Friday, August 31, 2012

Month in Review - The Most Popular Posts

It's the end of the month and I hope that it was good one for everyone. This month I logged more than 20,000 airmiles as I was lucky enough to present at a number of schools and conferences. Thank you to all of my hosts. And thank you to all of you who continue to help Free Technology for Teachers grow. This month we almost reached 50,000 subscribers!

These were the ten most popular posts in August:
1. 43 New Tips for New Teachers
2. 5 Video Projects to Try With Your Students
3. 7 Mobile Apps Students Can Use to Never Lose Handwritten Notes Again
4. A Cheat Sheet for Mac Keyboard Shortcuts
5. This Might Be the Easiest Way to Share Files Yet
6. The Collaborative Lecture
7. A Quick Start Guide to Using YouTube's Editing Tools
8. 5 Alternatives to Aviary for Creating Audio Online
9. Hands-on Science Activities for K-12
10. Give Students Flexibility Like Southwest Airlines Does

Please visit the official advertisers and marketing partners that help keep this blog going.
LearnBoost provides a free online gradebook service for teachers.
Discovery Education & Wilkes University offer online courses for earning Master's degrees in Instructional Media.
Vocabulary Spelling City offers spelling practice activities that you can customize.
The College of St. Scholastica offers M. Ed courses. Currently offering $100 offer per credit.
Academic Pub is a service for creating custom etextbooks.
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.

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Get 25GB of Box Storage with Fetchnotes

This service is no longer available.

I've written about the collaborative task management tool Fetchnotes a couple of times this year (click here for my latest review). This week Fetchnotes announced a great promotion with Box. Now if you register for a Fetchnotes account and a new Box account, you will receive 25GB of free Box space. Since Dropbox dropped support for sharing of folders (for new accounts), Box has become my preferred file hosting and sharing service.

Applications for Education
This summer I got a great Box use idea from Greg Kulowiec. Greg recommended creating a public, shared folder on Box that you fill with important digital hand-outs for your students. Whenever you update the folder your students will automatically be able to access the new files that you have added to the folder. Sign-up for Fetchnotes, try out the task management tools, then enjoy 25GB of Box storage to use in a public, shared folder for your students.

H/T to Make Use Of

We Wants Apps - A Great Place to Find Educational iPad Apps

This service is no longer available.

We Want Apps is a free iPad and iPhone app for discovering new apps for kids. I discovered We Want Apps on David Kapuler's blog and immediately gave it a try on my iPad. With We Want Apps installed on your iPad you can search for apps according to the age of your students, the platform (iPhone or iPad), and price (free or paid). After choosing your search criteria you will be given a list of apps. Click on an app in the search results list to read a detailed description of that app.

You can use We Want Apps without registering. However, if you do register for a We Want Apps account you can bookmark and share your favorite apps. In addition to the search functions, you can also discover new apps by following the We Want Apps "App of the Day" feed.

Applications for Education
Just browsing the App store for educational apps for your students can be a time-consuming and occasionally frustrating process. We Want Apps could save you time and help you find apps that are suitable for your students to use on iPads in your classroom.

A+ Click - Mathematics Games for All Grades

A+ Click is a free site full of online mathematics games for students at all grade levels. You can find games on A+ Click by selecting a grade level then selecting a topic. Alternatively, you select just a topic or just a grade level and browse through all of the games. Students do not need to register in order to play the games.

Applications for Education
If you're looking for some good practice activities for your students to use at home, A+ Click could be a good site to link to your classroom blog. Students receive instant feedback on every question. When students answer enough questions correctly they are asked if they want to move up to the harder level or stay at the same level.

H/T to Kathleen Morris and Sue Waters.

A Magical Guide to Avoiding Plagiarism

A Magical Guide to Avoiding Plagiarism is an infographic guide created by Kate Hart. The guide was published back in June, but I just learned about it yesterday through one of Jenny Luca's Tweets. A Magical Guide to Avoiding Plagiarism uses a Harry Potter theme to succinctly explain to students when and why they need to properly cite the sources of their information. I've embedded the infographic below, but I encourage you to visit Kate Hart's blog post about it as she goes into more depth on the topic of plagiarism.

Applications for Education
A Magical Guide to Avoiding Plagiarism could be a great graphic to print and post in your school's library and or in your classroom. While the infographic doesn't go into the details of how to cite sources, it does provide students with good reminders of when they need to cite the sources of their information. Click here for eight more resources for preventing and detecting plagiarism.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Learnist Launches iPad and iPhone Apps

This service is no longer available.

Back in May I wrote about Learnist being "Pinterest for Learning." I still think that's a fair assessment of what Learnist offers to educators. It's a way to visually bookmark and share lesson plans and other educational resources. Today, Learnist released an iPad app and an iPhone app.
The Learnist iPad and iPhone apps allow you to create boards, browse boards, and share your favorite resources.

Watch the short video below to learn more about what Learnist offers.

Infographic - Too Much Sugar Consumption

Sometimes I see something online that instantly makes me think of a particular teacher. This morning I saw Nursing Your Sweet Tooth on Cool Infographics and instantly thought of my friend Jeni Cash who teaches ninth grade health and with whom I shared a classroom for three years.

Nursing Your Sweet Tooth is all about sugar consumption by Americans. The infographic provides some good, basic information about sources of sugar, how much sugar Americans consume, and the potential health risks of consuming too much sugar.

The infographic is embedded in the frame below.

Applications for Education
Nursing Your Sweet Tooth could be a good resource to use in conjunction with Sugar Stacks and Is Sugar Toxic?

Visual Anatomy - An App for Anatomy Students

Visual Anatomy is an iPad app designed to help students learn the names of muscles, bones, organs, and systems in the human body. To use the app students select a system then click on the pinmarks in each image to learn about those parts of the body. The free version of the app has 300 pinmarks in standard resolution. The paid version of the app has 700 pinmarks with high resolution images.

Applications for Education
Visual Anatomy could be a helpful study aid for high school students studying anatomy and physiology. Click here for seven web-based resources for teaching and learning anatomy and physiology.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Ten Bloggers I Read First

Yesterday, I was asked for a list of the blogs that I recommend reading other than my own. I published a similar list two years ago, but some of those blogs have become less active in the last year. Here is my updated list of the ten blogs that I go to first when my Google Reader account indicates "1000+ unread items."

Larry Ferlazzo
Moving at the Speed of Creativity - Wes Fryer

David Warlick
Dangerously Irrelevant - Dr. Scott McLeod
AKA Riptide Furse - Fred Delventhal
Langwitches - Sylvia Tolisano
Hack Education - Audrey Watters
Gary Stager
Cool Cat Teacher - Vicki Davis
History Tech - Glenn Wiebe

An iPad, a ThinkPad, and a Nexus 7 Walk Into...

In the picture to the left you can see all of the computers and tablets that I am currently using on a somewhat regular basis (click image for full size). Lately, I've been including this picture in some of my keynote presentations as a way to illustrate the point that it's not so much the operating system that matters as much as it is what we do with the technology that we put into classrooms. That said, I'm often asked for opinions about the various devices found in my geek lair (it's actually more of a geek nook) so here they are in no particular order.

My Tablets.
Apple iPad 2: I bought an iPad because I had to have one in order to make a truly informed opinion of them. I find that I use mine primarily for browsing FlipBoard and Feedly. Occasionally, I will write emails on it or put notes into my Evernote account with it. Other than that it gets used for testing apps that I find. When I have to do any kind of serious writing or other content creation, I use one of my laptops or, if I am home, I use the ThinkCentre. Would I go 1:1 with iPads at the middle school or high school levels, no. Would I use them as 1:1 devices in early grades, yes. More on why later in this article.

Google Nexus 7: I bought this almost as soon as it became available. It's the first time in my life that I was an "early adopter" of a physical product. It lacks a rear camera which severely limits its utility for content creation. Aside from that I find myself grabbing my Nexus 7 more often than I grab for my iPad when I want to read or watch something. This is simply because of the form factor. I can easily hold my Nexus 7 in one hand while I cannot do the same with my iPad.

Samsung Galaxy 10.1: I bought this last December and loved it until I got my Nexus 7. Since I got the Nexus 7, I hardly ever pick up this tablet.

My view on tablets in general.
Can you create content with them? Yes. Can you do it easily? Not so much. On all three of my tablets the process of creating content is not as streamlined as it is on my MacBook or on my ThinkPad Edge. Both the iOS and Android have some great apps for content creation, but even the best of those aren't as user-friendly as their desktop equivalents. For that reason, I am still very hesitant to recommend tablets as the only device in a middle school or high school 1:1 program. However, some of the apps and implementations of iPads that I've seen for early years (pre-K through grade 4) are quite impressive and I can see myself getting on board with iPads or Android tablets in those settings.

My laptops and desktop:
Lenovo ThinkCentre M90z: This was given to me by Lenovo last year as part of an edublogger promotion that they ran (about 40 other edubloggers received them too). Had it not been given to me, I probably wouldn't have bought one because I didn't see a need for a desktop in my life nor did I have physical space for it where I was living at the time. It actually ended up residing on the kitchen table for six months. All that aside, I have found myself using it most of the time when I am home and trying to bang out a lot of tasks at once. The large screen (23") provides more than enough space for me to have multiple, usable windows open at once.

I don't use the touch screen that much, but when I have used it it has been great. I had one of my former neighbor's children use it for some mathematics games last year and he loved it! I did have one problem with this computer, a complete hard drive failure that I did not see coming. It simply stopped working one day, but Lenovo was kind enough to replace it and they even sent a tech to my house to replace it.

If I was looking to outfit a computer lab with or school library with desktop units, I would not hesitate to buy a ThinkCentre PC. In fact, six months ago I went to a school in Massachusetts that had bought ThinkCentres for the school library.

Apple MacBook Pro: I absolutely love my MacBook Pro for three reasons; Keynote, Pages, and iMovie. If not for those three applications I would not have bought a MacBook. I just can't find any Windows applications that I like as much as those three.

Lenovo ThinkPad 14": I bought this computer 18 months ago because I needed an affordable laptop with a decent processor. I bought one with an i5 processor instead of the stock i3 processor. It has never failed me and I used it for all of my presentations last year until I got my MacBook pro. If you're in the market for an affordable laptop, I don't think you can go wrong with the ThinkPad Edge.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Fun, Free Math Video Games on Math Moves U

Math Moves U is a fun math video game site. Math Moves U has three levels of difficulty; grade 6 or lower, grade 7, and grade 8 or higher. To play the games students first choose from one of eight customizable characters to be in the game. Then they walk through scenery, along the way they are confronted by math games that appear before them. Points are earned by answering math questions correctly.

Applications for Education
Math Moves U could a fun way to get students hooked on practicing and developing mathematics skills. If you have students register for an optional account, they can track their progress by keeping a running record of point totals.

A Short Explanation of Party Conventions

If you're discussing the Republican National Convention with your students this week, they might be wondering why conventions are held and what happens at the convention. CNN has an "explain it to me" video that addresses those points. As always, you may want to talk with your students about the role of bias in news media when you use current events clips in your classroom.

Thanks to Larry Ferlazzo and Glen Wiebe for sharing this video early this week.

Three Good, Free iPad Timeline Apps for History Students

As a student I loved looking at timelines in my social studies textbooks. As a history teacher I still love timelines. Timelines in a web browser or as a stand-alone app can offer students more information than a paper-based timeline. Recently, I spent a little time looking for free timeline apps to use on my iPad. While there are a lot of paid apps I didn't find too many free ones that I liked, but I did find three. Here are the three that I like.

American Revolution Interactive Timeline for iPad sports the best visuals of the three apps on this list. The timeline features images of artifacts related to the American Revolution. Students can click on the artifacts in the timeline to read a bit about each artifact's relevance to the American Revolution.

Timeline Eons is a freemium app that displays major events throughout the history of the world. The app's search function allows you to search for a date, an event, or a place. The free version of the app allows access to all the timelines for the first ten days that you use it. After the first ten days you're limited to 1950 to the present.

LineTime Presidents Edition is a timeline of all the U.S. Presidents. As students scroll through the app they can click on a president's image to open pop-up box containing the biography of that president. It should be noted that the biographies are pulled from Wikipedia entries.

Make Videos On Animoto for Android

I'm not sure how I missed the news earlier, but today I discovered that Animoto now has an Android app. The Android app, like the iOS app, allows you to create simple yet beautiful videos on the go. I installed the app this evening and quickly put together a short video using the images from my Instagram account. You don't have to use Instagram images you can also import from your phone's image gallery and a number of image hosting sites. The limitations that you experience with free Animoto accounts online apply to the Android app too.

My sample video (truly just a random selection of images and music for the purpose testing the app) is embedded below.

Make a video of your own at Animoto.

Applications for Education
If you're looking for an Android app that your students can use to quickly create videos, give Animoto for Android a try. You could use Animoto for Android to do what I had some teachers in St. Clair, Minnesota do today. They created short videos to introduce themselves to their new students. Of course, your students could do the same to introduce themselves to their new classmates.

Monday, August 27, 2012

MyHistro - A Timeline and Mapping Tool in One

myHistro is a timeline builder and map creation tool rolled into one nice package. On myHistro you can build a personal timeline or build a timeline about a theme or event in history. Each event that you place on your timeline can be geolocated using Google Maps. myHistro timelines can be created online or you can use the free iPad app to create events on your timeline.

I gave myHistro a try this afternoon and found it rather easy to use after initially spending ten minutes fumbling around and learning the language of myHistro. When you first sign into myHistro you will be shown a screen for creating your first event. An event is a stand-alone item. If you want to create a timeline you need to click on your account dashboard then select "stories" to create a story. "Story" is myHistro's name for timelines. Create a story then add events to your story. Each event can include videos, images, text and be geolocated on a map.

Applications for Education
myHistro does have a collaborative aspect as you can invite people to work with you on events or entire stories. To work with you your collaborators will need to register on myHistro. For students over age 13 myHistro has great potential for create digital historical stories.

H/T to Google Maps Mania

I Like Wili the Word Wizard's Math Dictionary

Last night I spent a little time on Adam Bellow's new social bookmarking site EduClipper. While on there I found Wili the Word Wizard's Math Dictionary. The Math Dictionary is a glossary of important terms that elementary school and middle school students need to know to be successful in their mathematics classes. The dictionary includes diagrams when appropriate.

Applications for Education
For students who struggle with the vocabulary of mathematics, Wili the Word Wizard's Math Dictionary could be a handy resource to have bookmarked. It could also be useful for parents who need a refresher when they are trying to help their children with their mathematics homework.

Disclosure: I am currently an unpaid advisor to Educlipper, but I could have a financial interest in the future.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

7 Mobile Apps Students Can Use to Never Lose Handwritten Notes Again

A couple of weeks ago on my Android blog I wrote about using the Google Drive app to create digital archives of handwritten notes. That post was prompted by a conversation that I had with a young lady entering her senior year at a high school in Rockingham County, North Carolina. That young lady explained to me that she preferred the act of handwriting her notes and outlines to typing them out on a keyboard. In a lot of ways I agreed with her because when I plan my keynote talks I always use pencil and scratch paper before creating and arranging slides. Try one or all of these seven apps ff you have students that prefer to handwrite their notes or if you prefer to handwrite your notes, but you're worried about those notes getting lost.

InClass is a free iPhone and iPad app that could be a very useful tool for students carrying those devices. InClass provides students with tools for taking text, audio, and video notes. Students can also use the app to take pictures of hand-outs, slides, and other valuable information that they see in class.
SugarSync is a cloud storage service that offers apps for iOS and Android. Using the apps you can take pictures of anything including those handwritten notes and upload them to your account. SugarSync synchronizes your files across all of your devices so that you can access your files anytime you are connected to the web.

Evernote is the service that I've been to store all of my bookmarks for the last year. I also use Evernote to create notes for myself. Sometimes I type the notes, sometimes I dictate notes into Evernote, and sometimes I just snap a picture and upload it to my account. Whichever method I choose, my notes are synched across all of my devices whenever they connect to the Internet. Evernote has apps for iOS and Android.

Skitch, which was bought by Evernote late last year, is designed for creating sketches and marking-up images. Using Skitch students can snap a picture of outlines they wrote by hand then circle or highlight the most important aspects. Skitch is available for iPad and Android.

With Google Drive installed on an Android device students can take a picture of anything and instantly upload it to their Google Drive accounts. Once the image is uploaded it can be accessed from any Internet-connected device.  Students  can write and highlight in their notebooks, but can also back-up those physical notebooks and access them online when they need to.

Dropbox is a cloud storage service that I've written about a handful of times in the past because for two years I used it in conjunction with DropItToMe to collect my students' work. Dropbox for Android and iOS has an auto-upload feature that you could use to upload images of handwritten notes.

Box, like its similarly named competitor above, is an online storage service that you can use to store, sync, and share all kinds of files. The Box mobile apps are available for iOS, Android, and Windows mobile devices. The mobile apps have an image import option that you could use to upload images of hand-outs and notes. 

Be a Web Ranger and Learn About U.S. National Parks

This evening I was browsing through Flip Board when I found a neat article about the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. I quickly added it to my not-a-bucket list (a term I've picked up from my new friends Gillian and Jason). As I was reading about Theodore Roosevelt National Park I was reminded of a resource I reviewed a year ago called Web Rangers.

Web Rangers offers seven categories of games about different subjects related to the National Parks. The game categories are people, animals, parks, science, history, nature, and puzzles. Each category contains games of varying difficulty rated from easy to difficult. Some of the game topics include dendrochronology, animal tracking, animal identification, fire fighting, and map reading.

Students can play Web Rangers games as visitors or as registered users. Registered users can track their progress and earn virtual rewards. Registered users can also create their own customized virtual ranger stations.

Applications for Education
Web Rangers could be a great way for students to learn about all of the things that National Parks contain. The games also introduce players to the job functions of Park Rangers. In that regard, the game could be a "career exploration" activity of sorts. You might also use the games in conjunction with some of the National Parks system's lesson plans.

Guest Post - Are We Outsourcing Our Memories?

From time to time I give people a chance to guest post on Free Technology for Teachers. I put out a call for guest posts back in June and this is the last one from that series. If you're interested in guest posting in the future, I will be putting out a call for posts again in October. 

Hanging in my office is a slide that reads "If your students can Google the answer, then you are asking the wrong question.". This pithy aphorism expresses the ever-more-widely-held view that as teachers, we should not be spending our time drilling reams of facts into our students. In an age of Google and smartphones and iPads and wifi, our students can instantly and enjoyably find out all of the minutiae that we want them to learn.  Rather, we should spend most of our instructional time focused on imparting either skills or deeper analysis to our young charges.

By contrast, there is a debate in the Talmud over what type of individual should be appointed to lead a congregation.  Should the community search for someone who possesses vast stores of knowledge, or should they instead turn towards a leader who has remarkable analytical skills?  After some discussn, the conclusion reached is that the individual with the greater knowledge is preferable, as people need someone who has the ability to draw on what he has learned in order to answer their questions, not someone who will answer their every query with another question.

At first blush, these statements do not seem capable of existing within the same world, or at least within the same educational framework.  Should we be loading our students down with facts in hopes that we are giving the proper tools for leadership, or will their adult lives be best served by being able to think critically?  In some sense, there are several reasons why the fact-cramming approach seems to be somewhat passé.  Many of us perhaps recall school as being an endless procession of reading and memorizing, much of it in subject areas that did not interest us in the least.  The increasing popularity of flipped learning, blended learning, project based learning, and all of their cousins has put a stress on the teacher's role in stimulating critical thinking skills.  And, of course, there's ample research that cramming information is among the worst ways to learn something for long-term recall purposes.  Seemingly, the days of the Jeopardy champion as hero and role model are behind us.

On the other hand, it strikes me that there is something to be said for accumulating knowledge, and not via Google.  In order to analyze material, you need to have material to analyze, and the more that you are working with, the better your analysis can potentially be.  One of the true joys of being a lifelong learner is seeing how different strands of one’s education continuously overlap and come to bear on one another.  Additionally, before you can Google a fact, you need to know what you are searching for.  We look for new knowledge in context, trying to add one fact at a time to our existing knowledge base, hopefully in a way that helps us to keep our learning organized in our heads.  To my mind, that is a major role that teachers play - pointing to students towards new knowledge in a way that makes sense and in a way that will allow them to retain that knowledge and be able to access it for future use.
So, who is right?  Should we allow Google to serve as our outsourced memory bank while we spend our time engaged in creative and analytical intellectual pursuits? Or should we aim to acquire as much knowledge, as measured in raw facts, as possible, in the hopes of creating solid foundations for future learning, plus the occasional know-it-all who is a good teammate for Trivial Pursuit?

My sense is that the two statements that I began with actually balance one another, and hopefully provide us with a healthy and even-keeled approach to take as the educational pendulum continues to swing away from the fill-them-up-with-facts approach and towards the make-them-think approach.  There is no question that our students need to learn facts, and lots of them.  The question is how we are going to go about getting all of that information into their heads.  Are we going to lecture at them all day, and follow that up with simplistic homework or other assessments that merely ask them to fill in blanks?  If that is our approach, then we may as well just teach them to use Google well, as we are ultimately not even teaching them the information that we want them to know.  However, if we teach our students basic material, or even more advanced material, and then have them review it in a way that not only forces them to repeat and rehearse the information, but also requires them to give it serious thought, in a way that Google cannot help them, then not only will we create students who can think, but also students with vast and useful funds of knowledge.

About the author:
Rabbi Aaron Ross, Ed.D. is assistant principal at Yavneh Academy, a K-8 Jewish day school in Bergen County, NJ.  He is currently very involved in spreading the adoption of project-based learning approaches in Jewish schools, and is an avid techie.  You can follow his blogs at, and you can follow him on twitter at @rabbiross.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Keen Talks Aims to Provide Food for Thought

This site is no longer online.

There is certainly not a shortage of places to find educational and inspirational videos online. I've listed a handful of them here. Keen Talks is another entry into that market.

Keen Talks is an online catalog of videos featuring educational and thought-provoking talks from people across the academic and entertainment spectrums. While Keen Talks is very heavy on science topics, you can find talks on topics in history, economics, entertainment, and technology. You can search Keen Talks by topic, category, or speaker's name.

Applications for Education
The talks that I previewed on Keen Talks are not the type of video that I would use in a flipped classroom model or would even make my high school students sit through during a class. The videos on Keen Talks are best suited as material that students can explore if they have a strong interest in a topic. You might also use Keen Talks to find a thought-provoking segment in a video then use Tube Chop to clip it and show it to your students.

Image and Maps - War of 1812

Yesterday's daily document from the U.S. National Archives was this image of the "Capture of Washington" during the War of 1812. The image reminded me of some other resources that I've shared in the past about the War of 1812. Click here to find two sets of animated maps about the war of 1812.

Applications for Education
One of these sets of maps is from an American perspective and the other is from a Canadian perspective. These maps could be useful in helping students compare perspectives on the War of 1812.

Videos - Neil Armstrong and the Moon

The first man to walk on the moon, Neil Armstrong, passed away today at age 82. Every major news outlet has stories about Neil Armstrong. I first saw the news through a Reuters story that a friend shared on Facebook. CNN has a series of videos about Neil Armstrong and the Apollo 11 mission. The first video in the series is embedded below.

The BBC has this nice captioned photo gallery about Neil Armstrong. 

The CBS News archives on YouTube offers this video of Walter Cronkite anchoring the first moon walk. 

And through Open Culture I found this video biography of Neil Armstrong. 

Applications for Education
If current events and or  modern U.S. History are a part of your curriculum consider using these videos to spark discussion or open a lesson on Monday. The clip with Walter Cronkite also opens up a discussion about the notable broadcasters in the "early" days of news broadcasting when there were only three networks in the U.S. 

Week in Review and The World's Biggest Truck

Last Sunday I had the opportunity to attend the keynote session for the Destination Innovation conference in Banff, Alberta. Before the conference I had time to visit Sparwood, British Columbia and hang out in the world's biggest truck. I might be 33 but when I saw the truck I was like a 3 year old all over again. It was as if my old Tonka trucks had grown up! If you click on the picture and view it full-size you'll notice that I am sitting inside the truck's wheel and my feet don't reach the ground.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. 5 Alternatives to Aviary for Creating Audio Online
2. Mobento - Search for Spoken Words in Videos
3. 21 Map Creation Tools
4. Three Tools for Creating Infographics
5. WizIQ Offers Free Accounts to Educators
6. PopChrom Could Completely Change Your Approach to Email
7. 5 Places to Find Free Sound Effects

Please visit the official advertisers and marketing partners that help keep this blog going.
LearnBoost provides a free online gradebook service for teachers.
Discovery Education & Wilkes University offer online courses for earning Master's degrees in Instructional Media.
Vocabulary Spelling City offers spelling practice activities that you can customize.
The College of St. Scholastica offers M. Ed courses. Currently offering $100 offer per credit.
Academic Pub is a service for creating custom etextbooks.
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.

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Friday, August 24, 2012

Street View of Mesoamerican Archeological Sites

Last week Google released new Google Maps Street View imagery for Brazil and Mexico. Included in that new imagery is Street View for 30 Mesoamerican archeological sites.

Ver mapa más grande
Applications for Education
Sometimes I share things with specific people in mind. Today, I'm sharing this resource with my friends at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in mind because I know that at least a couple of them will be talking about Mesoamerican history very soon. If you're going to be doing the same, the Street View imagery for these archaeological landmarks could give your students a new perspective that textbook imagery doesn't provide.

A History of U.S. Campaigns & Conventions

Northeastern University has launched a new site all about U.S. political campaigns and party conventions. The site is divided into five main sections; History, Campaign Finance, Nominations, Policy, and Media. Within each section there are videos and articles about the current state of affairs as well as past practices. Each section offers lesson plans suitable for high school use. Each section also offers short review quizzes that provide instant feedback.

Applications for Education
I have to admit that the videos I previewed were rather boring as they were simply politicians and professors talking on camera. If I, a former Political Science major, was bored by the videos most high school students will be too. That said, the rest of the site is well made and informative. I would probably use the lesson plans with high school students after I customized them to meet the needs of my students.

Just Another Reason I Love Chrome...

It's not a secret that Chrome is my favorite web browser (Dolphin is a close second on mobile devices). One of my absolute favorite features of Chrome is synchronization across devices. With synchronization enabled on all of my devices including my iPad I can jump from device to device and not lose track of any of the tabs that I am using. In fact just this morning I went from using my desktop Lenovo ThinkCentre inside to using my iPad outside on my deck without missing a beat in my browsing experience. (You do have to have the Chrome app for iPad installed to do this).

To enable synchronization in Chrome, click on the "wrench" icon in the upper-right corner of the browser. Then select "settings" from drop-down menu. In the settings menu you can enable synchronization, add user accounts to Chrome for multiple sign-in, enable cloud printing, and adjust your privacy settings.

Applications for Education
For students who use one device at school and another at home, having Chrome synchronization enabled can be a great way to keep track of the their tabs and have a nearly seamless browsing experience.

Earn Your Digital Passport by Learning Digital Safety

Digital Passport is a relatively new online program from Common Sense Media. The purpose of the Digital Passport program is to provide students in grades three through five with lessons and games for learning responsible digital behavior. Digital Passport uses videos and games to teach students about  cyberbullying, privacy, safety and security, responsible cell phone use, and copyright. Students earn badges for successfully completing each phase of the Digital Passport program.

Applications for Education
Digital Passport provides teachers with a log-in that they can use to track their students' progress through the various parts of the Digital Passport program. Like any online program for younger students, Digital Passport works best when it is supported by your own in-classroom instruction.

SpellingCity for iPad and iPhone

SpellingCity recently launched a free iPad and iPhone app for students. The app gives students access to the same vocabulary lists that they use on the SpellingCity website. SpellingCity's list of words for students exceeds 42,000. Students and teachers who register for accounts can create custom word lists (Note, new lists have to be made online. Through the app you can only access existing lists). If you don't register you can simply choose from the many suggested word lists created by SpellingCity.

The SpellingCity app offers six types of practice activities. The activities are Teach Me, Test Me, Match It, Word Unscramble, Hang Mouse, and Which Word. I am particularly fond of the Teach Me activity in which the words and their spellings are read to students. Again, if you are registered and logged into SpellingCity you can create custom lists that are read to your students when they use the Teach Me mode on their iPads.

You can learn more about the free SpellingCity iPad app here. Or download the app here.

Disclosure: SpellingCity does help me pay the bills at the Free Technology for Teachers world headquarters. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Inside Jobs - Explore Careers

Inside Jobs is a site that offers information about careers and the training required for them. On Inside Jobs visitors can search for career information by keyword or browse through categorized collections of information. Each career in the list has a short video featuring someone in the industry explaining what they do and how they got into the field. Inside Jobs provides lists of schools that offer programs related to the careers that students are interested in. (Note that the schools do pay to be included on Inside Jobs).

Applications for Education
Inside Jobs could be a good resource for students who want to learn more about a particular career field. It might be a good site to link to from your school's guidance department webpages.

Dipity - Create Timelines About Current Events

This service is no longer available. 

Dipity is a great timeline creation tool that allows users to incorporate text, images, and videos into each entry on their timeline. Like most good web tools, Dipity has a collaboration option and has multiple options for sharing your timelines publicly or privately. Each entry to a Dipity timeline can include multiple types of media which allows users to add more detail and information than can be included in a traditional timeline. If you want to import Tweets and other social media messages, you can do that too on Dipity. And as I learned earlier this week, Dipity will work on your iPad.

Applications for Education
If you're a social studies teacher looking to have your students create timelines about current events, Dipity could be a great tool for that. Think about having students create timelines of the US Presidential campaigns that include commentary from social media as well as links from articles that they have read.

The US Election on YouTube

The US Presidential Election is just a little more than two months away now. Every news outlet in the country has an election resources page of some type. Yesterday, YouTube got in on the act too by launching YouTube Politics for the 2012 Election. YouTube Politics is gathering and organizing video content from ABC News, The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and other notable news outlets. YouTube politics will also carry live streams of the Republican and Democratic National Conventions.

Applications for Education
The YouTube Politics channel could be a good place to find video clips about the election season to use in your Civics lessons. Of course, many of the videos have a bias to them. In that case the YouTube Politics channel becomes a good place to find clips that you can use in lessons about bias and propaganda in the media.

Taking the Fear Out of Blogging - Webinar Recording

Earlier this week David Andrade shared some helpful information about Discovery Education's YouTube channel. I followed David's advice and explored Discovery Education's YouTube Channel on which I found some good webinar recordings. One webinar that I think anyone who is considering starting new blog this year, especially a blog with students, should watch is Taking the Fear Out of Blogging. The webinar was run by three l women, Lee Kolbert, Paula Naugle, and Karen McMillan, whose blogs I have followed over the years. Watch the webinar below.

Another webinar that I plan to watch soon is Dean Mantz's Creating Visually Informative Projects.

Add YouTube Videos to PowerPoint and Word Files

Through a recent episode of Tekzilla Daily I learned that Office 2013 has a couple of handy options for devoted Office users. In Office 2013 Word and PowerPoint will have easy-to-use video insertion options. Check it out in the video below.

Applications for Education
If you want your students to move away from simple text and images in their slides and start using video these new options in Office 2013 could be handy. Of course, Google Docs has this option too. If you want to insert YouTube videos into your Google Presentations select "video" from the insert menu in Google Presentation then either search for a video or paste in the URL of a video.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Follow Conference Hashtags to Glean Resources

Almost every education conference worth its salt today has a Twitter hashtag associated with it. The next time you're wishing you were at a conference that you couldn't attend, follow the Twitter hashtag.  I did this today to keep up with the Tweets from the Destination Innovation conference in Banff (#dest_2012). If you use TweetDeck, like I do, you can create a column just for the hashtag. While this isn't the same as being at the physical conference it does provide a good way to follow the ideas and resources shared by presenters and participants at the conference. For example, today I learned about some inexpensive robotics kits by just following #dest_2012 in Twitter.

Old School Presidential Campaign Videos

This afternoon my Uncle Bob shared with me this video of a campaign jingle for Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952. I then shared the video on Twitter with the comment, "what if political campaign ads were still like this?" To that Tony Amsler replied, "maybe we can run a contest for folks to create jingles." I think that could become a great classroom activity as the election approaches. Have students use tools like Animoto, WeVideo, or Pixorial to create "lighter" campaign commercials.

For more old campaign commercials and ideas for using them in your classroom, please check out The Living Room Candidate.

Using SoundCloud in a Language Course

SoundCloud is a free tool for creating and sharing sound tracks. On Monday I included it in my list of alternatives to Aviary. Today, I showed it to some teachers at the Bancroft School in Massachusetts. When I showed the option for inserting text comments into the sound tracks a teacher spoke up with an idea for using Sound Cloud in a world languages course.

The suggestion the teacher made was to have students record spoken tracks on Sound Cloud and share them with her. Then she could use the comment feature to provide feedback that is tied directly to each student's recording. The comments could be tied to the exact second at which a student pronounces something incorrectly, uses the wrong verb form, or to praise a student for pronouncing a new word particularly well.

SoundCloud allows you to have up to two hours of recordings stored in your account at one time. After that you need to either delete an old recording or upgrade to a paid plan.

Understoodit Is Not Really Free

On Monday I published a list of twelve free services for gathering informal feedback from students. In that list I included Understoodit. When I originally learned about Understoodit it was free. This morning I received an email from one of Understoodit's employees "introducing me" to the service. In that introductory email it was revealed that Understoodit is only free for a limited time. Here is an excerpt from the email.

Our product is FREE for a limited time, but will be extended those who sign up now with an extended free-trial period.

I don't know how long the extended period will be as that information was not in the email I received and it's not stated on the website except for the "30 day free trial" notice. After the free trial it appears to cost $3/month. Although I don't know if that is a flat fee or a "per user/ per seat" fee.

$3/month isn't unreasonable, but I did want to make sure that I corrected my earlier post about Understoodit to reflect the new information that I received today. If you're looking for some free tools for gathering feedback from students, you may want to try some of the other tools on this list. Of the tools on that list, my favorite is Socrative.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Stiple - Create Interactive Images

Stipple is a new service (still in an invite-only beta) that allows you to create interactive images. Using Stipple you can upload an image and tag it with pinmarks. Within each pinmark you can include videos, links, text, audio files, and more images. Stipple also gives you the option to track where your images are viewed and shared by others. The video below provides an overview of Stipple's features.

Meet Stipple from stipple on Vimeo.

Applications for Education
Stipple reminds me quite a bit of ThingLink. Both services could be used to enhance images with videos and links that they find on the web. One possible use could be to have students upload images of the solar system (or parts of the solar system) then add pinmarks with videos and links about the solar system. You could also have students upload images of famous landmarks and add pinmarks with information about what makes those landmarks significant.

What Makes Searching Difficult? What Makes it Easier?

A couple of times this summer I've mentioned Dan Russell's resources for making you a better web researcher. Most recently I featured this video in which he talks about search strategies. Today, I read another of Dan Russell's blog posts that I think many teachers and students can benefit from reading.

In Internet Search: What makes it simple, difficult, or impossible? Dan Russell explains what can make searches difficult, common search mistakes, and strategies for better searches. I read Dan's article and have to admit that I am sometimes guilty of falling into the trap of the "framing effect" that he describes. Breaking out the "framing effect" will improve my search methods and I'm sure it will for you too.

Monday, August 20, 2012

5 Alternatives to Aviary for Creating Audio Online

Credit: YngveNilsen
Last month Aviary announced that they will be shuttering their online audio and image editing tools on September 15. Since that announcement I have had quite a few people ask me for some alternatives for creating audio recordings online. Here are five online tools that you and your students can use to create audio files online.

Soundation is a free service that allows anyone to create and remix sound tracks online. If you have used Apple's Garage Band or Aviary's Myna, Soundation will look familiar to you. Soundation provides five tracks on which you can place music clips and sound effects to mix together. To create your original work you can select from Soundation's gallery of 400 free sounds, upload your own sounds, or record new sounds using the instruments and keyboard built into Soundation. When you've created a product you like, you can download it or share it in Soundation's gallery.

UJAM is a service that aims to make everyone a singing sensation. Okay, so it might not make you a singing sensation, but it could help you create music tracks that you can share with friends and use in multimedia productions. Here's how UJAM works; you sing or play an instrument while recording to UJAM. When you're done recording, use UJAM to alter the sound quality of your voice, turn your voice into other sounds, adjust the tempo of your song, and or remix a song to include your recording. UJAM is essentially an online, light weight version, of Garage Band.

Incredibox is a neat website that allows you to create unique rhythms and sounds from drag-and-drop menu. The sounds in the menus are recordings of a Bobby McFerrin-like artist making "human beat box" sounds. You can experiment with different sound loops, choruses, and instrumental sounds to create your own unique sound loops.

Beat Lab is a free service through which you can experiment with thousands of sound and rhythm combinations. Using Beat Lab is easy. Beat Lab provides a grid on which you select the sounds you want to have played. You can specify how often you want each sound played and how quickly you want the sounds played. There are twelve default sounds provided in the Beat Lab grid. You can add more sounds by selecting "add more sounds" and choosing from the huge catalog of sounds. If the sound you want isn't available in the Beat Lab catalog you can upload your own sounds.

SoundCloud is an online service for recording, hosting, and sharing audio tracks. You can use SoundCloud to upload and share audio recordings that you have stored on your computer. SoundCloud can also be used for directly recording a spoken track. One of the really neat features of SoundCloud is the option to comment on tracks as they are playing. To make a comment just play the track, click on it, then type your comment in the comment box. Your comment(s) will be attached to the spot in the track that you clicked on while listening. SoundCloud has apps for Android and iOS devices.

Best of the Summer - Video Projects

For the next few days my schedule is packed with travel and two conferences. At the same time, historically this week is when many readers return to the blog after taking a break during the summer. Therefore, for the next couple of days I'll be re-running the most popular posts since June 1st, 2012.

Credit: Chelsea Davis
Video creation projects are some of my favorite things to do with students. I like video projects for a number of reasons not the least of which is that students generally enjoy them too. I like video projects because when they're organized properly students have to write, research, produce, and revise just as they would if they were writing a story or research paper. The difference is that shared finished video projects have the potential to reach many more people than a well-written essay does. Another bonus is that I can invite my administrators into my classroom to watch a few short videos and they can quickly see what my students have been doing.

Here are five ideas and tools for video projects that you can try with your students this year.

1. Biographical and Autobiographical videos: The first week of school is when we get to know our students, they get to know us, and they get to know each other. To help everyone introduce themselves, try using short videos created on Animoto. Have students select ten or so images from that are important to them or represent things that they are passionate about. Then let them select the music that matches the message they want to send to the class about themselves. Don't forget to create a video about yourself. When all of the videos are ready, have a little viewing party in your classroom.

2. Common Craft -style videos: Common Craft produces fantastic educational videos using nothing more than drawings, paper cut-outs, and voice over. I used that model last fall to have students tell the story of Lewis and Clark. My students worked in pairs to create images then narrate their videos. They took turns narrating and moving the images in and out of the scenes. We used Flip Cameras, but just about any digital video recorder will work.

This summer I've been playing with PowToon which allows me to create a Common Craft style video by dragging and dropping pre-drawn elements into each scene. PowToon is still in beta, but I encourage you to sign up for an invite. You can see one of my PowToon videos here.

3. Stop-motion videos: One of my favorite tools for creating stop-motion videos is Jelly Cam. Jelly Cam allows me to create a stop-motion video by upload images or capturing images with my webcam then playing them back at any frames-per-second rate that I choose. The latest version of Jelly Cam allows me to add an audio track to my project. Think about the possibilities for creating claymation movies with Jelly Cam, the next Gumby could be born in your classroom.

4. Documentary videos: Perhaps the next Ken Burns is sitting in your classroom right now! With We Video your students can collaboratively create documentary videos.

5. Flipped classroom videos: If you have been considering trying out the flipped classroom model by making your own short instructional videos there are plenty of tools available to you. Show Me for the iPad is one free tool that I like. I also like Screenr and Screencast-o-Matic for creating videos on your desktop. You might consider flipping the flipped classroom by having your students create short instructional videos to share with each other. Take a look at Next Vista for some good examples of students creating short instructional videos for each other. And if you are going to try the flipped classroom idea this year, please consider these three points first.