Tuesday, July 31, 2012

July's Most Popular Posts on Free Technology for Teachers

It's almost hard for me to believe that July is coming to an end in just a few hours from now. I hope that all of you have had a chance to enjoy the summer (and I hope that those of you in the southern hemisphere are enjoying the winter too).

This month I've been fortunate to travel and present in many places. Thank you to all of you who have helped to make that possible by inviting me to your schools, referring me to your friends and colleagues, and by sharing the posts I write here. I also have to say thank you again to the wonderful guest bloggers who stepped-in while I was traveling in Iceland earlier this month. Without all of you Free Technology for Teachers would not be what it is today. Thank you! As I do every month, I've created a list of the most popular posts in July 2012.

Here are the most popular posts of July 2012:
1. Say Goodbye to iGoogle and Hello to Symbaloo
2. 47 Page Guide to Google Sites
3. How to Ace Your Interview for a Teaching Position
4. 10 Ways to Create Videos Without Installing Software
5. 5 Ways to Use Google Sites in Schools
6. Making Educational Blogging Work for You
7. Mobile Formative Assessment: A One Device Solution
8. One Music Class - One iPad - Now What?
9. Gathering Feedback With Socrative Student Activities
10. MIT Video - More Than 10,000 Educational Videos

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.
Academic Pub is a service for creating custom etextbooks.
MasteryConnect provides a network for teachers to share and discover Common Core assessments.
ABCya.com is a provider of free educational games for K-5.
Lesley University offers quality online graduate programs for teachers.
The University of Maryland Baltimore County offers graduate programs for teachers.
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 47,500 others who do subscribe via these links.
Subscribe via RSSSubscribe via Email.
Like Free Technology for Teachers on  Facebook.
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Websites Like - Find Related Sites and Tools

If you have ever found a website that you really like and wished that there were more like, Websites Like is a website you should try. Websites Like helps you find sites that are similar to your favorites. To find similar sites just enter the url of a like that you like and let Websites Like suggest similar sites to you.

Applications for Education
Websites Like could be a helpful research tool for students. When a student find a site that contains useful information they can try Websites Like to find more sites that could help them out.

Website on Steroids: Creating a Powerful Blog

This is a guest post from Dan Klumper.

The topic of using blogs in education is nothing new. One thing I have noticed over the years is that many teachers use blogs in basic ways, such as posting a question(s) and having the students respond/answer. This is good from time to time, but a blog can be so much more than that. A blog can by one of the most dynamic teaching tools a teacher could have. It can be a review tool, learning tool, creating tool, collaboration tool, a sharing tool or all of them. With this post, I want to give some useful tips and ideas that can be used to make a dynamic blog. So, let’s go.

  • The Silent Review: The silent review video is something I started this past year. This is a video that my students and I make together. As you will see in the video, it is such a simple way to review, but a very helpful one. The video can be posted on your blog for the students to access easily and watch leading up to the test. The attached video is a review over Greek Mythology. (be sure the students’ answers are the correct ones!)

  • WSG Live! My blog is called Water for Sixth Grade, so at the end of each unit, I have a WSG Live! review event. This review tool allows me to study with the students the night before the test. I am at my computer at my home, and they are on theirs at their homes. (How often can a student review with the teacher the night before?) For 30-45 minutes, I go online and with my blog, ask my students questions on my WSG Live! post. We discuss the material we have been studying together.  I take off comment moderation which allows the students to answer my questions and have their responses post immediately. This is a great way to review interactively.

  • Prezi Online collaboration: I am sure you are all familiar with Prezi. So let’s take Prezi and combined it with our blog. I posted a prezi on my blog that could be edited by anyone. I told my students that sometime over the next week, they were to add anything they know or learned about our topic (ancient Egypt). At the end of the week, we had a ton of things posted. The next step was to take what was added to the Prezi and organize it into topics such as “Nile River” or “Pyramids” or “Religioni.” This forced the students to do some thinking as to which category each piece of info went into.

  • Keep it Fresh: There is a multitude of tools that can be used through your blog. Create a comic on Pixton to help students learn/review in a more fun way. Have the students post a thought/comment on Wall-Wisher. Have the students create an imaginary conversation between them and someone of their choice about a topic. Post some online flashcards for them with flashcardmachine. Hold a debate on your blog, which allows everybody to have a voice, instead of just one kid getting called on. Share student work, post interesting videos. The possibilities are endless!

Keep in mind, you want your blog to be something that the students want to go to. So don’t “over blog” but try to keep new and useful/interesting things going. Start building momentum and remind/show the students how helpful it can be.  Soon, the students will “buy in” to your blog and jump on board. And when that happens, you shall have a dynamic blog.

My name is Dan Klumper and I live and teach in Brandon, SD. I have taught 6th grade social studies for the past six years. I am originally from Worthington, MN. I attended Augustana College in Sioux Falls, SD. I have a passion for technology in education because I believe it can make a huge impact on today’s students. Thank you.
Blog: http://waterforsixthgrade.blogspot.com
twitter: @danklumper
email: Daniel.Klumper@k12.sd.us 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Practice Piano With JoyTunes for iPad

JoyTunes is a small collection of iPad apps that I reviewed earlier this summer. JoyTunes builds apps that you can use to practice piano and recorder. With JoyTunes installed you play your physical instrument, but get directions and feedback through the app on your iPad. Last week they launched a new app for learning to play the national anthems of many countries on the piano.

Piano Summer Games from JoyTunes is a new free iPad app. The app provides directions and feedback for playing the national anthems of forty countries. You can play on your piano or play on a virtual keyboard on your iPad. You can compete with other JoyTunes users by earning points for playing the anthems correctly.

Applications for Education
JoyTunes could be a good piano tutor for students who have iPads. You can download the Piano Summer Games app here.

Try Duolingo to Learn Spanish, German, and French

Duolingo is a free site on which you can learn Spanish, German, and French. To learn on Duolingo you read, listen to, and translate words and phrases. For example if I want to learn Spanish I'll be shown Spanish words with translations. I can can hear the words pronounced too. Then to practice I type and or speak translations. The activities start out with simple words and phrases. As I become more proficient, Duolingo gives me more challenging phrases. To help me track my progress Duolingo awards me point and virtual badges.

Applications for Education
Duolingo won't replace in-person instruction, but it could be a good site for students to use to practice writing and speaking a new language.

Grading Made Easy with Diigo & Jing

This is a guest post from Rebecca Johnson.

Both Diigo and Jing have been written about on numerous occasions here at the Free Technology for Teachers blog, but I wanted to share my experiences using both tools when grading assignments. I teach an information literacy course for the college where I work as a librarian. This course requires students to create an annotated bibliography as their final project; but there’s one issue that I continually run into time and time again - students would submit their sources throughout the quarter, but when it came time to put the bibliography together, they never could find their sources again which left them scrambling to search for additional content. This past quarter, I tried something completely different, and it worked beautifully!

Students were required to create a Diigo account at the beginning of the quarter, and when searching for books, journal articles, or scholarly websites, they would save their sources using the diigolet tool (a bookmarklet). As the image indicates, students were required to provide me with an APA citation, and their summary annotation within the description field of the bookmark area. When students were finished searching for that week, they would submit their Diigo library URL to me, which made it very easy to continue grading their work as they advanced through the course.

Once students submitted their work to me through Diigo, I needed some way of grading it visually so they would know exactly what mistakes were made in order make the necessary changes and complete the final project. I’ve used Jing in the past to create screencasts, but my number one 
use is screen capturing. I mark-up student work and provide the screen capture URL for them to view. The image indicates an example of what a student missed in their Diigo library and how I marked it up using Jing. 

This combination of grading has worked much better than I ever thought it would, and as an added bonus I have even had students ask how to download Jing for their own computers!
Rebecca Johnson teaches Information Literacy at Harrison College and is transitioning into an Instruction and Emerging Technologies Librarian position with Manchester University.  Follow her online at BeccaLovesBooks (Twitter @beccalovesbooks). 

Editor's note: Jing Pro is scheduled to be shut down in February 2013. TechSmith (the producers of Jing) do offer other screen capture products. You can find a list of other screen capture tools here

Sunday, July 29, 2012

A Short Review of the Nexus 7

When I pulled into my driveway on Friday evening there were two boxes waiting for me. One contained new mountain biking clothing. The other contained my new Nexus 7 tablet. I'm sure that most of you don't care about my mountain biking clothing, but I have a hunch that many of you are interested in my thoughts about the Nexus 7 tablet. This is my preliminary hands-on review of the Nexus 7.

What I Like About the Nexus 7:
1. The screen. It is bright and crisp. Reading on the screen doesn't stress my eyes like my Galaxy 10.1 does.
2. The size. I can hold it in one hand and reach every part of the screen (I have fairly average size hands for an average 5' 11" man).
3. Android Jelly Bean. One of the features that I like is zoom option when trying to select a link or other email font feature.
4. Chrome. I can run Chrome as the web browser and sync it to my laptop and desktop.
5. The camera clarity. When I used it for a 30 minute Skype call it it was perfect.

What I don't like about the Nexus 7:
1. The size. The screen size makes the device default to the mobile phone interface. You can change this if you root the device, but I think that voids the warranty.
2. The lack of a back camera. There is only one camera and it is front facing. I could capture a picture with it if I held it backwards, but I wouldn't know for sure what I was capturing.

Would I buy it for students?
So far I feel the same way about the Nexus 7 as I do about the iPad and about my Samsung Galaxy tablet. I would not purchase a tablet as the only device for a 1:1 program. Yes, these tablets can be used to create content but that's not what they're designed to do.  That said, I would purchase the Nexus 7 for elementary schools before I purchased iPads for elementary schools. Why? Because I can buy two Nexus 7 tablets for the cost of the least expensive iPad.

This post was written on my Nexus 7.

Exploring the Olympics on Google Earth and Google Maps

If you've been watching the Olympic Games and wondering how you might incorporate them in your classroom, here are couple of resources to investigate.

The Google Earth Blog has published a short list of Google Earth tours based on the Olympic Games in London. The list includes a fly-over tour of the marathon route, Street View imagery of the Olympic Park, and 3D models of some of the Olympic venues.

Google's London 2012 page includes a Google Map showing the distribution of Olympic medals. Visitors can see the distribution of medals according to medal color and country.

Applications for Education
When I saw the Google Map of medal distribution I immediately thought of a simple geography lesson. Students can browse for medal winners in other countries then research those countries. To take it a step further, you might ask students to investigate why a country produces exceptional athletes in a given sport. For example, you might challenge students to find out why South Korea excels at archery.

Larry Ferlazzo has a large list of Olympic resources going, I encourage you to check out Larry's list

Beyond the App - You Found an App, Now What?

This is a guest post from Sarah Emerling.

With all of the technology integration and the plethora of academic apps flooding the market, the time is ripe for teachers to take advantage of these teaching tools.  More and more, classrooms are incorporating iPods and iPads into everyday instruction.  This is such a gift for today’s students.  There is no denying that iDevices, when used efficiently, are some of our greatest teaching tools.  However, using this technology for effective instruction is a challenge that teachers need to face and accept.

There is a prolific amount of educational apps available for teachers and schools.  From simple flash card type math drills, to more elaborate science instruction and quiz format games, there are just too many apps to detail in any single blog post.  Still, apps alone do not make an efficient instructional tool.  By all means, teach the students how to use them, put them into practice, and utilize their brilliance, but without instruction, the apps are just another support device, not a teaching tool.  iDevices can be used in so many other ways, and as a student-driven instructional tool, they can’t be beat.  

Change how you deliver information
With the big push to increase the level of rigor in classrooms, note-making is an easy and engaging way to have students create their own notes, instead of simply copying down information given to them.  Utilize podcasts (either create your own using Keynote or Powerpoint or download free podcasts from iTunesU) and have students generate their own notes.  Give students a short podcast as an introduction to a topic and a time limit.  Students watch the podcast and create their own notes showing ownership of the knowledge instead of simply being given the information.  Additionally, students love the change from a teacher lecturing to holding the instruction in their hands.

Expand the definition of “text”
Text comes in so many formats; authors don’t necessarily write books.  Show students that the world is full of text by connecting with them on a musical level.  Use songs and music videos to teach literary concepts like author’s purpose, figurative language, and story elements (all while being careful of copyright law).  Students respond to the connection of language arts concepts to popular music.  By putting the music or the video on an iPod students are fully immersed in the experience, and therefore in the text.  Using this type of instruction is particularly helpful for non-readers or low-level readers.  For a student who struggles to read, upper level literacy skills can be difficult.  By giving the student text that is auditory, it takes away the struggle to read and puts the focus on the comprehension skills.

Make movies . . . and much much more
The newest generations of the iPod and iPad come with cameras and internal microphones.  Using these tools, students can create any number of projects, again addressing the synthesis level of Bloom’s Taxonomy.  Using the microphone, younger students can record weekly fluency reads for the purpose of teacher conferencing or running records.  Teachers can also have students record exit slips telling what they learned, additional questions, or summarizing the lesson.  Utilize the camera to have students vodcast.  Video-casting is a fun way for students to express opinions.  Vodcasting impressions of a book, or the details from an historical event is an engaging way to make predictions or analyze thoughts.  Have students create their own movies for any number of reasons - propaganda lessons in social studies, animated book reviews, or student led lessons on math topics.  Putting the devices in the hands of the students ultimately leads to creation-based learning at a level that can’t be delivered solely by a teacher.

Ultimately, putting an iDevice in the hands of students without proper guidance or instruction can lead to play and fun, but not always learning.  Using apps, and apps alone, with solid teaching can absolutely be beneficial to students.  But with the wealth of other resources that iPods and iPads offer, to only use them for apps is underutilizing this valuable tool.  The assortment of student-created products that can be conceived by using the other features of the iDevices is limitless.  It puts the ownership of knowledge into the students hands and makes for better instruction and ultimately better thinkers. 

Sarah Emerling is a special education teacher and a technology coach in Aiken County, South Carolina.  You can follow her technology integration as she chronicles her iLessons in a new blog: http://ilessonlady.wordpress.com/. She also writes app reviews for http://www.funeducationalapps.com/.   You can contact her at sbemerling@gmail.com or follow her school tech and apps boards on Pinterest at http://pinterest.com/butler5/

Saturday, July 28, 2012

This Week's Most Popular Posts on Free Technology for Teachers

This week I was in Limestone, Maine participating and teaching during the Maine School of Science and Math's STEM conference. In the evenings I stayed in a lovely little cabin across the border in New Brunswick. While the cabin was great for me and my loyal dog, it was not so good for Internet connectivity. The limited Internet connection in the evening resulted in fewer posts this week. I'll get back up to speed next  week. In the meantime...

Here are this week's most popular posts: 
1. 101 Math Questions
2. Aviary to Close Their Advanced Suite
3. Five Tools for Modern Postcard Lessons
4. 5 Ways to Use Google Sites in Schools
5. Use the YouTube Upload Widget to Collect Videos from Students
6. Meograph Opens Four Dimensional Storytelling to Everyone
7. Try Pearltrees for iPhone and iPad

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.
Academic Pub is a service for creating custom etextbooks.
MasteryConnect provides a network for teachers to share and discover Common Core assessments.
ABCya.com is a provider of free educational games for K-5.
Lesley University offers quality online graduate programs for teachers.
The University of Maryland Baltimore County offers graduate programs for teachers.
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 47,500 others who do subscribe via these links.
Subscribe via RSSSubscribe via Email.
Like Free Technology for Teachers on  Facebook.
Find me on Twitter or on Google+

Are you looking for a keynote speaker or workshop facilitator?
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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Conduct Conference Calls for Free on Speek

Speek is a free conference call service that I learned about a few weeks ago on Larry Ferlazzo's blog. When you sign-up for Speek you create a URL for your conference call. Then enter the email addresses of the people that you want to join your call. When the recipient clicks the link and enters his or her phone number, Speek calls them and connects them to you and the rest of the conference. For now Speek only works in the United States and works best with less than ten callers.

Speek - Fast and easy conference calls on the go from Speek on Vimeo.

Applications for Education
Speek could be a good service to use to organize small conference calls for parent-teacher conferences or for small virtual department meetings.

Draw On Your Phone or Tablet to Search Google

This afternoon Google released a new way to search on your iPad, iPhone, Android tablet, and Android phone. Now instead of typing your query into the Google Search box, you can just handwrite a word or phrase to search. See it in action in the video below.

For now Handwrite for Google mobile only works on Android tablets running 4.0+, Android phones on 2.3+, and iOS 5+.

Applications for Education
Handwrite could be useful for students who are frustrated by trying to type search phrases on a touchscreen device.

Monosnap Is a Promising New Screen Capture Tool

There are many good screen capture tools available on the web today. Some of my favorites are listed here. Today, I found a new screen capture tool that I like.

Monosnap is a new, free screen capture tool for Mac users. Monosnap is advertising that they will soon offer it for Windows, Android, and iOS too.

To get started download Monosnap from the Mac store. Once installed you can use Monosnap to capture a portion or all of your screen. One neat option is to capture your screen after a ten second delay. After capturing your screen you can draw on your image, type on it, or highlight portions of the screen capture image. You can save your screen captures on your computer or upload them to a free Monosnap account.

Applications for Education
Monosnap, like other screen capture tools, could be used for creating directions on how to use a new program or application. If Monosnap does come through on the promise of Android and iOS apps it could be a great application to use to create annotated screen captures on those devices too.

How to Make a Meerkat

National Geographic Education has a fun puppet building activity that I recently Stumbled Upon. Build a Meerkat is a lesson designed for students in pre-K through grade 4. In the lesson students create a meerkat puppet using the templates and directions provided by National Geographic. The point of the lesson is to get students to analyze how a meerkat's body is adapted to its habitat.

Applications for Education
The concept behind Build a Meerkat could be applied to a lot of other animals as well as to plants.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Make Fitness Fun with Google Maps

In the past I've written about using Google Maps in a physical education and or health education class to have students map walking and biking routes in their communities. Today, on Google Maps Mania I read about another use of Google Maps that could be incorporated into a physical education class.

Real Indoor is an interesting use of Google Maps Street View. The purpose of the site is to provide you with a Street View course that you can view while pedaling on a stationary bike. The view changes as you pedal. To have the view change at about the same pace at which you are pedaling you do have to enter some information about your stationary bicycle and enter your weight. Real Indoor will work for any places that have Street View imagery. For example, you could virtually pedal from San Francisco to Oakland. Or you could virtually pedal from Portland, Maine to Boston, Massachusetts.

Applications for Education
When I read about Real Indoor my mind instantly went to the bike room that the students in my district's high school use. Rather than turning on the bike room's TV, project a route on to a wall or screen. Perhaps I'd challenge students to see if they could virtually pedal to Florida for spring break.

Manage Group Tasks Online & Offline With WeDoIst

ToDoIst and its sister service WeDoIst are task management tools that I've covered a couple of times in the past. Most recently I included them in this list of group project management tools for students. Today, ToDoIst and WeDoIst released an update that enables users to manage their task lists online and offline. Now users can manage their task lists even without an Internet connection and when they reconnect to the web their changes are synched to their accounts.

Applications for Education
The user interface of one task management tool might appeal to one person while not appealing at all to another. It is for that reason that I like to provide my students with a list of task management tools to try. That said, what I like about Todoist is that it provides a variety of ways for students to access their to-do lists through the web, with desktop clients, and through mobile devices.

Bad Math in the Real World

A couple of years ago I stopped into a McDonald's restaurant to grab a quick snack. At the counter there was a sign advertising two apple pies for 99 cents. It sounded like a good deal until I looked up at the big menu board and noticed that the price for one apple pie was only 49 cents. I wish I had taken a picture of the two signs. When I shared this story on Twitter, Danny Nicholson replied with a link to his Bad Maths Flickr group.

The Bad Maths Flickr group contains lots of examples of bad math spotted in stores and other public places.

Applications for Education
The Bad Maths Flickr group could be a good place to find some images that contain simple mathematics problems for your students to solve. For example, ask students to find the flaw in the math of this grocery store offer or this offer for cat food.

Try Pearltrees for iPhone and iPad

Pearltrees is a nice tool for visually organizing pictures, links, and videos that you find on the web. Pearltrees are webs of the links, images, and videos that you find and organize. You can arrange and re-arrange your webs in as many ways and as many times as you like. I previously wrote about the web version of Pearltrees last November. Today, I received an email from Pearltrees announcing their new iPhone app.

The Pearltrees iPhone app is a free app that allows you to organize your links, images, and videos just as you would on the web version of Pearltrees. I don't have an iPhone, but I do have an iPad that I tried used Pearltrees on. The Pearltrees iPhone app appears to function the same way as the iPad app.

Applications for Education
Whether they use it on the web or use the iOS apps, Pearltrees can be a good tool for students to use to visually organize their findings around a topic. The iOS apps for Pearltrees takes that same visual organization element and puts it on a touch screen device.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A New Tool for Choosing a Creative Commons License

Creative Commons licensing can be a good way to explicitly state the terms by which people can use and re-use your creative written, audio, and visual works. But selecting the license that is right for you can be confusing. Thankfully, as I learned through a Tweet by Jen Deyenberg, the Creative Commons organization has a new tool to help you choose the best license for your situation.

The new interactive Creative Commons license chooser helps you select the right license for your work. To select the right license for your work just answer a few questions and a license will be recommended to you.

If you're not sure what Creative Commons is and or how it differs from Copyright, I recommend watching Copyright and Creative Commons Explained by Common Craft. I've embedded the video below.

Applications for Education
Even if you and your students are not going to use Creative Commons licensing, the Creative Commons license chooser could be helpful in understanding what the various Creative Commons licenses mean.

Eating Crow... Or the Speed of Wikipedia Editing

This morning at the Maine School of Science and Math my Google workshop went off the rails a bit when the topic of Wikipedia reliability came up. I made the bold assertion that I could make an incorrect edit to a Wikipedia page and within one half of an hour it would be corrected by someone in the Wikipedia editing community. I was challenged on this claim by Dan Meyer. In response to the challenge I edited the Wikipedia entry about calculus to read that it was a branch of social studies. Well it wasn't changed back within the thirty minute window that I claimed, but it was changed back in three hours and six minutes.

Why I made the claim:
I wanted to prove that the editing process for incorrect Wikipedia entries was faster than that of print periodicals.

What I learned from this:
Don't make such a bold assertion or if I do I should edit a topic that is bit more contentious than calculus. For example, if I had edited the page about Penn State or Joe Paterno it probably would have been addressed quicker because more Wikipedians are paying attention to it these days. (I didn't edit one of those pages because I didn't have a long enough history as an editor to be granted access to editing those pages).

Why I still think Wikipedia is good:
A three hour response time to a page that is not about a contentious topic isn't bad and sure is faster than it would take to correct a mistake in a textbook.
The references on a Wikipedia page often lead to good information. We should still teach students to verify that information too.
Articles that Wikipedia editors believe are not neutral, lack verified references, or have other flaws are labeled as such.
Click image to view full size.

Some reports about Wikipedia's accuracy: 
The most well-known study is this December 2005 report by Nature.
This PDF includes references to studies by Political Science and Politics and Psychological Medicine. The same PDF announces a forthcoming study by Chris Davies and Naomi Norman on the reliability of Wikipedia. I'm looking forward to reading the findings of that study.   

For the record I'm glad Dan challenged my assertion even though I was eating crow for two and half hours this morning. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Use the YouTube Upload Widget to Collect Videos from Students

Last week YouTube released two new tools that you can put into your website or blog to collect video feedback from visitors. The YouTube Upload Widget and YouTube Direct Lite can be installed on your blog or website to allow vistors to upload videos and or record videos directly through their webcams. The videos they submit will go to your YouTube account.

The YouTube Upload Widget is the easier of the two tools to install on your blog or website. To install the YouTube Upload Widget you do have to be somewhat comfortable with HTML. My HTML skills are crude but I was still able to install the widget into a test blog by following YouTube's documentation here.

YouTube Direct Lite also allows you to collect video submissions from site visitors. YouTube Direct Lite has to be deployed on a server. I'm working with a spotty internet connection in the evenings this week and therefore have yet to delve into the server that I have access to to try YouTube Direct Lite. If you have tried it, I'm interested to know how it went for you.

Applications for Education
The YouTube Upload Widget could be a tool to implement on a course website or blog to have students contribute to a gallery of "b-roll" media that all of their classmates can use in multimedia projects. You could also use the YouTube Upload Widget to have students contribute to a video blog in which they quickly share their reflections on what they learned that week and or ask questions that they have about the week's lessons.

Two Days of Learning With Dan Meyer

As I mentioned yesterday, this week I'm facilitating some workshops at the Maine School of Science and Math. Last night's keynote was delivered by Dan Meyer. I had watched Dan's TED Talk many times and have his blog in my RSS feed, but last night was the first time I got to see him speak in person. Today, I sat in on one of workshops. What follows is my slightly edited notes from two days of learning with Dan Meyer. Please keep in mind that I'm not a mathematics teacher so my perspective is probably different than that of most of the audience which was almost entirely composed of math and science teachers.

Notes from the keynote (my thoughts in italics):

Kids have limited patience for new things. Choose wisely.
What's your rationale for selection?
My rationale is to ask myself if it will help students learn? 

Capture, share, and resolve peplexity.
Create perplexity not entertainment or engagement. In other words show students perplexing "problems."

Let's not pour ranch lets make better broccoli. 
This was a reference to Khan academy being ranch dressing and broccoli being old rote mathematics problems. Pose better questions, don't try to fancy-up boring questions. 

Dan's digital handouts for the week. 

Use Google Voice to record audio notes to yourself when you come across a perplexing problem/situation to share with students. 

Move from engaging questions to perplexing questions. 

Crowd-sourcing perplexing questions. Dan shared how he uses Twitter to post images and videos that he finds perplexing. Gather feedback from folks on Twitter as to the first questions that come to their minds when they see the video or image. 

Neat graph of water consumption in Edmonton during gold medal game of 2010 Olympics.
Google this and see if you can find the pattern. 

Wolfram Alpha forces us to change the mathematics questions we ask. 

Notes as a non-math teacher sitting in on a math instruction workshop. 
In other words, I was the student who "doesn't get math" in the group. 

Dan modeled what he talked about in his keynote. 

Showed a short time-lapse video that raised some perplexing questions from the class. 

Had everyone write down the first question that came to mind. 

Collect and posted the questions then had students vote on which ones they also like. Question with the most votes was the first the class tried to tackle. 

The class was tasked with finding out how many pennies were in the pyramid in the video

Before tackling the problem everyone had to write down their estimates as well as their "impossibly high" and "impossibly low" estimates. During debrief we learned that this is done so that students like me who "don't get math" and like to guess can satisfy the need for a gut-level reaction. 

On a personal note, as someone who was out of my element in a room of teachers who have forgotten more about math than I'll ever know, Dan was quite patient with me and indulged my desire to figure out the phraseology for using Wolfram Alpha to solve the problem. That experience proved to me that Dan definitely knows how to pose perplexing problems that can't be solved with a simple search on Wolfram Alpha unless you already know quite a bit of mathematics. I'm looking forward to learning more this week. 

Meograph Opens Four Dimensional Storytelling to Everyone

Meograph is a new digital storytelling tool that I wrote about in the spring. At the time it was in a closed beta period. Over the weekend I received an email from its founder informing me that as of today anyone can use Meograph. Meograph provides tools for creating map-based and timeline-based narrated stories.

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
Now that it's live for everyone, use Meograph offers a nice 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. Meograph recommends using Google Chrome for the best viewing and creation experience.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

101 Math Questions

This evening I had the pleasure of hearing Dan Meyer give the keynote at the Maine School of Science and Math's Educator Summer Camp. I'll post my notes from his talk tomorrow, but in the meantime I want to point out Dan's 101 Questions site. 101 Questions is a site on which he is sharing images and videos as prompts for developing math questions. Each image and video has a 140 character field in which you can enter your question. Questions are compiled and can be Tweeted. Take a look at the top 10 to get a feel for what you will find on 101 Questions. I've embedded one of the videos from 101 Questions below.

Incredible Shrinking Dollar from Dan Meyer on Vimeo.

I won't pretend to be able to explain the larger purpose of the site as well as Dan does, so I'll just encourage you to go read his blog post about it. And if you need more background on who Dan Meyer is, watch his TED Talk Math Class Needs a Makeover.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Aviary to Close Their Advanced Suite

For the last two years I've been a big fan of Aviary's advanced suite of online image editing and sound editing tools. Aviary's Myna and Roc music editors have been featured in many of workshops and presentations over that time. This evening I received an email from Aviary informing me that they are shutting down their suite of online image and sound editing tools. The closure will be effective on September 15. You can read the whole email here.

Off the top of my head I can't think of another free, online sound editor that is as robust as Aviary's Myna tool. I will be on the lookout for a replacement though and will share it when I find it. If you have a suggestion, please leave it in the comments.

Five Tools for Modern Postcard Lessons

Yesterday, I found a postcard creation tool and lesson on Read Write Think. The RWT Postcard Creator walks students through the process of addressing, writing, and mailing a postcard. It's a nice little activity, but as I was trying it I couldn't help but wonder how relevant it is to today's students who may go never send a postcard because all of their communications happen digitally. As I thought about the RWT lesson I started to brainstorm a list of tools that can be used by students to send virtual postcards to their friends and family.

Instagram was the first option that came to mind even though it can't be used by students under 13.

PicMonkey is a free photo editing tool that can be used by anyone without registering on the site. Using PicMonkey you can apply many different frames and effects to your images. PicMonkey has text editing options that could be used to create a greeting on your image.

PicSay is an Android app (free and pro versions available) that students can use to add text and special effects to their images before sharing them with friends.

Animoto could be used by students to create and email short video postcards.

AudioBoo can be used to record short audio messages. Images can be attached to the messages. AudioBoos is available on the web, on iOS devices, and on Android devices.

Applications for Education
All of these resources could be used in a "back to school" activity that students complete to introduce themselves to you and their classmates. Students can work with images to create short introductions that highlight their favorite people, places, and things.

This Week's Most Popular Posts on Free Technology for Teachers

Good morning from Maine where I am home and relaxing after a week of workshops in Cambridge, Massachusetts with Ed Tech Teacher. Thank you to everyone who joined us. Next week I'll be in Limestone, Maine to run some Google Across the Curriculum workshops. If you're interested in having me run a workshop at your school, please click here. Thank you to all of you who have helped make these opportunities available to me.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Save Your Gmail Attachments in Google Drive
2. Listen and Read - Non-fiction Read Along Stories
3. Four Good Resources for Learning to Write HTML
4. Two Books to Read Before School Starts
5. A Great Timeline for U.S. History Students
6. Animated Science Lessons for Children
7. How to Easily Blur Faces in YouTube Videos

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ABCya.com is a provider of free educational games for K-5.
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Friday, July 20, 2012

5 Ways to Use Google Sites in Schools

Over the last two weeks I've had five occasions to work with teachers to either develop new websites or improve existing websites in Google Sites. Over the course of these workshops I've found that there are five ways that Google Sites are commonly being used in schools.

Before you jump to the list, the shameless promotion department at Free Technology for Teachers would like to mention that you should see Google Sites for Teachers if you need help getting started using Google Sites.

5 Ways to Use Google Sites in Schools
1. As a wiki: Google Sites can be used as a wiki if you share your site with others and invite them to be editors. As a teacher you could start a site then add your students as owners or editors on the site. If you add them as owners they will be able to start new pages. If you add them as editors they will only be allowed to edit existing pages. You can also use the new page-level permissions option to allow students to only edit the pages that you grant them access to.

2. As a digital portfolio: Google Sites can be used by students to create digital portfolios featuring their best works and accomplishments. I would encourage high school students to develop a digital portfolio that they can share with university admissions officers. Teachers should also consider developing a digital portfolio of their best lesson plans, credentials, and references to include when they apply for teaching positions.

3. As a digital file cabinet: If you have PDFs, Word files, or other documents that you want your students to be able to easily download, consider using the File Cabinet option in Google Sites. By creating a File Cabinet page you provide a place for those files to be easily accessed. You might also consider putting up a File Cabinet page for forms like permission slips that parents need to access.

4. As a blog: Use the Announcements template to create a blog page within your Google Sites. You can update the blog or make the blog page collaborative and let your students contribute to a class blog.

5. As a website: I left the most obvious option for last. If you need to create a place where parents and students can come to find important information about your course(s) or your school, Google Sites provides all of the tools for that. Incorporate a blog element (see #4 above) for posting updates and use the rest of the pages to house information that doesn't change that often. You can also incorporate a file cabinet (see #3 above) to post forms for parents to download. And if you're using Google Calendar, you can easily add a calendar of events to any page in your Google Site.

How are you using Google Sites in your school? Please leave a suggestion in the comments. 

BoomWriter Offers Collaborative Publishing for Kids

This week I had the opportunity to have dinner with Ken Haynes, one of the co-founders of BoomWriter, to talk about what his service offers and how it got started. Ken was a sixth grade teacher in a Brookline, Massachusetts school when he and his business partner started BoomWriter.   BoomWriter was started to provide a safe online place in which students could collaboratively construct a story.

Here's how BoomWriter works; BoomWriter provides a story starter for a story and students continue the story by writing additional chapters. The chapters are submitted anonymously by students to the project. After the submissions are made students can vote for their favorite submissions. The chapters receiving the most votes make it into a book that students, teachers, and parents can choose to have published by BoomWriter. 

Teachers can register their classes and have their students anonymously contribute to a project that is started by using one of the BoomWriter story starters or started by a prompt enter by him or herself. The anonymity only extends to other students as teachers can see who made which contributions and offer feedback to students.

Applications for Education
BoomWriter is a natural fit in a creative writing lesson, but as Ken and I were talking we realized that it could also be useful in a history course. In a history course a teacher could have students write about various events and eras in history to create a small textbook. Also in a history course BoomWriter could be used by students to develop a historical fiction story.

In the interest of full disclosure I will mention that Ken did pay for dinner but I do not have any other financial or in-kind affiliation with BoomWriter. If that changes, I will be sure to mention it in future posts. 

MIT Video - More Than 10,000 Educational Videos

Last night I stumbled upon this video of David Breashears presenting at the Cambridge Science Festival. The video is hosted by MIT Video which I either had never seen before or had completely forgotten about (a real possibility after 6500+ blog posts).

MIT Video is a giant collection of more than 10,000 educational videos organized into more than 150 channels. The largest channel is the Open Courseware channel that contains more than 2,300 lectures from MIT's open courses.

All of the videos are either MIT productions or videos approved by editors at MIT Video. Only people with MIT email addresses are allowed to contribute to the collection. Some videos are hosted by MIT Video while others are from YouTube.

Applications for Education
If you're looking for educational videos to use to supplement your instruction in your high school or undergraduate courses, it will be well worth your time to search through MIT Video.

We Choose the Moon and Other Apollo 11 Resources

Today is the 43rd anniversary of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepping onto the moon. Here are some resources for teaching and learning about the Apollo 11 mission.

We Choose the Moon is a project put together by the John F. Kennedy Presidential LibraryWe Choose the Moon has eleven stages that viewers can follow as the mission progresses. If you visit We Choose the Moon you can explore image and video galleries capturing the sights and sounds of the lead-up to the launch. Included in these galleries are videos of President Kennedy talking about the goal of putting a man on the moon.

NASA has a short video that includes the audio from President Kennedy's speech to Congress in which he states the goal of putting a man on the moon. The video explains the significance of Kennedy's proclamation in 1961 and today. Watch the video below.

Snag Learning hosts Journey to the Moon.  Beginning with the formation of NASA and concluding with the Apollo 11 crew safely returning to Earth, Journey to the Moon is a 44 minute film tracing the development the US space exploration program. Watch the film and find discussion questions here.

Watch more free documentaries

Planet In Action is a fun website that features three games based on Google Earth. All three games utilize Google Earth imagery and navigation. The three games are Ships, Places, and Moon Lander. In "Places" you navigate, from a helicopter view, five popular places including the Grand Canyon. In "Ships" you become the captain of a fleet of ships to navigate famous ports of call. And in "Moon Lander" you take control of the Apollo 11 moon lander and guide the "Eagle" to touch-down.

Collaboratively Create Animations on This Exquisite Forest

This Exquisite Forest is an online art project developed by Tate Modern and Google. This Exquisite Forest is a site for collaboratively creating animated stories. The stories are called trees and the story starters are called seeds. There are ten public trees that you can make contributions to. You can also create your own seeds and invite others to grow a tree with you. To create your own seeds you do have to contribute to an existing tree first.

Applications for Education
This Exquisite Forest could be a good site for students to use to work together to create animated stories. If you have students who don't fancy themselves as artists you might have students work in groups in which some students write and outline of the story and others do the drawing of the story.

To use This Exquisite Forest you will need to be using an updated modern browser like Chrome or the latest version of Firefox. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Write Interactive Stories on Inkle Writer

Inkle Writer is a neat tool for writing interactive stories that I learned about from Larry Ferlazzo. Inkle Writer provides a platform on which you can write "choose your own adventure" style stories. On Inkle Writer you write each paragraph (or less) as an independent piece that you can connect to other pieces of your story. You can take the story into many directions then piece them together from your menu of paragraphs.

While trying Inkle Writer it struck me as being a bit like Playfic. The difference between the two is that Inkle Writer has a much more visual interface for constructing stories.

Applications for Education
Inkle Writer could be a good platform for students to use to construct narrative stories that contain many characters and plot lines.