives to Picnik, so here's a short list of alternatives to explore.

Aviary offers the most complete set of image creation and editing tools of all the services on this list. Aviary provides tools for editing the colors, size, shadows, and other effects of existing images. If creating images from scratch is what you want to do, Aviary can accommodate you too. Aviary provides tools for creating logos, working with vectors, and creating free hand illustrations. If you are a Google Apps for Education school, Aviary can be added to your suite of services to allow students to save their works within their Google Apps accounts.

Picozu is a free online image editing tool. Using Picozu you can touch-up existing images or you can create new images from scratch. In the Picozu editor you will find tools for adjusting color saturation and clarity. The editor also includes tools for creating images containing multiple layers. And if you want to include text in your image Picozu has options for that too. Picozu offers the option to register and join their community or you can use the editing tools without creating an account. If you do choose to create an account you can save your images on Picozu and add them to the community albums. If choose not to create a Picozu you can save your images to your computer, send them to your Facebook account, or send them to your Dropbox account.

Picfull is a free online photo editing service. To use the service just upload a picture and select an effect to add to it.  Picfull offers eighteen basic sets of effects. After you select an effect you can customize it to your liking. When you're finished altering your photo you can download or share it via Twitter, Facebook, or email.

Pixlr offers a great set of image creation and editing tools. Pixlr offers web-based image editing tools as well as image editing tools to use on Android phones and on iPhones. Pixlr also has Firefox and Chrome browser extensions for creating screen captures.

Pixlr Editor is Pixlr's most full-featured image creation and editing tool. You can create drawings from scratch using the pencil and coloring tools that they provide. Pixlr Editor also has options for uploading images or importing images from other places on the web. The selection of creation and editing tools is huge. There are options for making multiple layer images, dozens of filter settings, and of course tools for cropping and resizing images. Your images can be saved to your computer or you can send them to Flickr, Picassa, Facebook, or you can save them in a Pixlr account.

Pixlr Express is a simple tool for quick resizing of images and color editing of images. If you already have an image on your computer or in an online album that you just want to touch-up a bit, Pixlr Express is the tool for you.

Pixlr Grabber is Pixlr's screen capture tool. You can install Pixlr Grabber in Chrome or Firefox. Using Pixlr Grabber you can capture your screen, crop the screen image, and print what you like. You can also send the image to Pixlr Editor for further editing options.

Pixlr-o-Matic is the Pixlr's mobile app for Android and iOS. With the app installed you can take a picture and apply a variety of neat effects to the image. You can also use Pixlr-o-Matic for simple cropping and resizing before sending your picture to a friend or to an online album.

FlauntR is a suite of free, web-based image editing tools. There are five tools included in the FlauntR package. In EditR you can touch-up your digital photos. StylR allows you to apply digital effects like backgrounds and frames to you images. PicasR gives you the ability to blend colors, effects, and images. TextR can be used to add text and banners to your images. And PrintR provides a postcard, poster, and printing service (you do have to pay for the printing). Once you've registered for FlauntR you can easily transition between each of the editing services within the suite. To transition between services simply click on the tabs at the top of the page, you're not required to log into each service separately. The images you edit can be sourced from your computer, Flickr, Facebook, or the web. You can also choose images from Picasa, Bebo, or use the sample images provided by FlauntR.

GooEdit is a free image editing tool that operates as a Google Chrome extension. GooEdit allows you to edit images without having to leave your browser. You can add outlines, flip images, resize images, and do other basic image editing tasks in GooEdit. If you need a simple image editing tool for your students, give GooEdit a try.

Psykopaint is an image editing tool that uses the color schemes in your existing images to provide you with a custom palate of colors for  touching-up your images. You can also use Psykopaint to draw on an image. To use Psykopaint just upload an image and begin editing. You can adjust the color saturation of an image, blur the edges of your image or the objects within your images. Psykopaint provides a good selection of brushes and color blending tools to get your image looking exactly the way you want it to look.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Newt Gingrich and Your Next Science Lesson

Don't worry, this is not a political editorial. 

By now you've probably heard Republican Presidential Candidate Newt Gingrich's comments last week that by the end of his second term in office (provided he's elected and re-elected) there will be an American base on the moon. If you didn't hear Newt's comments last week, The Atlantic has a piece on it right now.

Newt Gingrich's comments and the aforementioned article in The Atlantic made me think about NASA's role-playing game Moonbase Alpha. Moonbase Alpha is an online game developed by NASA to be played on the Steam online gaming platform. Moonbase Alpha a simulation 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.

See the trailer for Moonbase Alpha in the video below.

Applications for Education
Put a classroom discussion of Newt Gingrich's comments together with Moonbase Alpha and you might have a nice little lesson covering both Civics and Space Science.

Economy Map - Visualizations of the US Economy's Environmental Impact

Economy Map is an interactive visualization of the environmental impact of the U.S. economy. The visualization offers a series of graphs and charts that represent the impact of economic activities in terms of global warming, ozone depletion, human toxicity, aquatic ecotoxicity, acidification, and other environmental impact measurements. Economy Map users can expand or contract the scope of the visualizations according to industry sectors and environmental impact indicators.

Economy Map can be viewed online or downloaded and run as a free-standing Java applet. Either way you do have to register to use Economy Map. The video below provides a brief introduction to Economy Map. 

Applications for Education
Those of you who have watched and or taught lessons based around the ideas presented in the Story of Stuff may find Economy Map to be a good follow-up resource.

Two Free Webinars In February

From the shameless self-promotion department: in February I will be the featured presenter for two different one webinars.

The first, on February 9th is titled Best Web 2.0 Tools for Teachers. That webinar is part of a series hosted by EdTechTeacher.org.

The second free webinar I will be doing in February is titled Discovery, Discussion, and Demonstration. That webinar will hosted by the University of Maryland, Baltimore County on February 20th.

SOPA and PIPA Explained in an Infographic

SOPA and PIPA may have been tabled for now, but that doesn't mean those bills won't pop-up again in the future. If you're wondering what SOPA and PIPA are all about, here is a nice infographic explanation. The infographic was produced by Lumin Consulting and I found it through Jeff Thomas.

On a related note, below you should see Clay Shirky's excellent explanation of why SOPA is a bad idea.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Faculty Project - Free Courses from University Professors

Udemy, an online course hosting service that I've previously written about, recently launched a new project called The Faculty Project. The Faculty Project is a series of free online courses developed by professors from top-notch universities including Northwestern, Dartmouth, and Vassar. The courses will be conducted through Udemy's platform of video, slides, and PDFs. While it's not clear if the professors will or will not be checking-in on the courses, there are discussion boards for students in each course to correspond with each other.

The current course offerings are:
Modern China
The Economics of Energy and the Environment
Ancient Greek Religion
Perspectives on Contemporary American Democracy
Foundations of Business Strategy
The United States Constitution
Operations Management
Cognitive Neuroscience of Mindfulness
A History of Water and Humans
Foundations of Public Health

Applications for Education
One of the things that I love about the growth of open, online courses is that high school students with an interest in a topic that isn't taught in their schools, can pursue and investigate that interest on their own while getting a little sense of materials they might encounter in college.

Week in Review - The New Desk Edition

Good morning from Maine where I'm using the new workspace that I set up this week. The "some assembly required" aspect of the new desk confirmed that although I enjoy watching This Old House, I will never be mistaken for Norm Abram. I do, however, find my posture while typing to be much improved now that I'm not working from a coffee table, my kitchen table, or my lap. Perhaps my improved posture will increase my blogging productivity too.

As I do every Saturday morning, I've compiled a list of the week's most-read posts. Before I jump to the list I just want to say thank you for your continued support of Free Technology for Teachers. Because of all of the sharing of the content here that so many of you do, Free Technology for Teachers now has nearly 43,000 subscribers.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Video - Create a Collaborative Digital Writing Portfolio
2. A Pearltree of Free Technology for Teachers
3. Free Download - Ten Digital Storytelling Projects
4. Get Out the Crayons! It's Time to Doodle for Google Again
5. gText - Free Group Text Messaging
6. Videos - Primary Elections and Gerrymandering Explained
7. Five Tools to Help You Schedule Meetings

Please visit the official advertisers and marketing partners that help keep this blog going.
LearnBoost provides a free online gradebook service for teachers.
MasteryConnect provides a network for teachers to share and discover Common Core assessments.
The Worth Ave Group offers insurance plans for school technology.
Edublogs provides blog hosting for teachers and students.
ABCya.com is a provider of free educational games for K-5.
Lesley University offers quality online graduate programs for teachers.
The University of Maryland Baltimore County offers graduate programs for teachers. In February I will be holding a free public webinar through UMBC.
Ed Tech Teacher offers professional development services for schools. I will be speaking at their winter conference on March 3.

How to Subscribe to Free Technology for Teachers
If you aren't subscribed you can do so via these links.
Subscribe via RSSSubscribe via Email.
Like Free Technology for Teachers on  Facebook.
Find me on Twitter or on Google+

My other blog, started in December, Android 4 Schools is gaining subscribers every week. If you're an Android user, please check out Android 4 Schools and let me know what you think.

Are you looking for a keynote speaker or workshop facilitator?
Click here for information about what I can do for you.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Oolone - A Visual Search Engine That I Can Now Recommend

Earlier this week a few ed tech bloggers reported on a new visual search engine called Oolone. I, of course, had to check it out for myself. I liked what I saw on Oolone except there was one thing that kept me from writing about it. That one thing was a button in the upper-left corner of the homepage that said "adult filter." Yes, Google, Bing, and Yahoo also have adult content filters, but they don't make it so prominent that it screams out to an adolescent "click me! click me! turn me off!" Therefore, I didn't want to share Oolone with you.

Fast forward a few days to this morning when I received an email from one of the founders of Oolone asking me for my feedback. I shared with him, what you just read in the previous paragraph. He wrote back a few minutes later asking for my suggestion on changing the filter setting and location. I replied with a suggestion and not thirty minutes later he wrote back telling me that the changes had been implemented. I'm told you all of that to tell you this, I now think that Oolone is a suitable visual search engine for student use.

Oolone is a search engine that displays results in a four square grid of webpage previews. Rather than getting a list of results that have just a link and a few line summary, Oolone gives you the entire webpage to preview before you click through. Oolone can be used for standard website search, for image search, or news search. If you're the type that likes to use browser plug-ins, Oolone offers a Chrome plug-in.

Applications for Education
Oolone's display could help students sort through search results a bit quicker. Without having to leave the search results page students can view the previews and determine the likelihood that a webpage will be of use to them. This might not be an issue is a 1:1 setting in which students always have access to computers or tablets, but in a school in which students only get to use computers in a lab or library saving a little time on search could be helpful in maximizing their computer use times.

Learn How to Build a Search Engine

Udacity is offering a new, free seven week Computer Science 101 course. The course promises to teach you everything you need to know to build a search engine like Google or Yahoo even if you don't have any prior programming knowledge. The course is open for enrollment right now and starts on February 20, 2012. You can view the syllabus now and watch the promotional video featuring the instructors below.

Alien Buddies - An iPad App for Learning Shapes, Numbers, Letters

Alien Buddies is an iPad and iPhone app designed for pre-k students to practice recognizing shapes, letters, and numbers. The app provides leveled games in which students practice recognizing patterns and sequences. The activities for recognizing letters and numbers have audio and visual prompting modes. Alien Buddies normally costs $1.99 but I received an email from the app's publisher informing me that it is available for free today, January 27th.

A Google Maps Lesson Idea - Seasonings Around the World

On Wednesday morning I came across a neat article on NPR titled A Trip Around the World, By Way of Seasonings. The article is part of a series of recipes that call for using spices from places all over the world. The article gave me an idea for a Google Maps project in world history classes.

As any history teacher knows, discovering new travel routes for the spice trade was one of the motivations for early explorers. The idea I had was to have students research where those spices came from, which explorers went where, and plot that information on a Google Map or in Google Earth. Students using Google Earth could create a narrated tour of the world using the information that they include in their placemarks.

For directions on creating placemarks and tours in Google Maps and Google Earth, please visit my collection of Google tutorials.

Frozen Planet - An Interactive Exploration of the Poles

The Open University is a fantastic place to discover all kinds of valuable educational materials. From time to time I find myself getting lost in the content both on The Open University's website and The Open University's various YouTube channels. I was doing just that recently when I discovered Frozen Planet: Explore the Polar Regions.

Frozen Planet: Explore the Polar Regions features an interactive display through which you can view the history of polar exploration and the science of the polar regions. The interactive display is created through the use of the Google Earth browser plug-in and a timeline. You can click along the timeline to see and read placemarks on Google Earth. You can browse through and click on a list of important places in both polar regions. For further investigation and analysis of the polar regions you can activate a number of Google Earth layers within the Frozen Planet display. The display also includes videos about each region although the playlist for the Antarctic region is much longer than the playlist for the Arctic region.

Applications for Education
Frozen Planet: Explore the Polar Regions could be a good resource for both science and history teachers. In fact, Frozen Planet could be the basis for an interdisciplinary unit at the middle school or high school level.

Here's a fun fact that I learned through Frozen Planet: Explore the Polar Regions, five years after being the first person to stand on top of Mount Everest Sir Edmund Hillary was part of the team that completed the first complete crossing of Antarctica .

New Google in Education Ebook and Website

Yesterday, the Google Apps for Education team published a new ebook (PDF) titled A New and Open World for Learning. A New and Open World for Learning is all about using Google's products and services in education. The ebook is clearly a marketing vehicle for Google Apps for Education, but you will find some good examples of and ideas for using Google apps in your school.

As part of the same announcement in which A New and Open World for Learning was released, Google also announced a revamped Google in Education website. The aspects of Google in Education that are probably of most interest to classroom teachers are the lesson plan index and the classroom tools index. The classroom tools index provides links to information about each of the services available to teachers and students. In the classroom tools index you'll find some tutorial or how-to resources.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

New Google+ Safety Center for Teens, Parents, and Educators

Today, Google+ opened to students 13 years old or older. As ZDNet reported, in conjunction with opening Google+ to teenagers Google opened a new Google+ Safety Center. The Google+ Safety Center features a couple of guides to Google+ settings and functions for teens and their parents. The section for teens isn't much more than a basic introduction to Google+ settings, but the section for parents provides some solid advice and answers to common concerns that parents have about their teens use of social media.

In addition to information about Google+, the Google+ Safety Center offers resources from Common Sense Media about anti-bullying practices and digital reputation management.

Applications for Education
If you're considering using Google+ with your teenage students, you might have some parents with concerns about having their children using the service. The materials provided in the Google+ Safety Center could help ease their minds.

Some of the features of Google+ that could be of use to students are screen sharing and document sharing in Hangouts. Those two services could be helpful for peer editing and or peer tutoring. You and your students could also use the Concept Board app in Google+ Hangouts for collaborative brainstorming sessions.

Five Resources for Visual Fractions Lessons

This is a list that I created in response to a request that I recently received as direct message on Twitter. A couple of these resources I found through a search in the Diigo community. If you don't have a Diigo account or if you do but you have never searched the community bookmarks, I recommend giving it a try.

Who Wants Pizza? is a fun online activity for learning about fractions. Who Wants Pizza was developed by Cynthia Lanius at Rice University. The activity has five parts plus practice activities for students to explore. Teachers will find notes about using this activities in the classroom.

Visual Fractions has eight categories of visualizations, lessons, and games for students to explore and learn the functions of fractions.

The National Library of Virtual Manipulatives has a lot of interactive activities for students learning the use of fractions, addition and subtraction, and the multiplication of fractions.

Thinking Blocks is a nice site for elementary and middle school mathematics teachers. Thinking Blocks provides interactive templates in which students use brightly colored blocks to model and solve problems. As students work through the problems they are provided with feedback as to whether or not they are using the correct sequence to solve each problem. There are templates and problems for addition, multiplication, fractions, and ratios. You can also develop your own problems using the modeling tool.

Conceptua Math is a provider of interactive visual mathematics lessons. One of Conceptua Math's primary focuses is on the development of tools to aid teachers in the instruction of lessons on fractions. Conceptua Math's offerings are a mix of free and premium (paid) tools. There are a total of fifteen free interactive tools for teachers and students. Each of the free tools has an introductory video and a sample lesson plan.

Econ Ed Link - Economics Lessons and Games

Produced by the Council for Economic Education, Econ Ed Link hosts hundreds of lesson plans and interactive games for teaching students about a wide range of topics in economics. Teachers can search the lesson plan index by grade level, concept, standard, or length of lesson (one class period vs. multiple class periods). Most of the lessons attempt to provide "real world" context.

The interactive section of Econ Ed Link offers four pages of videos and games. The videos and games can be used as stand-alone activities or as part of lesson plan. I tested out the interactive game on developing good credit habits. Developing Good Credit Habits is a game appropriate for middle school and high school students. Students earn money by correctly answering questions about credit scores, interest rates, and spending practices. The purpose of the game is to purchase items and pay expenses without damaging your credit score.

Applications for Education
Econ Ed Link offers lesson plans appropriate for all K-12 students. Many of the lessons are designed for use not only in the classroom but in the home as well. The parent section of Econ Ed Link offers good material that you can send home with your students to get parents involved in students' learning about personal economics.

Check This - Quickly Build and Publish Webpages

Check This is a new service for quickly building and publishing webpages. As Robin Wauters wrote this week, Check This falls somewhere between nothing and a blog. Check This isn't designed to replace your favorite blog or website creation platform, rather it is designed to fill the niche for people who desire to publish a simple announcement page. Without registering you can add text, images, and videos to your Check This page in a matter of seconds. And after you have published your page you can go back and edit it by using the unique edit link sent to the email address you provide in the step between creation and publishing.

In the video below I provide a short walk-through on creating a webpage with Check This.

Applications for Education
Check This could be a good tool for club advisers, PTAs, and other school-related organizations to publish a simple webpage that announces and provides details about a school activity. I'm thinking that Check This could be used by a PTA to provide details about upcoming fundraiser activities.

If you're looking for an easy-to-use tool for your students to use to publish their essays, images, or videos without using a full-fledged blogging platform, Check This might be the tool for you. If you don't need video and image support, you might also consider one of these five tools for students to publish their writings in under a minute.

Win Technology Prizes for Your School

Full disclosure: the sponsor of this contest is an advertiser on Free Technology for Teachers. Even if they weren't an advertiser there is still a good chance that I'd mention this contest.

The Worth Ave Group is currently sponsoring a contest through which schools in the United States can win technology prizes worth up to $25,000. Here's how it works: a teacher is nominated by a community member and is then placed on the contest's list of eligible nominees. The teacher who receives the most votes will win a $25,000 technology prize package for his or her school. The contest will also award smaller prizes to five runners-up. Voters will also be entered into a random drawing for iPads. The voting is open now through the end of March, 2012. You can read the full contest rules here (link is to a PDF).

Seven Tools for Creating Data Visualizations

This morning I received an email asking me for some tools for creating data visualizations. Here are seven tools that students can use to build data visualizations.

Better World Flux is a free data visualization development tool that was created for the World Bank's Apps for Development Challenge. The purpose of the challenge was to encourage app developers to create products that could be used to highlight the development data hosted by the World BankBetter World Flux allows users to create animated visualizations of development data. To use Better World Flux (no registration required) all you have to do is select a data set from the menu provided and select a country or countries from the menu provided. From there Better World Flux creates an animated data visualization for you. The visualization will change as the years on the timeline at the bottom of the visualization change. This way users can see growth and recession of a statistic over time.
Learn more about Better World Flux in the video below.

Target Map is a service that allows anyone to create mapped displays of data sets. Users of Target Map can importa and map their own data sets, use data sets from other users, use data sets found online, or manually input data onto a map. When I created my sample map, I choose to manually input data. Target Map allows you to map data for a country, a region, or for the whole world. You can customize the display to make borders appear faint or bold and alter the look of data points. Although at first glance Target Map's user interface might not appear to be terribly intuitive, it is actually quite easy to use if you follow the directions. Target Map is free to use if you agree to publish your maps to the public gallery. If you want to keep your maps private you can do so for a small fee. The first time you create a map on Target Map it is reviewed for quality before it is added to the public gallery.

Many Eyes is an online data visualization tool developed by IBM. Many Eyes provides tools for creating a wide variety of data visualizations using your data sets or data sets hosted by IBM. If you're not interested in creating visualizations but just want to explore the visualizations created by others, you can do that on Many Eyes too. The video below offers an overview of creating data visualizations with Many Eyes.

Gapminder is a great tool for creating data visualizations. Gapminder gives users the ability to create graphs of hundreds of demographic and economic indicators. I like Gapminder because it provides a good way for visual learners to see data sets in a context that is significantly different from standard data sets. Gapminder has a page for educators on which they can find thematic animations, graphs, quizzes, model lessons, and a PDF guide to using Gapminder. For teachers working in schools with slow Internet connections or very strict filtering, Gapminder has a desktop application that you can download and install for Mac or Windows computers. The video below demonstrates Gapminder desktop.

Google's Public Data Explorer draws on data sets from the World Bank, the US CDC, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, and other sources of public data. In all there are eighty data sets. The Public Data Explorer makes it possible to quickly create visual representations and visual comparisons of the data sets. Each visualization you create has a unique url that you can direct people to or you can embed the visualization in a blog or website. You can use your own data in the Public Data Explorer but to do this you need to use the Data Set Publishing Language (DSPL) developed by Google. The process of upload data in the DSPL format isn't something you'll learn in minutes, but if you're really interested in doing it Google does have a step-by-step tutorial for you to follow.

Map a List is a free tool that you can use to turn Google Spreadsheet information into Google Maps placemarks. To create a map from your spreadsheets you need to register for a Map a List account and give it access to your Google Docs account. Map a List then walks you through each step of selecting a spreadsheet, defining the parameters for your map, and choosing placemarks. Within Google Spreadsheets there are many "Gadgets" that can be used to create visualizations of data. To explore the gadgets that will work with your data, go to the "insert" drop-down menu then select "gadgets."

World Map is a free program developed by the Center for Geographic Analysis at Harvard University. World Map is designed to enable creation, visualization, and exploration of geographically referenced information. In other words, you can build some great mapped data visualizations on the service.

To create a map on World Map you can use the more than 1800 data sets that are stored in the service or you can upload your own data sets. The majority of the data sets in the World Map library have abstracts explaining a bit about the purpose and scope of the data. There are five default base maps that you can choose to build upon. Alternatively, you can choose to create your map completely from scratch and upload your own base layer to build upon. Maps that you create on World Map can be embedded into a website, printed, or viewed in Google Earth.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Great Collection of Cool Infographics on Pinterest

Cool Infographics is a great blog that I have mentioned numerous times in the past. Many of the infographics that I've shared, I discovered on Cool Infographics. Recently, Randy Krum, the author of Cool Infographics started putting all of the infographics that he writes about onto a Pinterest page. The Cool Infographics Pinterest page contains all of the infographics that Randy wrote about in 2011. Included in the page are some infographic videos like this one about Stuxnet.

Applications for Education
If you are considering having your students develop infographics as a class project, the Cool Infographics Pinterest page could provide you and your students with some great models. You may also find some infographics that have flaws and in those cases you and your students can discuss what those flaws are and how a particular infographic could be improved.

Exchange Opportunities for U.S. Teachers and Administrators

The United States Department of State is currently offering a great opportunity for teachers and school administrators in the United States to teach and learn in Thailand, Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay. Through the Educational Seminars program teachers and administrators can receive grant-funded trips during the summer to learn and share best practices.

Applications are being accepted through March 30 for the trips to Brazil, Argentina, and Thailand. The Argentina and Brazil trips are only open to administrators while the Thailand trip is open to teachers and administrators. You can learn more about the Educational Seminars program here and here (PDF).

Thanks to Scott McLeod for sharing this on Twitter earlier today.

Dozens of Examples of VoiceThread in Education

Earlier today, in a post about the California Gold Rush, I mentioned using VoiceThread in a lesson. In writing that post I neglected to mention what a VoiceThread is. Rather than reading my explanation, the best thing to do is to watch the VoiceThread explanation of VoiceThread that I have embedded below.

Applications for Education
Hopefully, after watching the VoiceThread above you will have some ideas for how you can use VoiceThread in your classroom. To get give you even more ideas and examples VoiceThread has a digital library of more than five dozen examples of VoiceThread being used in a wide variety of content areas taught in K-12 classrooms.

Building a Gold Mine

Last week I shared a list of lesson plans for teaching about historical gold rushes in North America. Yesterday, the National Archives' featured document was this image of men developing a gold mine in the Sierra Nevada. That image gave me the idea for a VoiceThread project about gold rushes. You could start with this image (pictured below) and ask students to share their thoughts about the construction techniques and the men in the picture. Then have students search sources like The Commons, US National Archives, or simply Google Images to find more images to add to and comment on in theVoiceThread that they start.
Image source: Today's Document from the National Archives

New Drag and Drop File Uploads in Wikispaces

The popular wiki-building service Wikispaces recently made an handy enhancement to their user interface. The new feature is the option to upload files by simply dragging them from your desktop to the wiki you're working on. I've included two screenshots of the process below.

Step 1.

Step 2.

Applications for Education
The addition of drag and drop uploads doesn't revolutionize the way that you and your students create wikis or what you do with them, but it is still a helpful little enhancement.

If you're looking for ideas about assessing student use of wikis, check out these rubrics from the University of Wisconsin.

State of the Union Address - Behind the Scenes and More

Last night President Obama delivered his 2012 State of the Union Address. Every US-based news website has coverage of the event. If you're thinking of discussing the State of the Union Address in your classroom today, here are a few things that should be helpful to you.

The White House website you can find the entire video of last night's address. The White House published the "enhanced" video which includes some visuals to complement the content of President Obama's key points. You can view the video online or download it directly from the White House website.

The White House published a short "behind the scenes" video about the writing of the State of the Union Address.

You can find the full transcript of President Obama's State of the Union Address on the White House's website. Put that transcript into a tool like Wordle to create word clouds that will help students quickly recognize the most-used words and phrases in President Obama's address last night.

Finally, Larry Ferlazzo has a short list of visualizations of last night's address. Included in that list is this NY Times interactive display of last night's State of the Union Address. The interactive allows you to skip through the transcript to read the text and watch the corresponding video.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Learn About Physics Through the Circus

In 2010 PBS aired a short series called Circus. Circus was a documentary about the Big Apple Circus. The show took viewers behind the scenes of a traveling circus production. All six of the episodes are currently available to watch online. Today, through a Tweet by Danny Nicholson I learned that the Circus website offers some short circus-based physics lessons.

Circus Physics is a series of eight short videos. Each of the videos features a circus act that demonstrates a basic principle of physics. Each video clip is accompanied by text and image explanations. I've embedded the Newton's Laws of Motion video below.


A couple of weeks ago I shared Rhyme N' Learn's Don't Let Pi Make You Cry math rap video. This week they released another math rap video. The new video reminds students about the process for solving long equations. The video explains PEMDAS (parentheses, exponents, multiplication, division, addition, subtraction). The video can be viewed on YouTube and if you really like it you can buy a copy of Rhyme N' Learn's CD.

And this PEMDAS song is definitely not a rap, but is certainly catchy.

Chronicles of the American Revolution

Liberty, The American Revolution is a feature on PBS.org. There are a couple of resources in this feature that are worth noting. First, and probably the most useful, is The Chronicle of Revolution. The Chronicle of Revolution provides a timeline of events that contributed to the start of the American Revolution. Students can read newspaper accounts as they go through the chronicles. Within each newspaper account are links to further reading about important people and places mentioned in the articles.

The second item of interest in Liberty, The American Revolution is the Road to Revolution game. The game isn't really a game, it's more like a quiz with some graphics added to it. The game is designed to quiz students on the information in The Chronicle of Revolution.

Applications for Education
The Chronicle of Revolution and the Road to Revolution are best suited to use with middle school students or possibly older elementary school students. Neither resource will replace your textbooks, but they certainly make good supplements to them.

Please click here for seven more resources for teaching about the American Revolution.

The New Boston - Great Videos for Learning Computer Science and More

The New Boston is an educational website and YouTube channel that I recently discovered while reviewing the EduPort Android app. The purpose of The New Boston is to share instructional videos and tutorials in the areas of computer science, computer programming, mathematics, science, robotics, and much more. Think of The New Boston as Khan Academy for computer science. For students who are interested in programming, The New Boston offers an active discussion forum in which they can ask questions.

One of the channels within The New Boston that jumped out at me is the Android app development series which contains 200 instructional videos.

Here's a sample from The New Boston.

Applications for Education
The New Boston could be a great resource for students who want to learn programming on their own. The New Boston could also be a great source of supplemental materials for the courses that you teach.