Sunday, January 22, 2012

Online Graphing Calculators Desmos Improves Again

Desmos, a free online graphing calculator that I've written about a couple of times in the past (here, most recently), has updated their offerings again. The most significant update is a switch to HTML5 which means that Desmos will now work on iPads. The second significant enhancement is the option to register for an account and save your work online or share your work online.

For an overview of Desmos, watch the video below.

Applications for Education
As I've mentioned in the past, Desmos could be a good alternative to expensive TI-84 (or whatever the latest model is) calculators. If your school has a 1:1 program with laptops or iPads you can use Desmos in any classroom.

I got this news about Desmos from Audrey Watters at Hack Education

World Map - Visualize, Explore, and Publish Geographic Information

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

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

The video below provides a short overview of how to create a map using World Map. There are many other how-to videos on the HGA YouTube channel.

Applications for Education
If you're looking for web-based map creation and analysis tools that offer more than you can find in Google Maps, give World Map a try. You might start out using World Map in your classroom by using the data set library then expand its use by having students create and or find other data sets to import.

Five Tools to Help You Schedule Meetings

If you have ever had to organize volunteers for an event, set appointments for parent-teacher conferences, or tried to organize a potluck, you know that it can become a communication mess. Fortunately, there are some good tools to help you out the next time you find yourself in one of the aforementioned situations or something similar to them.

SignUp Genius is a free and easy way to create and organize online sign-up forms for all kinds of group activities. SignUp Genius creates a simple webpage on which people can sign-up for activities that you've specified. You can make your sign-up sheet public or private. Once you've created your sign-up list visitors to your list can sign-up for the activities you've specified. You can monitor the sign-up list as it is filled and visitors can quickly see which slots are already taken. SignUp Genius provides a myriad of themes and styles for your sign-up sheets.

Volunteer Spot is a free scheduling service that teachers, coaches, and others and use to coordinate volunteers. Volunteer Spot gives you the ability to post calendars and sign-up sheets online. When potential volunteers visitor your calendar they can see the days and times at which volunteers are needed. When the quota for volunteers for a particular time or day is reached, Volunteer Spot won't allow any more sign-ups.

YouCanBook.Me is a free scheduling tool that integrates with your Google Calendar. YouCanBook.Me allows people to book fixed blocks of time in your calendar. You specify the length of each block of time and the dates and times you are available. Visitors to your calendar click a block and enter their email addresses to reserve a block of your time. When a block of time is reserved you receive an email alert.

SignApp Now is a very simple tool for creating online sign-up forms. To use it all you need to do is enter a title and description of your event, set a sign-up deadline, enter a contact email address, and press "create." SignApp Now creates a unique url that you can then share with others that may be interested in signing-up for your event. Creating a sign-up form with SignApp Now is much faster and easier than trying to create a spreadsheet or other sign-up form. One catch with SignApp Now is that you  have to pay $1 to download your sign-up sheets. You can view them for free.

Wiggio is a collaboration tool designed to make scheduling group meetings easier. Wiggio is also intended to be used as a resource for group planning of projects. Some of the excellent features of Wiggio include a group calendar, a mass messaging system that works with cell phones and email, and a group polling system. For groups that are working on projects together Wiggio offers a shared folder for files and links. Watch the video below for an overview of Wiggio.

Slatebox - Visualize Everything

A few years ago I wrote about a nice collaborative mind mapping tool called Slatebox. Recently, Slatebox revamped the back end of service to speed things up a bit. Slatebox now runs on HTML5 and Javascript to speed up the editor. Collaboration now happens in realtime so that everyone working on a mind map can see all changes simultaneously.

The user interface of Slatebox has changed a bit too. Gone are the templates of the old Slatebox interface. Instead every mind map starts with a blank canvas. All additions to your canvas are automatically centered for you. Whenever you add a new node to your mind map the text editor is automatically opened for your use. You can now add images to your Slatebox mind maps by searching the web or by specifying a url. Finally, Slateboxes that you create can now be embedded into your blog or you can download them as image files.

Applications for Education
If you're looking for a fast and responsive mind mapping tool for your students to use when they plan a project or diagram a concept, give Slatebox a try. Or if you just want to create organization templates for your students to use offline, you can use Slatebox for that too. Create your template, download it as an image, and print it out.

GE Teach - Teaching With Google Earth

Recently, a high school geography teacher, Josh Williams, contacted me to share his website GE Teach. GE Teach is built around the Google Earth browser plug-in. The purpose of the site is to help teachers develop lessons in which students explore spatial distributions.

Visitors to GE Teach can select from a variety of physical geography and human geography layers to display and explore. A fantastic feature of GE Teach is the option use the "two Earths" mode to show two maps side-by-side. In the image below (click to view full size) you can see that I have used the Earth on the left to view climate regions and the Earth on the right to view population density. The "two Earths" mode could be useful for prompting students to make comparisons and or correlations between two maps.

Applications for Education
If you don't have Google Earth installed on your school's computers, GE Teach is an excellent web-based alternative for you and your students. Even if you do have Google Earth installed on your school's computers GE Teach offers a great service that you and your students can use to explore spatial distributions and relationships.