Thursday, May 31, 2012

Month in Review - May's Most Popular Posts

A baby bird I tried
to help today. 
The baby birds are chirping, my lawn is out of control, and card aisle in the grocery store is stocked with graduation announcements. That can only mean one thing, May is coming to a close. As I do every month, I've made a list of the month's most popular posts. Before jumping to the list I want to say thank you to all of you who continue to read and share what you read on Free Technology for Teachers. Thanks to you there are nearly 47,000 subscribers today. I also have to say thank you to the advertisers who help keep a roof over my head and food in my dog's bowl.

Here are the most popular posts from May, 2012:
1. Holy Fonts, Batman! Google Docs gets 450+ New Fonts
2. Create Videos Online with WeVideo in Google Drive
3. Web Search Lesson Plans from Google
4. Nine Shel Silverstein Stories Animated
5. Learnist is Like Pinterest for Learning
6. A Must-See Video for Teen Drivers
7. Google Drive and Google Docs for Teachers - Free PDF Guide
8. 7 Great Note-taking Tools for Teachers and Students
9. Provide Tech Help Remotely via Chrome Remote Desktop
10. - Sync Audio and Video to Your Slideshows

Please visit the official advertisers and marketing partners that help keep this blog going.
LearnBoost provides a free online gradebook service for teachers.
Vocabulary Spelling City offers spelling practice activities that you can customize.
Teachers Printables offers 243 free printable charts and forms for teachers.
Fresno Pacific University is offering some exciting new courses for educators.
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.
Ed Tech Teacher offers professional development services for schools. I will be conducting a series of workshops with them this summer. Please visit their site for the schedule.

How to Subscribe to Free Technology for Teachers
If you aren't subscribed you can join 46,000 others who do subscribe via these links.
Subscribe via RSSSubscribe via Email.
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Edublogs Gets an iPad App

The popular student blog provider Edublogs released a new free iPad and iPhone app today. The free Edublogs app will allow you to write new posts, edit posts, upload images, upload videos, and moderate comments from your iPad or iPhone. You can even start a new blog from scratch using the app. One thing that I'm not sure of yet, is whether or not you can change themes or add widgets to your blog through the app.

Applications for Education
If your school is using iPads and you're looking for a good student blogging platform give Edublogs and the Edublogs iPad app a try.

Thanks to Amanda Dykes for sharing the news about this app on Twitter.

Disclosure: Edublogs has been an advertiser on Free Technology for Teachers in the past. 

The World Wonders Project is a Must-Bookmark Site

Thanks to Larry Ferlazzo for alerting me to an awesome new resource from Google called the World Wonders Project. The World Wonders Project is  probably best described as a multimedia encyclopedia of 132 historic and notable sites across five continents. The project assembles Google Streetview imagery, Google Earth 3D buildings, UNESCO World Heritage information, videos, and pictures on one page. Visitors to the World Wonders Project can move through the Streetview imagery just like they would on Google Maps.

Applications for Education
I hope that in the future Google adds more sites to the World Wonders Project as they have totally ignored Africa and huge sections of Asia in the first release. In the meantime, the World Wonders Project is still a good reference site for the places that are included in the World Wonders Project. Click on the Education tab in the upper-right corner of the World Wonders Project to find and download some teaching guides and media packs for places and themes featured in the World Wonders Project. There are materials for elementary school, middle school, and high school use.

U.S. Elections for Dummies 1960-1992

Take Khan Academy for social studies, use better graphics, put an engaging speaker who is actually a social studies teacher in front of the camera and you'll have Hip Hughes History. I mentioned Hip Hughes History a while back in a list of other history resources. This morning I want to share one of the newer playlists that Keith Hughes has created which is all about U.S. Presidential Elections from 1960 through 1992 (I'm hoping there are more on the way). These videos are seven to fifteen minute overviews of the major themes of each election.

Applications for Education
As Mr. Hughes points out in the introductions to the videos, these aren't videos that you will build a thesis paper around. If you need to review or cram before a test, these videos could be helpful. And it doesn't hurt that they're far more engaging than a disembodied voice talking over a blackboard.

100+ Registration Free Tools for Students

One of the common obstacles to using many Web 2.0 tools in elementary school and middle school classrooms is the registration requirement that those tools have. Fortunately, there are many good Web 2.0 tools that do not require registration. Nathan Hall has started to put together a Diigo list of Web 2.0 tools that do not require registration. When I saw the list yesterday it had 60 items. When I looked at the list this morning there were 101 items on the list. Take a look at Nathan's list and I think you'll find some new-to-you tools, I did.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

10 Things You Can Do To Make Yourself an Ed Tech Star This Summer

Credit: Sunset from Longniddry Bents
Richard Webb
As I watch Twitter at this time of year I see a mix of sadness, relief, and excitement that the school year is ending for many teachers. The summer is a great time to tackle some of that personal learning that got pushed to the back burner during the school year. If one of your goals for the summer is to improve your knowledge and skills in educational technology, here are ten things that you can do to work toward that goal.

1. Create a framework for your use of educational technology. Use that framework for evaluating technology and how it will help you reach your instructional goals. My framework is discovery, discussion, and demonstration. Feel free to work from mine or start from scratch building a framework that works for you. On Twitter Paul Kelba suggested looking at the ISTE NETS Standards.Without a framework for thinking about using technology in education, you're just playing with geeky things.

2. Start a blog or revive a dormant blog. Create a schedule for writing and stick to it. If you only have time to write for an hour a week, that's fine but do it consistently. Writing will force you to think and reflect. Publish your writing even if you don't think it's perfect. Don't let perfect be the enemy of good. You can always write an addendum to the original post.

3. Teach yourself yourself some new HTML or CSS writing skills. These skills can be very handy when you want to customize a blog template or build a webpage from scratch. Plus, it's a great feeling when you realize that you can type out functions that become beautiful (or at least serviceable) webpages. Codecademy has some good lessons for the first-time coder. The New Boston is a great YouTube channel for learning to code too.

4. Break things and try to put them back together again. That's how I learned to fix my old oil burner (in hindsight not the best strategy), put a rocking chair back together (mom never knew it was broken until now), and resize elements on my blog template. Test your new coding skills by setting up a dummy blog on Blogger or WordPress and mess around with things.

5. Learn how to self-host a WordPress blog or a Drupal site. Unless your school gives you server space to mess around on, you will have to shell-out some cash to do this ($5-20/month depending upon your hosting plan). In the last year since I started to do this for and some other projects that I'm working on, I have learned a ton about servers and domain management. Most hosting companies provide directions that will help you get started. The two companies that I have the most experience with are Bluehost ($130/yr) and MediaTemple ($200/yr). Of the two, I prefer MediaTemple because I have had a better customer service experience with them.

6. Get familiar with an OS that you don't normally use. If you use a Mac all the time try spending a week in the world of Windows (borrow a Windows computer for the week or use Windows Parallels). If you're a Blackberry addict try out an Android or iOS device for a bit. By doing this you will gain a better understanding of the devices that your students and colleagues may be using at home or have used before coming to your school.

7. Try a tablet-only weekend. I don't care if you choose an iPad or an Android tablet just pick one and try to use it as your only computer for a weekend or a week. Do this to get familiar with the apps you, your students, and colleagues will need in order to use tablets in lieu of laptops in a 1:1 environment. You'll also get familiar with the challenges of using a tablet as the only device. If your school isn't going to provide teachers and students with keyboards and other accessories, don't use them yourself during your tablet-only time.

8. Read some new-to-you books or ebooks about technology in education. I have some recommendations here.

9. Subscribe to some new-to-you blogs about technology and education. In no particular order these are some that I read TechCrunch, Read Write Web, David Warlick, Gary Stager, Scott McLeod, Lee Kolbert, Vicki Davis, all of the Google product blogs, Make Use Of, Larry Ferlazzo, Audrey Watters.

10. Follow and converse with some new people on Twitter. Not sure where to find new people to follow? I have three lists here, here, and here to get you started.

What would you add to this list? Please leave a suggestion in the comments. 

Buying a New Laptop Soon? Read This First

Make Use Of publishes a lot of useful free guides in PDF and ePub format. The latest guide that they've released is Buying Laptop Computers: Your 2012 Guide To Finding Laptop Deals. This guide is free for anyone to download. You do not have to register for anything, share it, or "like" it to get your copy. In other words, it's a no-strings-attached download.

Buying Laptop Computers is a good guide for anyone who is in the market for a new computer, but is especially good for consumers who don't consider themselves tech savvy. The guide does a guide job of succinctly and clearly explaining the key things that you should look for when shopping for a new laptop. One piece of advice that jumped out as I went through the guide was the reminder that you're buying the whole computer and not to get too hung up on one aspect of a laptop while ignoring other important aspects. For example, battery life is important but if it comes at the expense of a lower quality processor you might not be happy with your purchase a year down the road.

Applications for Education
High school graduation season is in full swing and many parents will be considering buying their graduates a laptop to take to university in the fall. If you're asked by a parent or student for advice about buying a laptop to take to university, consider telling them about the Buying Laptop Computers guide.

Shared Copy - Collaborate and Annotate on Any Webpage

Update July 2020 - This resource is no longer available.

Last night I Tweeted a link to three tools for marking and sharing websites. Nathan Hall replied with the suggestion of looking at Shared Copy. Shared Copy is a tool for bookmarking, annotating, and sharing webpages. Using Shared Copy you can save a page, draw on it, add comments to it in text boxes, and highlight parts of the page. If you others to look at your comments on the page, Shared Copy offers many ways to do that through social networks and through email.

Applications for Education
Shared Copy could be a good tool to use to provide students with feedback on design elements of their digital portfolios. You could also use Shared Copy to highlight and draw attention to a block of text that you want your students to read prior to a classroom discussion.

Ten Game Templates to use in MS Office

This morning I received an email from someone who had seen me present at the NCTIES Conference in March. The email shared some information about some free game templates produced by Dr. Jeff Ertzberger at UNC Wilmington. UNCW EdGames offers ten free templates for creating educational review games using PowerPoint and Excel. Each template is accompanied by a video tutorial to help you get started. (Turn down your volume before opening the videos because they're loud).

Applications for Education
These game templates aren't going to revolutionize your instruction, but they could be handy if you need to create some simple review games to use in your classroom.

Coding Practice with Instant Feedback

Mozilla Thimble App is a free tool that allows you to write and test HTML and instantly see how your new code will look on the web. On one side of your screen you will see your code and on the other side you will see how your code looks on the web. When you're ready to share your new code with the world just click "publish" to have a web address created for your page.

Applications for Education
Students who want to learn coding on their own would do well to use Mozilla Thimble App in conjunction with a resource like Codecademy. Codecademy will provide the lessons and Mozilla Thimble App will provide instant feedback on the code that the student writes.

H/T to Lifehacker.

Bitly Introduces New Bookmark Options

Bitly is the URL shortener that I have been using for years. It's simple to use, especially if you use the bookmarklet, allows you to customize URLs, and offers good statistics about use of your links. I like Bitly so much that I consider it one of the three browser tools all teachers should try.  Yesterday, Bitly introduced a slew of new options.

Bitly now offers a social bookmarking component that they are calling Bitmarks. Bitmarks are bookmarks that you save in your Bitly account. Your Bitmarks can be shared publicly or kept privately. Bitly offers an option for bundling bookmarks into one package that you can share with just one link. Bitly bundles are now collaborative too.

For iPhone users, Bitly has launched a new app that you can use to create and access bookmarks on the go.

Applications for Education
Bitly itself provides a good way to shorten links into URLs that are easy to distribute to students. Using the bundles option is a good way to direct students to a set of links that you want them to access for an assignment in your course.

Interactive Illimitably - Collaborative Drawing

Interactive Illimitably is a free collaborative drawing tool that I learned about through a comment on my post of 11 collaborative drawing tools.  Interactive Illimitably provides a place for you to create a room with a custom name in which you can draw and chat with others. To get started just select a chat font style, name your room, and specify if you want your room to allow drawing, chatting or both. To have people join your drawing and chatting room, just give them the link assigned to your room. While there is a registration option, you don't need to register to use the site.

Applications for Education
Interactive Illimitably could be used by students to collaborate on the creation of story webs. Students could also use the service to collaborate on the creation of diagrams to use in presentations that they give to their classmates.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Create Webpages in Minutes With Pagefin

Pagefin is a free service for creating simple webpages without the need to register for an account. To create a webpage with Pagefin just click "create and share," enter the captcha code, and start designing your webpage. Pagefin does not offer any fancy template to widgets to add to your pages, just a blank slate to design on. You can add text boxes, images, and videos to your webpages. When you're happy with your page click on the share button to have a URL generated for your page. The share button will also provide you with an editing link (don't share that one).

Applications for Education
Pagefin could be a good tool for students to use to create and share a page of their best writings, video productions, or favorite images. Pagefin's blank slate approach allows you to add as many text boxes, images, and video elements as you like. Looking at it from that perspective, Pagefin could be a good platform to have students use to create online collages of media arranged around a research topic.

Click here for 11 more ways to create websites and simple webpages.

Turn Your Students into Solar Storm Watchers

Solar Storm Watch is a website on which anyone can become a solar storm watcher. The site uses imagery from STEREO Spacecraft to present users with information that they can use to try to spot solar storms.

Solar Storm Watch provides registered users with training on spotting and tracking solar storms. Once you have completed the training you can move on to contributing your observations to the community. The overall goal of the Solar Storm Watch is to help scientists identify and track solar storms. Watch the video below to learn about some of the questions the scientists hope to answer through the use of the information recorded on Solar Storm Watch.

Applications for Education
Solar Storm Watch offers some lesson plans for teachers who are interested in using the site in their classrooms. Even if you don't use the lesson plans or register on the site, you can still view some excellent interactive graphics that explain parts of the solar system and the role of satellites in monitoring solar activities.

A Quick Review of the New Chromebooks and Chrome OS

I realize that Chromebooks aren't free, but I think that a good chunk of my readers will be interested in this information anyway. 

This afternoon Google announced the release of new Chromebooks. Part of that announcement was a list of updates to the Chrome operating system. So far Read Write Web has the most complete review of the new Chromebooks and I encourage you to read it. The Reader's Digest version is this: the new Chrome OS will support native support for Microsoft Office files and will provide better support for multitasking. The new hardware includes a product called a Chromebox which is a desktop version of a Chromebook. The Chromebox concept reminds me of the Mac Mini.

Take a tour of the new Chrome OS user interface in the video below.

Applications for Education
In addition to the announcement of support for native support for Microsoft Office files, Google's announcement also promised offline support for Google Documents will start in the next few weeks. Those two factors remove a hurdle to Chromebook use that many teachers and tech administrators have pointed to since Chromebooks were launched last year. For a good run-down of Chromebook use in an elementary school, visit Kevin Jarrett's Project Chromebook blog.

Infographic - The History of Memorial Day

Update: As of early 2018 This resource is no longer available online.

This is a day late, but I still want to share it. On Cool Infographics I found The History of Memorial Day which is an infographic outlining the basic history of Memorial Day and how Americans celebrate the day. The infographic is missing one important thing, links to the sources of the information presented. I would take that flaw and turn it into a quick research activity. Have your students attempt to verify the information presented in the infographic. For more resources for teaching about Memorial Day, visit Larry Ferlazzo's list of resources.

Simple Sticky Notes in Google Chrome

I love sticky notes. I have them all over the desktops of my computers and tablets. I also love Google Chrome. Therefore, I was happy to discover a simple Sticky Note application for Google Chrome. Sticky Notes for Google Chrome is a free Chrome web app for taking notes in your browser whether you're connected to the web or not. To arrange and sort your notes you can title each note, tag it, star it, and assign it a color. You can search for your notes by tag and title.

Applications for Education
For schools using Chromebooks, Sticky Notes for Google Chrome could prove to be very useful for creating and maintaing simple to-do lists. I like sticky notes because they're great for making simple lists without the need to sign into a service. Sticky Notes for Google Chrome meets that criteria for me.

Transfer Files With Just a Bump

Bump is a free app for Android and iOS devices that makes it very easy to transfer pictures and contacts between devices. Bump can also be used to transfer photos and contacts from your mobile device to your laptop or desktop computer. To transfer photos and contacts between mobile devices just gently bump the devices together (both devices need to have Bump installed). To transfer photos and contact between your mobile device and your computer just select files on your device, open Bump on your computer (it's browser based), and press the spacebar on your keyboard. See Bump in action in the video below.

Applications for Education
If you have your students create study groups that meet outside of classroom time, Bump could be a good app to have students use at the beginning of a semester to quickly exchange contact information with classmates. If you're looking for a way to move image files from mobile devices to computers for students to use in multimedia projects, lose the USB cables and Bump.

Monday, May 28, 2012

ScienceFix - Videos of Middle School Science Lessons

In March I shared 7 Useful YouTube Channels for Science Students and Teachers. This morning as I browsed YouTube I found ScienceFix. ScienceFix is the blog and YouTube channel of middle school science teacher Darren Fix. On both the blog and the YouTube channel you will find more than 100 videos demonstrating various science experiments, demonstrations, and middle school science lessons. Watch a sample below.

Applications for Education
If you're a middle school science teacher, ScienceFix could be a good source of ideas that you can apply to your classroom. If you use the ideas presented on ScienceFix, embed the corresponding video into your classroom blog to remind students of the lesson when they visit your blog.

7 Tools for Collaboratively Creating Image Galleries

This morning I received an email from a reader who had taken a group on a tour of historic places in Boston and was looking for some suggestions for ways to create a collaborative image gallery. Writing a response to that email got me thinking about some ways to collaboratively create image galleries. The following tools could be used by you and your students to create galleries of images captured while on a field trip. These tools could also be used to collaboratively create galleries of Creative Commons and Public Domain images.

ZangZing is a free service for creating collaborative online photo albums. There are many services that allow you to do this now, but what makes ZangZing different is that you can pull in the photos you already have on other photo sharing sites. You can pull in photos from Facebook, Picasa, Flickr, Instagram, and other popular photo sharing sites. You can also email photos directly to the album(s) you create on ZangZing. Each collaborative album you create on ZangZing has its own privacy setting so that you can create a combination of public and private albums within your account.

Drop Event is a free service for creating public and private group photo albums. To create a group photo album you do need to register for the service, but contributors to your photo album don't need to register. When you create your photo album it is assigned an email address that contributors can send photos to through email. To invite people to contribute to your album, just give them the email address assigned to your album.

If there is such a thing as "old and reliable" in Web 2.0 tools, Flickr qualifies. Using Flickr you can create public and private image sharing groups. There are two public group settings. You can create a public group that anyone can join, contribute to, and view. You can also create a public group that anyone can view, but only invited members can contribute to. Finally, you can create a private group that only invited members can contribute to and only invited members can view the images. Of course, all contributors will need to have a Flickr/ Yahoo account (Yahoo owns Flickr) to contribute to the group galleries.

Drop Mocks just might be the simplest tool for constructing an image gallery and slideshow that I've come across. To create an image gallery with Drop Mocks just go to their site and drag images from your desktop onto the Drop Mocks canvas. Then click on an image to have it featured while the other images are blurred in the background. Click another image and it will come into clear view while the previously featured image fades back into the background. You can share your Drop Mocks gallery by giving people the url assigned to it. To create and save multiple galleries sign into Drop Mocks by using your Google Account. You do need to be using a WebGL compliant browser for Drop Mocks to function correctly.

If you want to create a small gallery to which each student contributes his or her favorite picture from a field trip or favorite picture to represent something they learned online, have them add those pictures to a Wallwisher wall. Have students use the 160 character text box to add descriptions or discussion prompts to the images that they add to the wall.

Create a collaborative Google Map and have students geo-locate images on the map. If you're teaching something like the Civil War have students find images of important people and places and add those images to the map. If you're students are reading a novel or other work that mentions a lot of location, have students add images of those places to the map. And if you're taking students on a field trip that will stop at multiple locations, have them geo-locate the images that they capture.

Even though it was bought by Twitter a few months ago and it's future is uncertain, for now Posterous Spaces provides the simplest way to build group blogs. You could use Posterous Spaces to have students contribute images to a blog organized around an event or a theme. You can create a blog and allow your students to contribute to it by simply sending emails with image attachments to the blog's name. For example, I could create a blog titled and allow students to contribute to it via email by sending a message to To contribute my students won't have to register on Posterous at all if I allow email contributions.

Historypin Presents Pinning the Queen's History

This year marks Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee. To mark the occasion Historypin has created a map of the Queen's official visits over the last sixty years. Historypin is designed for displaying historical photographs on Google Maps. Each pin on the Historypin map provides photographs from the Queen's visits to each location. You can browse the map to view photographs or simply use the list of official visits to find photographs. If you have photographs from one of the Queen's official visits you can pin them to the Historypin map too.

Applications for Education
Exploring Historypin's map of the Queen's official visits could be a good way for students to explore and ask questions about different parts of the world.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Go On a Virtual Journey with Charles Darwin

Darwin, A Naturalist's Voyage is an outstanding virtual tour of Charles Darwin's nearly five year journey on the Beagle. Darwin, A Naturalist's Voyage has fourteen segments chronicling Darwin's voyage from start to finish. Throughout the tour viewers will see sketches from the journey, hear readings from Darwin's journals, and learn about the journey as a whole. The virtual tour is not limited to just Darwin's work as a naturalist. Darwin, A Naturalist's Voyage explores social issues of the time such as slavery.

Applications for Education
If you teach any lessons regarding Darwin and his work, this virtual journey could be a great resource for students to use to learn about Darwin's voyage to the Galapagos Islands and back.

The Golden Gate Bridge Turns 75

As some readers know, I don't have a television at home (I do have four computer screens though) so this morning when I woke up in a hotel I was happy to be able to watch the CBS Sunday Morning show for the first time in months. I took particular interest in this short story about the 75th anniversary of the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge. After you watch the video below, if you're looking for more resources to share with your students check out Larry Ferlazzo's list.

Who Pooped? - Identify Animals by Scat/ Dung

Update: September 2020. Unfortunately, this resource is no longer available. It was a favorite of mine and many students for many years. 

Even if it is slightly gross Who Pooped? is a fun and educational site through which students try to identify animals by their scat or dung. I was reminded of the site over the weekend and thought that I just had to share it again.

Who Pooped? is an interactive game in which students learn about various animals by guessing which animal created which pile of poop. Believe it or not, there is actually some good information about the animals that follows each round of guessing who created which poop.

Applications for Education
If they can get past the "hilarity" of the "poop" images and noises, Who Pooped? could be a very engaging way for elementary school students to learn about various mammals. 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Week in Review - Happy Memorial Day!

Good morning from the Free Technology for Teachers world headquarters in Greenwood, Maine. Happy Memorial Day weekend to all of my American friends and readers. I know that for some of you this week was the last week of school. I hope this weekend is the start of a great summer for you. For those of you who still have a bit of school year to go, I hope the long weekend recharges you for the home-stretch. I'm planning to recharge by going to go biking, paddling, and fishing with my dog this weekend. How do you recharge on a long weekend?

Before I head out for a weekend outdoors, I have this week's list of the most popular posts of the week. If part of your weekend calls for some reading, please take a look at these posts.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Learnist is Like Pinterest for Learning
2. Fun Weekend DIY Science & Tech Projects
3. My Favorite Online File Conversion Tool
4. Ask the Owls - Learn and Teach Online
5. Interactive Maps of Travel Routes Throughout the Roman Empire
6. 3D Views of Famous Landmarks
7. Create Animated Fake Facebook Profiles

Please visit the official advertisers and marketing partners that help keep this blog going.
LearnBoost provides a free online gradebook service for teachers.
Vocabulary Spelling City offers spelling practice activities that you can customize.
Teachers Printables offers 243 free printable charts and forms for teachers.
Fresno Pacific University is offering some exciting new courses for educators.
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.
Ed Tech Teacher offers professional development services for schools. I will be conducting a series of workshops with them this summer. Please visit their site for the schedule.

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Dozens of Physics Games for Your Blog

Physics, as the name implies, is a website of games based on simple physics concepts. Physic Games offers dozens of games based on a physics concept or two. Each game can be played directly on the Physics Games website or embedded into your blog or website. The one downfall of the site is that before each game starts there is a short commercial. I checked out a few different games and I did not see any advertising that would be unacceptable in a public school classroom.

Applications for Education
The games on Physics are based on simple physics concepts and are best suited for elementary or middle school use. Being able to embed a game into your class blog is a good way to make sure that students are on task and is also a good way to keep students interested in the classroom blog.

Friday, May 25, 2012

26+ Ways to Use Thinglink in the Classroom

Thinglink is a tool for creating interactive images. I've written about it quite a bit in the last few months (click here to learn how to use it). This morning I got an email from Thinglink in which they featured a Google Presentation of 26+ Ways to Use Thinglink in the Classroom. The presentation is a collaborative presentation started by Donna Baumbach. If you have used Thinglink in your classroom, get in touch with Donna to make a contribution. Her contact information is included on the last slide below.

Video - Maximizing Museum Field Trips

Through the Teaching Palette, I discovered this video from the Art Institute of Chicago. The video was created as a resource to help teachers and students get the most out of a trip to an art museum. The animated video tells the story of high school students going to an art museum. In the video the teacher explains how to behave at an art museum (don't touch the paintings). The teacher and students also model critiquing art. The video is subtitled in English and Spanish.

You can watch the video below.

Applications for Education
Even if you're not able to take your students on a field trip to an art museum, this video still has value. The modeling of conversations about art could be used prior to having students look at art online or in books. 

Set Location-based Reminders for Yourself

Geo Notepad is a Chrome application that offers a different take on reminders and notes. While most note-taking and reminder services are based on time stamps, Geo Notepad is based on location. When you write notes, you can assign them to locations. Then when you return to that location Geo Notepad will show you a list of your notes from that place. For example, I could create a list of notes that are tied to my house and a list tied to school. Then when I get to school in the morning Geo Notepad will open the list of school-based notes for me.

Applications for Education
Geo Notepad could be a good way for students to set reminders for themselves. They can create lists during the day that will pop-up when they turn on their computers or tablets at home.

GeoBee Challenge - Test Your Geography Knowledge

This week the 2012 National Geographic Bee champion was crowned. To help your students prepare for next year's National Geographic Bee, National Geographic offers the GeoBee Challenge.

The GeoBee Challenge is a daily series of ten geography quiz questions. The challenges can be played in apprentice mode or in expert mode. Apprentice mode gives students two tries at every question. The expert mode gives just one shot at each question.

Applications for Education
If you're looking for a quick activity that your students can do every day to sharpen their knowledge of geography, consider putting a link to the GeoBee Challenge on your classroom blog or website.

The GeoBee Challenge is also available as an app for iPads and Android tablets, but it is not a free app.

Here's a list of eleven resources for geography awareness.

Meograph - Four Dimensional Storytelling

Meograph is a new digital storytelling tool that you should put on your list of things to try this summer. Meograph, which I learned about through an email from its founder, provides tools for creating map-based and timeline-based narrated stories. The Meograph is still in a closed beta, but they appear to be very interested in the possible educational uses of the service.

When you watch a Meograph story (click here to watch one about women's rights in the USA) you will notice that it is very similar to a watching a narrated Google Earth tour. That is because it is based on the Google Maps and the Google Earth browser plug-in. As the story plays you can stop it to explore additional content in the forms of videos, texts, and images.

Applications for Education
When it's live for everyone to use Meograph will provide a way to create narrated map-based and timeline-based stories. Much of what Meograph offers can be accomplished in Google Earth. However, Meograph is browser-based so that students can create stories even if they cannot install Google Earth on their computers.

Vocabulary Spelling City

This week Free Technology for Teachers welcomed Vocabulary Spelling City as a new advertiser.

Vocabulary Spelling City offers a database of more than 42,000 spelling words and sentences. The words and sentences can be customized for your students. This means that Vocabulary Spelling City supports US and UK spellings of words like "favorite" and "favourite," "color" and "colour." Teachers can use Vocabulary Spelling City to create custom lists of words for their students to practice spelling and to study the definitions of those words.

To help students learn the proper pronunciation of the words on their practice lists Vocabulary Spelling City provides clear, spoken recordings of every word. Students can play games, study words, and quiz themselves on the spellings of the words on their lists. Vocabulary Spelling City allows teachers to print activities for use in their classrooms when their students don't have access to computers.

In addition to their free products, Vocabulary Spelling City offers a premium service that gives teachers the option to track their students' progress, removal of advertising, and additional learning activities. You can try the premium version for free for three months by clicking here.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Corkboard Me - Another Nice Sticky Note Service

Last week I published a short post with ideas for using seven sticky note services in schools. This week I found another good sticky note service to add to the list. Corkboard Me is a simple service for creating and sharing a wall of sticky notes.

Registration is not required in order to use Corkboard Me. To use Corkboard Me just visit the site then click anywhere on the virtual corkboard to start typing your notes. A URL will be assigned to your corkboard. Share that URL with anyone that you want to add notes your wall. Corkboard Me is a freemium service. The free version of the product does not allow for private sharing of corkboards.

Applications for Education
If you're okay with creating public corkboards, Corkboard Me could be a good tool for students to use to post short "exit ticket" notes about things that they learned in your classroom that day. Just post the url and tell students to write a short note. Since registration isn't required in order to post a note, you won't lose classroom time to fussing about with log-ins. One thing to keep in mind if you use the public corkboards option is that you should have a conversation with your students about what is and is not appropriate to post online.

Preview YouTube Videos Without a Click

Today's episode of Tekzilla Daily has a quick overview of a handy little tool for previewing YouTube videos without loading them in a new player, tab, or window. The tool is a Chrome extension called YouTube Preview. YouTube Preview allows you to hover over a video to view a fast overview of it and see the reactions to it. Watch the video below to see it in action.

Use the Remind 101 iPhone App to Keep Students and Parents Informed

I'm about a week late on this but it's still worth sharing the news that Remind 101 has released a free iPhone app. Remind 101 is a service for sending text messages to groups of students and their parents. The service is an opt-in service which means that students and parents have to enter a confirmation code to state that they do want to be contacted by you through the service. Remind 101 keeps phone numbers hidden so that the parties cannot see each other's numbers. Learn more about Remind 101 in the video below.

Applications for Education
The Remind 101 iPhone app could be a good tool to use to keep students and parents informed of important information about your classes. You could use it to send reminders about assignments, use it to send encouragement, or use it to send praise for a job well done on an assignment.

Visualizing the World's 50 Most Prominent Peaks

The Guardian recently published an excellent interactive data visualization of the world's 50 most prominent peaks. The visualization offers a clickable map of the world's most prominent peaks on every continent. Click on a peak to view it in Google Earth (you need the Google Earth browser plug-in). You can compare peaks in terms of actual height and prominence above their immediate surroundings. The visualizations can be embedded into your blog or website. I've embedded a slightly cropped version below. Click here for the full-size visualization.

Waiting for InstaGrok

InstaGrok is a promising new academic search engine and bookmarking service that I've written about twice this spring (here and here). Unfortunately, according to their Twitter posts, they have had a server crash. If you're trying to use the service today, bear in mind that it might not be working completely or at all right now. Even though they Tweeted that it's back online, not everything appears to be functioning correctly. I'm sure they are doing their best to get everything restored quickly.

Page-level Permissions and Digital Portfolios in Google Sites

This morning I received an email from a reader who needed some advice about having his students use Google Sites as digital portfolios. His concern was that if his students had access to editing all of the pages, there is a chance that students could overwrite each other's work. The solution that I proposed was to use page-level permissions in Google Sites.

Page-level permissions in Google Sites allows the creator of a site to share and give editing access to specific pages within a site rather than giving access to edit the entire site. To use page-level permissions open your Google Site editor then click "enable page-level permissions." With page-level permissions activated you can share and allow editing for each page individually.
Click on the images to view them in full size. 

Applications for Education
By using page-level permissions in Google Sites you can create a classroom website then make each of your students responsible for maintaining their own pages. On those pages they could catalog examples of their best work. They could also use those pages to blog. Either way you will have access to work from all of your students in one place.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Learnist is Like Pinterest for Learning

Learnist is a new site (still in beta) that aims to be like Pinterest but for sharing learning resources. On Learnist you can create pinboards of materials organized around a topic. You can create multiple boards within your account and make your boards collaborative. You can pin images, videos, and text to your boards by using the Leanist bookmarklet, by manually entering the URL of a resource, or by uploading materials to your boards. Take a look at the video below for a brief introduction to Learnist.

Applications for Education
Learnist is still in a closed beta period so you will have to apply for an invitation (I got mine in a few days). Once you're in you can start following members of your professional learning community and collaborating on the collation of resources that are beneficial to you and your students.

Decode QR Codes Without a Camera

I've written about QR codes a bunch of times in the past, most recently in this post. The problem with all of those posts is that they rely on the use of some type of phone camera or webcam. Thanks to a Tweet by Doug Peterson this morning I discovered a solution to that problem.

QRreader (beta) is a Google Chrome extension that allows you to use your browser to decode QR codes. With QRreader installed when you come to a QR code on the web you can simply right-click on it to decode it. If the QR code is for a webpage, the page will open in a new tab. If the QR code is for text, it will open in a text dialogue box.

On a slightly related note, Chrome recently overtook Internet Explorer as the most-used browser in the world. The wealth of handy extensions like QRreader is one of the reason that I and many others prefer Chrome over all other browsers.

Learners TV Offers a Big Collection of Science Animations

There isn't any shortage of sites attempting to organize academic videos, I shared a nice one yesterday, but there aren't too many that are also organizing animations. Learners TV has organized hundreds of academic videos. They've also organized more than one hundred science animations. The science animations on Learners TV are organized into three categories; biology, physics, and chemistry.

Applications for Education
If you're looking for some animations to illustrate concepts mentioned in your science lessons, take a look at the Learners TV gallery of animations. I think it would be great if Learners TV had paired the animations to specific videos in their libraries. That could be a student project too.

Playfic - Write and Read Interactive Stories

In the past I've shared tools and ideas for creating choose your own adventure videos. Now I'd like to introduce you to Playfic for creating choose your own adventure text-based stories.

Playfic is a tool for creating text-based, choose your own adventure stories. Playfic is based on Inform7 which use "if, then" logic to allow anyone to create their stories. When authors plan and write their stories they can include multiple paths for readers to pursue as they progress through their stories. Readers navigate through the stories by entering directional commands such as "go north" and "go south." Click here to try a sample story and learn a bit about the logic of Playfic.

Applications for Education
Learning to navigate through existing stories on Playfic is relatively easy. Learning to formulate a story from scratch on Playfic will take some time because it does force you to not only plan your story, it also forces you to think about logic commands and how your readers will navigate through your story. For that reason I love the ideas of having students use Playfic to create and share stories with each other. Writing stories on Playfic requires creativity and logical reasoning. While writing their stories students can click on a preview. If studetns have errors in the logic when they click on the preview Playfic will point those out and explain the errors so that the errors can be corrected.

Lobsters, Lighthouses, and Google Apps

I hinted at this a couple of weeks ago in a post about summer learning opportunities, but now I am able to officially announce the Google Apps for Education Maine Summit.

The Google Apps for Education Maine Summit will be held on August 16th and 17th in Yarmouth, Maine. This two day event will feature keynotes and workshops presented by Google Certified Teachers, Google Apps for Education Certified Trainers, Google engineers, and representatives from the Google Apps for Education team. The event is open to any educator interested in learning about using Google Apps for Education to support student learning. I will be presenting on  August 16th.

Yarmouth, Maine is located along the coastline just a short drive north of Portland and one town south of Freeport. After your mind is filled-up with new learning during the day, Yarmouth, Freeport, Portland offer lots of nice vacation activities like golfing, sightseeing, ocean kayaking (LL Bean in Freeport offers great trips for new paddlers), retail outlet shopping, and plenty of places to enjoy a world-famous Maine lobster dinner.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Get Inspired by the Google SketchUp Gallery

SketchUp (formerly a Google product, recently sold to Trimble) is a great program for creating 3D models to use in maps and online portfolios. The SketchUp Showcase is a new site that was launched yesterday for the purpose of highlighting the most impressive uses of SketchUp. Each model is accompanied by a short story about the model.

The showcase also highlights a new technology, the SketchUp Online 3D Model Viewer. The model viewer uses WebGL technology to allow zoom and rotate models 360 degrees.

Applications for Education
Rather than re-write much of my past posts about SketchUp, I'll encourage you to watch this short video about SketchUp in the classroom.

Try to Display Large Infographics in Small Spaces

Over the weekend I had someone ask on Twitter how I make infographics display in small space on my blog. The answer is that I put the images inside a display. I wrote about eighteen months ago and have republished that content below. is a neat application for displaying large images in blogs, wikis, and websites. creates a display of your images in a format that allows you to zoom in, zoom out, and scroll around a large image. To use your image does need to be hosted online somewhere (Flickr and Picasa work fine). Then to create your zoomable image just copy the url of your hosted image and paste it into You can then share your image by giving people the direct link to it or embedding the image into your blog or website. Check out my zoomable image below.

Applications for Education could be a useful tool for displaying large images that students have captured with a camera or created by hand in an art class. If students are doing work with textures and you want to be able to displayed their textured work online, a high resolution image is necessary. Unfortunately, large high resolution images are hard to display on most blog, wiki, and website pages. Putting that high resolution image into will make it possible to see the textured details of a high resolution image.