Saturday, March 31, 2012

Speech to Text in Evernote

Over the last six months Evernote has become my favorite tool for bookmarking my online discoveries, saving pictures that I take on my phone, and jotting down random notes. This week Evernote rolled-out a super-useful speech to text feature in their Android app. Now you can dictate notes on your phone or your Android tablet.

Applications for Education
Speech to text could be a great utility for students to use at the end of a class to quickly record their assignments for the next class. For journalism students the Evernote speech to text capacity could be a great way to record short snippets of sound to play back and work from later.

Week in Review - The Swiss Chocolate Edition

Good morning from Maine where Morrison is happy to have me home after a week spent traveling to Lugano, Switzerland and back. I had the wonderful opportunity to speak with teachers at The American School in Switzerland. Thank you all for helping to make that happen by reading and sharing posts you find on Free Technology for Teachers. Without you the reach of this blog would be very limited.

Before I head out to EdCamp Maine this morning, here's the list of this week's most popular posts.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. 3 Places to Find Online Talking Children's Storybooks
2. Great Free Summer PD from C-SPAN
3. Google Maps for Educators - How To Get Started
4. Poll Everywhere Introduces Voting on Images
5. Best of the Web - Again
6. Digitize Student Work with the Three Ring App
7. Podcast and Reflections on Beyond the Textbook

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Friday, March 30, 2012

Kikutext - Keep Parents Updated About Your School Through Text Messages

Kikutext is a new service for keeping parents informed about your classroom and or school through text messages. The service is an opt-in service for parents. When you create a Kikutext account you're assigned an opt-in code to distribute to parents. Parents then send that code in a text message to register to receive messages from you. Kikutext keeps the phone numbers of parents and those of teachers and principals hidden from each other.

Applications for Education
The preferred method of communication for many people today is text messaging. Text messages are quick and easy to work with when compared with emails or phone calls. Using Kikutext could be a great way to take advantage of that communication preference to keep parents informed about important information from your school.

A couple of services to look at are Class Pager and gText. And through Google Voice you can do something similar to what all three of these services offer. Click here to read about how I have used Google Voice.

Win a $3000 Scholarship from Shmoop and Zinch

Shmoop and Zinch have combined to offer a $3000 scholarship to US students. To enter the contest students simply need to complete this form by May 31st.

Zinch is a service that helps match students to scholarship opportunities. I don't have much experience with it, but it looks promising. Shmoop provides many fantastic online study guides for high school students. I've written about Shmoop since their launch and they've continued to improve their offerings ever since.

Seven Resources for Teaching & Learning About Electricity

Last night I came home and discovered that my furnace had died. My house was about 45F so I got out my down-filled sleeping bag and my electric space heater. I can't plug in that space heater without thinking about two things; the increase in my electric bill and the possibility of starting an electrical fire. Then almost as if on cue this morning I saw a Tweet from Jen Deyenberg about Electrocity.

Electrocity is an online game that students can play to learn about electricity production and consumption. In the game students take on the role of mayor of a fictitious town. As the mayor the student has to manage the consumption and production of electricity for the town. At each turn the student is informed of whether or not you have successfully balanced consumption and production.

Squishy Circuits is a project developed at the University of St. Thomas for the purpose of creating tools that students can use to create circuits and explore electronics. Squishy Circuits uses Playdough-like to enable hands-on learning about conducting and insulating currents as well as creating circuits. The Squishy Circuits website provides directions for creating the dough and offers ideas for lessons using the dough. Watch this TED Talk for an explanation and demonstration of Squishy Circuits.

Hydro to Home is an interactive story of hydro-electric power from raindrops to homes. The story walks visitors through each step of the process of generating hydro-electric power and delivering to consumers' homes. The story is narrated and along the way there are interactive images that visitors can click on to learn even more information about hydro-electric power.

Engineering Interact is a site for elementary school students designed by the Department of Engineering at the University of Cambridge. Engineering Interact offers five games designed to teach students physics concepts. The games address concepts related to light, sound, motion, electricity, and space travel. Each of the five games presents students with a scenario in which they have to "help" someone solve a problem. The games require students to learn and analyze the information presented to them.

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.

The Great Energy Challenge is a National Geographic feature that offers some nice interactive posters for evaluating personal and global energy consumption. Global Electricity Outlook is an interactive display of electricity consumption across the globe. You can view the global picture or click on the map to view regional consumption. The display shows the means of electricity production globally and regionally. To see how shifting production sources would impact the world or a region use the sliders below the map. Read more about the Great Energy Challenge posters here.

The Physics Classroom is a great resource for high school Physics teachers and high school Physics students. The Physics Classroom was developed by Tom Henderson, a high school physics teacher since 1989. The Physics Classroom offers detailed tutorials on thirteen different physics topics including waves, electricity, Newton's laws, and vectors. In addition to the written tutorials, The Physics Classroom also offers more than 50 animations and 6 videos demonstrating physics concepts.

Make Interactive Images on ThingLink Education

Last month I published a short tutorial on creating interactive images by using ThingLink. That is one of the most popular posts of the first quarter of the year. And everywhere that I have shown it to teachers, it has been very well received.

Yesterday, I received an email from ThingLink's CMO informing me of their new offerings for educators. Now educators and students can create up to 50 interactive images for free on ThingLink. Upgrades to the paid plan for 500 images are available to educators at 67% off the regular price which works out to $1.65/month (very reasonable if you ask me).

Applications for Education
ThingLink could be used by art students to identify and tag important elements of a painting, drawing, or photography. ThingLink could also be used in history classrooms to have students identify important places in a battlefield like Gettysburg.

Here's my short demonstration of ThingLink.

Unseen Titanic - An Interactive Image Gallery

Next month will mark 100 years since the sinking of the Titanic. That's why National Geographic is featuring the Titanic this month. One of the neat resources that they've put online is Unseen Titanic. Unseen Titanic has two galleries of interactive images of where the Titanic now rests under the Atlantic Ocean.

The Crash Scene interactive gallery is a collection of artifacts found on the seafloor. Zoomified is the other gallery that National Geographic is featuring this month. The Zoomified gallery has four views of the submerged wreckage of the Titanic.

Applications for Education
The Unseen Titanic galleries offer the possibility for a combined history and science lesson. As the sinking of the Titanic is one of the most notable peace-time news story, you can use the galleries in a history lesson. The aging of the artifacts underwater provides an opportunity for a short lesson on how salt water affects objects that rest in it.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

North America's Biggest Things

Pinto MacBean
Last week in Alberta I learned that Canadian towns have a fascination with having the World's biggest things (Canadian friends, please correct me if that's an Alberta-only fascination). In Bow Island, Alberta they have the World's biggest Pinto bean. In Medicine Hat, Alberta they have the World's biggest tee-pee. In my last workshop of the week there someone told me about Big Things of a Big Country. The site is a catalog of the towns in Canada that can lay claim to some of the World's biggest things. A U.S.-based counterpart to Big Things of a Big Country is What's Large Where. Did you know that Maine has the World's largest boot and the World's largest globe?

Applications for Education
I've been thinking about the World's largest things for a week now. What I've come up with is creating a Google Maps or Google Earth scavenger hunt for the World's biggest objects. You could create one and have students complete the hunt by gathering the locations and information about the locations. Or you could have students create a series of scavenger hunts that they swap with each other.

Video - Why Frustration Aids Creativity

Want to get stronger? Do 100 push-ups everyday. Want to learn Italian? Throw yourself into an immersive experience and try not to default to your native tongue. Want to be creative? Experience frustration in an attempt to solve a problem. That is the message of IMAGINE: How Creativity Works. Take a few minutes to watch it for yourself.

IMAGINE: How Creativity Works from Flash Rosenberg on Vimeo.

Applications for Education
Students sometimes wonder why we let them struggle with a difficult concept. When you have a few minutes before class that you think might struggle with something new, show them part or all of this to remind them that it's okay to feel frustration and that feeling won't last forever.

H/T to Brain Pickings

Youngzine Presents Wide World Science Lizards

Last fall I wrote a short review of an online news magazine for kids called Youngzine. Youngzine has a new feature running right now that is intended to get kids interested in a field study of lizards in Florida. The Wide World Science Lizard Project is a two week feature that classrooms can follow as researchers post new information each day about lizards on Florida islands. From March 28 to April 10 students can view pictures, videos, and ask questions about the things they see in the blog posts.

Applications for Education
The Youngzine World Wide Science Lizard Project could be a nice little part of an elementary school science lesson about biodiversity and habitat.

Still Crazy After All These Years - Crazy About RSS

I still remember the first time I saw Google Reader in action. I was instantly in love it! Without a doubt RSS feeds and Google Reader are the most important tool that I use on a daily basis. Sure I could subscribe via email to all 300+ of my favorite websites, but who wants more email? And I certainly don't want to open 300+ sites individually. Subscribing to RSS feeds in Google Reader lets me keep up with my favorite sites. So while tech blogs like to make claims that Twitter, Google+, and other platforms will make RSS feeds redundant, I still love my RSS feeds.

What is RSS?

What is Google Reader?

More and more I'm consuming RSS feeds through Feedly instead of Google Reader, learn more about Feedly in the video below.

Feed Your Mind On The Go from Feedly on Vimeo.

Shaq The Lifelong Learner

Last night before bed here in Lugano, Switzerland I wanted to a watch a bit of television but there was one small problem, every station was in Italian or German. So I went to the web and watched a bit of the Daily Show online. One of the clips I watched was this interview with Shaquille O'Neal. In the clip Shaq reveals that he will receive his Phd. this spring. As I watched I couldn't help but be slightly impressed that a man who has earned enough money to buy just about anything has continued to go to further his education. Some people might think it's a publicity stunt, but O'Neal and Stewart put that notion to rest in the interview.

Wikipedia Maze - A Wikipedia Game

If you have ever found yourself or your students jumping from one link the next in Wikipedia and gotten so lost that you forgot where you started, Wikipedia Maze is for you. Wikipedia Maze is a community-powered site featuring puzzles based on Wikipedia articles. The challenge is to figure out how someone got from one topic to another in as few links as possible. For example, can you figure out how I got from Andrew Carnegie to Richardson's Ground Squirrel in six clicks?

The Tekzilla video below has a short overview of Wikipedia Maze.

Applications for Education
If you're looking to give some structure to your students' exploration of Wikipedia, Wikipedia Maze could be a nice way to do that. You can create your own mazes or have students create them and share them with each other. Who knows what they might discover along the way?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

ChronoZoom - A Timeline of Almost Everything

ChronoZoom is a new timeline project from Microsoft Research. The primary goal of ChronoZoom is to provide a multimedia timeline of the history of the world from the dawn of time to today. The timeline is arranged according to themes and thresholds. Thresholds are eras and major developments in the history of the world. Within each threshold there are multiple videos, images, and texts about that time. ChronoZoom is an impressive display yet it is a little tricky to navigate at first (or at least it was for my click-happy fingers). You should watch this ChronoZoom tutorial from Microsoft to discover all of the functions of ChronoZoom.

I initially learned about ChronoZoom from Audrey Watters then did a little more reading about the ChronoZoom project on the Microsoft Research website. Microsoft describes ChronoZoom as a "an infinite campus in time."

Learn more about the ChronoZoom Project in the video below.

Applications for Education
About ten years ago someone gave me a monstrous-sized book simply titled The History of the World. While it is a nice book, it certainly has some significant gaps. ChronoZoom reminds me a bit of that book in digital form. ChronoZoom has the potential to be a great reference tool for history students and teachers. The option to view images and videos makes ChronoZoom a definite improvement over an giant, printed reference book. Like many reference sites that are slick in appearance, ChronoZoom has the potential to capture a student's attention and launch him or her into a series of quests for more information about a variety of topics.

Add Multimedia Timelines to Your Website

Verite Timeline is an open source project that allows you to add multimedia timelines to your website. Before you read any further I want to point out that making this work on your own website will require you to access and alter the HTML of your site. If you're not comfortable doing that, you might want to skip this post.

You can create and install timelines on your site in two different ways. First, you can draw up your timeline using this Google Docs template then adding that completed template to the Verite Timeline code. Alternatively, you can create your timeline in JSON format then adding that code to the Verite Timeline code that you add your site.

Applications for Education
The Verite Timeline template and code does offer a lot of flexibility for creating multimedia timelines. It is a bit more advanced than most teachers will use in their classrooms, but for those who want to teach students a small bit of HTML coding while they also build timelines of events, Verite Timeline could be effective toward that end.

H/T to Nathan Hall

Take a Virtual Tour of the Swiss Alps

This week I'm in Lugano, Switzerland to speak with teachers at the American School here. Completely coincidentally on Tuesday Google released new Streetview imagery of the Albula-Bernina railway through the Swiss Alps. Streetview cameras were attached to the train and now you can experience the views of traveling by train through the Swiss Alps. Take a look at the gallery of imagery here. I've embedded one of the many views below.

View Larger Map

Applications for Education
This update to Google Streetview imagery is another example of some of great virtual tours that your students can access through Google Maps and Google Earth.

Thanks to Ken Shelton My Slides Have Improved

Ken Shelton surrounded by
kids after his NCTIES keynote.
I have given dozens of presentations over the last year, thank you to everyone that has invited me to do so, and although the topics of the talks are similar I do mix up some of the tools I mention in each one. I also change up the slides a little bit for each talk. While my slides do the job of showing what I'm talking about, I was never 100% happy with some of them. That changed recently because of two simple suggestions that Ken Shelton gave in a talk about presentation design at NCTIES

Ken's two pieces of advice that I've put into immediate use are these. First, start taking a picture a day to build-up a library of images that you can use in your presentations. I've been doing this since I heard Ken say that. So far I've only used two of my own images, but I do have designs for using some of my others in the future talks. Second, Ken recommends using full-bleed on the images you place on slides. In other words, eliminate border space and if necessary place font over the image. That second piece of advice I'm using on 90% of my slides now. I am much happy with the look of my slides. 

Creating pretty slides is only one part of delivering a good presentation. There are many other elements to consider. For those elements take a look at this collection of Short and Sweet Presentation Tips and these ideas for shy presenters

ACMI Storyboard Generator

The Australian Centre for the Moving Image has a nice resource for creating storyboards. The ACMI Storyboard Generator provides templates with video directions for creating a storyboard from scratch. Alternatively, students can build a storyboard without using a template at all. Students needing a little inspiration for a story can consult some of the examples showcased under the "themes" tab and view the showcased videos.

Applications for Education
Whenever my students created video projects in my classroom, I always had them create an outline and or storyboard before they ever touched a video editing program. That way they had a clear plan when they started to build their videos. Without an outline or storyboard students tend to waste time because they get fascinated with transitions and effects and forget that they are actually trying to convey a message with their videos. The ACMI Storyboard Generator could be a very useful tool for students who need to generate clear outlines for video projects.

H/T to EduTecher.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Explore Nelson Mandela's Archives Online

The Nelson Mandela Digital Archive is a new collection from the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory. The archive is a collection on images and documents chronicling the life of Nelson Mandela. You can search the archive according to the stages of Nelson Mandela's life and activism. In the archive you can read parts of Nelson Mandela's personal diaries.

A nice video to go along with the Nelson Mandela Digital Archive is Snag Learning's Life and Times: Nelson Mandela.

Applications for Education
The Nelson Mandela Digital Archives could be a good source of primary documents and images to use as part of lesson on apartheid in the context of 20th Century World History.

The Nelson Mandela Digital Archives is made possible in part by the work of Google's Cultural Institute. I learned about the new exhibit through the Official Google Blog.

A Gopher Guesses Your Number - A Math Game

Update February 2021: This game is no longer available. 

The British Council's Learn English site has a fun little mathematics game that I just learned about from Jen Deyenberg. Magic Gopher is a fun little game in which students select a two digit number, add the digits together, subtract the new number from the original, then look up a symbol associated with the final number. The Magic Gopher the correctly "guesses" the final number symbol. Of course it's not actually magic, but young students will think it is.

Applications for Education
Magic Gopher could be a fun little way to get students thinking about the "magic" of mathematics. Allow them to struggle with the challenge of figuring out how the gopher gets it right every time then explain it.

A Humongous Infographic About Our Solar System

Through Larry Ferlazzo I learned about a very very big infographic about our solar system. The BBC Future section recently published an infographic titled Space Race. The infographic depicts the relatively distance between objects in our solar system. The infographic is so large that it actually loses a bit of meaning when it's viewed on a small 13" MacBook Pro. Therefore, I would suggest projecting it on a wall and or viewing it in the version that I created and embedded below.

Applications for Education
The Space Race infographic pairs well with the Scale of the Universe Infographic that I posted a couple of weeks ago. Together these two resources could be helpful in showing students just how large the solar system is and how small we are in it.

Free Website Builder Wix Goes HTML5, iPad Users Rejoice!

Wix is a free service for creating and hosting beautiful websites. There is just one problem, it's Flash-based which means the sites aren't viewable on iPads. Thanks to a Tweet by Adam Bellow, I learned that problem is soon to disappear. According to a blog post last Friday, Wix is moving to HTML5. That means that sites created in Wix will now be visible on all devices.

The video below provides a short demonstration of some of the power of HTML5 in Wix.

Applications for Education
Wix has always offered great templates for creating websites. Now that Wix supports HTML5 teachers can build course websites that can be viewed on iPads, laptops, and Android devices.

Google Sightseeing - See the World on Your Desktop

Browsing Google Maps you can see lots of interesting landmarks and fun occurrences captured by the Streetview cameras. Finding all of those fun and interesting views can sometimes be tricky. That's when the Google Sightseeing blog becomes handy.

Google Sightseeing is a blog that archives the interesting and fun places that you can see in Google Maps and Google Maps Streetview. You can search the blog according to region, country, and type of view (Streetview, aerial view, etc).

Applications for Education
Because of some of the commentary, I would hesitate to send students to browse Google Sightseeing on their own. That said, if you're looking for some interesting landmark views to share with your class to support a history or geography lesson Google Sightseeing is a nice resource.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Digitize Student Work With the Three Ring App

Three Ring is a new free service offering free Android and iPhone apps for digitizing and organizing student work. Using the app teachers can take a picture of a student's work and upload it to a free Three Ring account. Three Ring offers teachers a lot of organizational flexibility. You could organize artifacts by student name, class, date, or just about any other tagging system that works for you.

A short video overview of Three Ring is embedded below.

Applications for Education
Three Ring could be a great way to collect hand-written work without actually collecting pieces of paper. Just go around the room snapping images of your students' work. You can add notes to each image before and after the upload so it is possible to grade work using the notes field next to each image.

H/T to Audrey Watters

What Did Shakespeare Really Sound Like?

For much longer than I've been alive Shakespeare's works have been read and performed in schools. But do we don't really know how the original performances of Shakespeare's plays sounded. That could change with completion of the British Library's new audio project. The project features 75 minutes of recordings created after much research into the original pronunciations. The complete recording is not available for free, but NPR has published a couple of excerpts in this recent story about the project.

Applications for Education
Shakespeare's Original Pronunciations could be a good resource to support classroom readings of some of Shakespeare's works. Take the guess work out of the pronunciations by hearing them.

H/T to my friends Jeff and Dan at Wicked Decent Learning

Videos - What is Fracking? What is its Impact?

Fracking to access natural gas seems to be in the news frequently these days. So this morning when I was on Explania and saw the video What is Fracking? I got the idea to search for some more videos about fracking and its impact on the environment and the economy. Here's some of what I came up with in my search.

What is Fracking? is a short music video that includes animations showing how fracking works. It is decidedly anti-fracking in its message so you'll want to talk about bias with your students before and or after showing it to them.

Last fall CBS News had a short segment about the job creation potential of fracking.

After the Gas Rush is a two part series from National Geographic's Journey on Earth Series. The videos are available on Snag Films.
Part 1

Part 2

And in the interest of attempting to balance this collection, here's a video that explains the fracking process with a decidedly pro-fracking bias. Again, this is a good opportunity to talk with your students about bias in media.

Automatically Improve the Quality of Your Videos

If you're shaky like me when capturing video on a cell phone or handheld video camera, YouTube has help for you. Last week YouTube released a new feature for the YouTube video editor. Now when you upload a video to your YouTube account, if the video is too shaky or dark you will be notified that YouTube can improve it for you. To help you decide if you want to use the automatically enhanced video, you'll see a preview of the improved video next to your original video file. The short video below offers a preview of the new service.

Applications for Education
If your students are creating "one-take" videos for a video blogging project, creating records of field trips, or you're just trying to capture a great moment in your classroom, the YouTube video editor is helpful for making quick enhancements to that footage.

What About Me? - Create an Infographic About Yourself

What About Me? is a free infographic generator from Intel. The purpose of What About Me? is to create infographics based on your Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube activities. The infographic created includes parts of your recent Facebook posts, when and what you post about on all three networks, and What About Me? even evaluates the average tone of your messages (mine are neither angry nor overly happy in tone). When your infographic is complete, you can download it from What About Me?

Applications for Education
What About Me? could be a good tool for getting students to look at their social media footprints. This could be particularly important for high school students applying to college as well as for students looking for jobs. Have students create an infographic to analyze what they're sharing on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

H/T to Cool Infographics

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Videos - Why Do We Dream?

My dog dreaming
As some of you know, I don't have a television at home. That means my screen entertainment comes in the form of watching Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube. This evening as I was bopping around YouTube like I do sometimes, I came across a short video titled Why Do We Dream? The video is a short explanation of some of the theories and science of the human sleep cycle.

After watching Why Do We Dream? I clicked over to a much longer BBC production on the topic. The BBC production, also titled Why Do We Dream? is a 55 minute documentary that includes interviews with researchers who are trying to answer the questions where do dreams come from and why do we dream?

Both videos are embedded below.

Applications for Education
Some of the content in these videos might be classified as pseudo-science. They are still interesting looks into how our brains work. These are exactly the type of video that I liked to show in my non-instructional homeroom time as a way to spark discussions from intellectual curiosity.

And now I'm going to sleep...

US National Archives Gallery of The Way We Worked

The Way We Worked is a small collection of images from the U.S. National Archives. The collection is designed to show the way that work evolved over the 130 year span from 1857 to 1987. The collection is divided into five parts; How We Worked, What We Wore to Work, Where We Worked, Dangerous and Unhealthy Work, and Conflict at Work. There is a short silent film of people at work in various occupations to introduce the galleries.

Applications for Education
The Way We Worked could be a good resource to use as part of lesson on the history labor and labor rights in the United States. Put some of the images into a slideshow to spark discussion and inquiry about the types of jobs blue collar workers have done over the years. Have students go through the galleries on their own and identify jobs that no longer exist. Then ask them to identify jobs that exist today that might not exist fifty years from now.

The Way We Worked images are public domain images that could be used by students as part of multimedia project like those found in the National Archives' Digital Vaults.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Great Free Summer PD from C-SPAN Classroom

I just received an email from C-SPAN reminding me of a great free PD opportunity that they offer for teachers in the U.S. during the summer.  The Summer Educators' Conference is a free event happens on July 12 and 13 in Washington, D.C. You do have to apply to participate. If accepted, C-SPAN covers all costs of attendance including airfare and lodging. The focus of the conference is on using C-SPAN's vast digital archives to develop lessons for social studies. You can find all of the details including the application, here.

3 Places to Find Online Talking Children's Storybooks

This post is born out of a request for help from someone that I met at the Teacher 2 Teacher conference in Bow Island, Alberta. She was looking for some free online talking storybooks to use in her grade 1 class. I didn't have anything coming to mind right off, so I searched Diigo and my blog archives to find these three places to find and free online talking children's storybooks.

MeeGenius is a nice source of free and paid ebooks for kids. There are lots of sites that offer the same thing as MeeGenius but MeeGenius distinguishes itself with one excellent feature. That feature is automatic word highlighting to accompany the narration of each book. When children open the ebooks online, on an Android tablet, or on an iPad they can choose to have the story read to them or to read the story on their own. When the story is read to them each word in the story is highlighted on the page. This should help children follow along with the story.

The Woodlands Junior School is a school website based in the UK. I've previously featured their site as a good place to find educational games for elementary age students. In my search yesterday, I discovered that they also have a nice collection of links to free online talking storybooks.

Magic Keys is another site with a good collection of talking picture books for children. Magic Keys seemed a bit tricky to navigate at first so I would recommend that you use it to find storybooks for your students rather than sending your students to the site on their own.

I know there are a lot of good iPad and Android apps for talking storybooks, but web-based versions are a little more elusive. If you have a site that should be added to this list, please leave a comment.

The Week in Review Featuring the World's Biggest Pinto Bean

Good morning from Calgary where I'm getting ready to head home after a great week during which I attended Discovery's Beyond the Textbook Forum, went hiking near Banff with Jen Deyenberg who taught me all kinds of fun facts about Canada, and I presented at the Teacher 2 Teacher conference in Bow Island, Alberta. Here's a fun fact, Bow Island, Alberta is the home of world's largest pinto bean. I saw the bean two years ago but didn't get a picture so this time I made sure to grab a picture.

As I do every week regardless of where I am in the world, I've compiled a list of this week's most popular posts. I make these lists because they provide a quick way to see what other educators were interested in and talking about this week.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. ScreenLeap - Instant Easy Screen Sharing
2. 5 Ways You Can Use Wikis
3. Create Hashtag Infographics With
4. Attend an EdCamp This Spring
5. WeVideo Now Offers an Android App for Collaborative Video Creation
6. Zopler - Collaborative Storytelling
7. This is Cool! Albert Einstein's Library Online

Please visit the official advertisers and marketing partners that help keep this blog going.
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LearnBoost provides a free online gradebook service for teachers.
MasteryConnect provides a network for teachers to share and discover Common Core assessments. 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 April I will be holding another free public webinar through UMBC.
Ed Tech Teacher offers professional development services for schools.

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Friday, March 23, 2012

Podcast and Reflections on Beyond the Textbook

On Monday I was fortunate to participate in Discovery's Beyond the Textbook Forum. After the formal part of the day was complete some of us joined Steve Dembo and Dean Shareski for a podcast of reflections on the day. You can listen to the podcast and find a bunch of links about the day here. The list of participants on the podcast is Hall Davidson, Angela MaiersDavid WarlickRichard Byrne and Kyle Schutt. 

Google Maps for Educators - How to Get Started

This morning I ran a short workshop on Google Maps for educators. As I do for most workshops, I promised to post the how-to slides here. Here are the basic directions to get you started creating placemarks in Google Maps.

By the way, if you're interested in having me run a workshop or give a keynote at your school, please see my work with me page.

Best of the Web - Again

This week I'm at the Teacher 2 Teacher conference in Bow Island, Alberta. I'm giving my best of the web talk twice (once yesterday, once today). This continues to be my most-requested presentation. The slides for it are included below.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Poll Everywhere Introduces Voting on Images

Earlier this week the popular survey service Poll Everywhere released a very nice update, support for images and equations. Now you can put images into your polls and have students vote on the images. Another part of this update is the option to include mathematics equations in polls. The video below provides an overview of the updates.

Image Support for Multiple Choice Options from Poll Everwhere on Vimeo.

Applications for Education
The image voting option could be a good way to create surveys or polls in which you ask students to identify plants, animals, and other objects. The mathematics inclusion option will allow you to create multiple choice polls in which students have to select the correct equation.

InstaGrok - A New Way to Search and Pin Information

instaGrok is a very promising new search service that I learned about from Joyce Valenza during my time at Discovery's Beyond the Textbook forum. At first glance instaGrok appears to be a new version of Google's old Wonder Wheel service. But after investigation you'll see that instaGrok is more than just web of suggested search terms.

You can use instaGrok to search a topic and quickly get lists of facts on that topic, links to information on that topic, videos, images, and quizzes on the topic. If you want to refine or alter your search, just click on another term in the web of search terms. If the results that you are getting are too difficult to comprehend or are too basic, use the difficulty slider to change the results.

When you find materials that are useful for your research you can pin them or add them to your instaGrok journal. You can add notes to those links in your journal as well.

Applications for Education
instaGrok could be a fantastic tool for students who are struggling to refine a research topic. It also appears to be a great way for students to organize the useful information that they find while conducting their research.

Twtbase - A Directory of Twitter Apps

Earlier this week while searching a tool to make word clouds out of Twitter hashtags, I discovered Twtbase. I never did find the tool I was looking for, but I did find a lot of other neat Twitter applications on Twtbase. One of the Twitter applications on Twtbase that I like a lot is Trends Map.

Trends Map is an application that displays trending topics on Twitter according to location. In other words you can visit the map to see what topics are currently the most discussed topics in a city, state, province (yes, I'm in Canada this week so I thought I should list that option), or country. Embedded below is a Screencast of Trends Map that I found on Twtbase.

Applications for Education
If you're looking for way to reuse or analyze information from Twitter, take a look at Twtbase. Trends Map could be a good introduction to a lesson on current global events. Have students investigate why a particular topic is trending in one area but not in another.

Vifinition - Videos Defining Words

Update: As of February 2013 Vifinition is offline. 

Vifinition is a fun site featuring videos that define words. The site matches YouTube videos to words. The videos aren't explanations of words so much as they are demonstrations of the words in context. For example the video for "bend" shows pictures of bent objects. That video is embedded below.

Applications for Education
Vifinition isn't a site that I would send students to on their own because the videos do come from YouTube and the site is crowd-sourced so your students could come across material that isn't suitable for the classroom. Instead, I would use Vifinition as a teacher to locate videos that I could share with my students during a vocabulary lesson.

Vifinition also gave me the idea for a vocabulary lesson in which you have students make videos that demonstrate definitions in context. If you don't the resources or classroom time for creating videos, you could have students search YouTube, Vimeo, Next Vista, and other video sites for videos that do demonstrate the meaning of their vocabulary terms.

3D Buildings and Tours of the Amazon in Google Maps

In the last two days while I was busy traveling and hiking in Alberta (hike pictures to come on Saturday) Google released two great updates to Google Maps.

On Tuesday Google released updates to the 3D buildings that can be viewed in Google Maps Streetview. Now you can see some famous landmarks, like the Eiffel Tower and the White House, as 3D models in Google Maps. I've embedded the 3D model of the White House below.

View Larger Map

Yesterday, Google released new Streetview imagery for the Amazon. Now you can go on a virtual Streetview tour of the Amazon. Some the imagery is absolutely stunning. A video introduction is included below.

Applications for Education
The new imagery and 3D buildings could be a fantastic way for your students to explore all kinds of famous and interesting places around the globe. Whenever I teach a place-based lesson I like to have my students create simple stories using My Places in Google Maps. I've found that compared to using a basic paper map by exploring the imagery and pinning placemarks in Google Maps, my students have a greater recall of where things are and why they are important.

If you have never created a map in Google Maps, I have posted directions to get you started here.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

7 Good Resources for Art Teachers and Students

I was recently contacted by a reader who wanted to know what I had in my archives for art lessons and digital art galleries that students can access. While this isn't every visual art resource in my archive, these are seven of my personal favorites.

The Art Project powered by Google features interior tours of seventeen world famous art museums. Select a museum from the list on the homepage and you can virtually tour it using the same interface style you experience in Google Maps Streetview. Inside the museum just double click to zoom to a location. You can also open a floor plan overview and click on a room to navigate to that part of the museum. The best part of the Art Project powered by Google is the option to create your own artwork collection while visiting each museum. As you're touring a museum click on the "+" symbol on any work of art see it in greater detail, to add it to your collection, and to open background information about that work of art. To create a collection you must be signed into your Google account.

Smarthistory is a free online alternative to expensive art history textbooks. Smarthistory was developed by art history professors Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker. Smarthistory features more than just images of notable works of art. Videos lessons, VoiceThread lessons, and audio lessons about eras and themes in art history are what make Smarthistory a valuable resource. Students can browse all of the resources of Smarthistory by artist name, style of work, theme, or time period. Smarthistory is now partnered with Khan Academy to deliver lessons.

Picturing America is a project of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Library Association. Picturing America is an interactive gallery of artwork related to events, people, and themes in American history. You can browse the gallery chronologically or by theme. Click on any image in the gallery to learn about the artist and the artwork itself. Along with the background information for each image, Picturing America provides links to additional resources for learning about the artwork and artists.

The World Digital Library hosts nearly 5,000 primary documents and images from collections around the world. Sponsored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the mission of the World Digital Library is to promote the study and understanding of cultures. The WDL can be searched by date, era, country, continent, topic, and type of resource. In my search of the WDL I noticed that roughly half of the resources are historical maps and images. The WDL aims to be accessible to as many people as possible by providing search tools and content descriptions in seven languages. The WDL can also be searched by clicking through the map on the homepage.

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has a great collection of multimedia, interactive features about art and artists. In these features you can learn about styles of art, specific works, and the artists. There is a mix of videos and slideshows contained in the interactive archive. The archive contains features about Picasso and Pollock as well as artists whose works aren't quite as famous.

Art Babble is a video website designed and maintained by the Indianapolis Museum of Art. The purpose of Art Babble is to provide a place for people to learn about the creation of art, artists, and collections through quality video productions. Visitors to Art Babble will find videos related to many forms of and formats for art. Browse the video channels and you'll find videos covering a wide array of topics including abstract art, European Art and Design, African Art, graphic design, glass, sculpture, surrealism, and much more.

MOOM, the Museum of Online Museums, is a list of museums that offer online exhibitions. In some cases the museums include virtual tours and in other cases the museums online exhibits are simple photo galleries. Some of the notable museums featured in the Museum of Online Museums include the Smithsonian, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Tell Your Administrators, EdCamp Leadership Happens This Summer

On Sunday I published my video interview with one of the founders of the EdCamp Foundation, Dr. Kristen Swanson. Since then I learned from Kevin Jarrett about EdCamp Leadership.

EdCamp Leadership is an EdCamp for school administrators to connect and share their ideas about school leadership. The event is going to be held on July 26th at the Foundation for Educational Administration (FEA) Administration Conference and Training Center in Monroe Township, New Jersey. Like all EdCamp events, EdCamp Leadership is free and anyone can lead a session about a topic that is important to him or her. You can register for the event here