Monday, February 6, 2012

Three Browser Extensions Every Teacher Should Try

It is no secret that I am a Google fan boy which is why I use Chrome as my primary web browser. Chrome is my browser of choice in part because of the numerous useful browser extensions and add-ons that are available for it. In the video below I demonstrate my three favorite Chrome extensions that I think every teacher can benefit from using. These extensions are also available for Firefox and Safari.

A Cleaner Internet

15 Resources for Safer Internet Day

Tomorrow, February 7, is Safer Internet Day. The Safer Internet Day website offers offers a couple of lesson plans for appropriate for use with teens and tweens. On the same page as the lesson plans you will also find printable posters about acceptable use policies. There is a set of posters for students age six to eleven and a set of posters for students age eleven through sixteen.

Learn more about Safer Internet Day in the video below.

On the topic of web safety, below is a list of some of popular resources for teaching about web safety.

PBS Kids offers the Webonauts Academy in which elementary school students can learn about safe online behaviors. When students have completed all of the Webonauts missions they will graduate from the Webonauts Academy. The educators tips page offers some practical suggestions for using Webonauts in the classroom or in a school library.

A Thin Line is a digital safety education resource produced by MTV in collaboration with other media partners. The purpose of the site is to educate teenagers and young adults about the possible repercussions of their digital activities. A Thin Line offers a series of fact sheets about topics like sexting, digital spying, and excessive text messaging and instant messaging. A Thin Line gives students advice on how to recognize those behaviors, the dangers of those behaviors, and how to protect your digital identity. Students can also take a short quiz to practice identifying risky digital behaviors.

The Virginia Department of Education has produced an engaging and useful site for teaching students web safety lessons. Internet Safety With Professor Garfield currently offers an animated lesson on cyberbullying and an animated lesson about online safety. As you might guess from the site's title, the lessons feature Garfield. Both lessons use the same model in which students watch a cartoon, take an informal quiz, then try to apply their new knowledge to a few different scenarios.

In an effort to teach children about potential dangers online and how to avoid them, the Council of Europe has offers a game called Through the  Wild Web WoodsThrough the Wild Web Woods is designed for students ages seven through ten to learn how to spot danger on the Internet and what to do when they do spot danger on the Internet. The game is available in twenty-four languages.

The Google+ Safety Center features a couple of guides to Google+ settings and functions for teens and their parents. The section for teens isn't much more than a basic introduction to Google+ settings, but the section for parents provides some solid advice and answers to common concerns that parents have about their teens use of social media. In addition to information about Google+, the Google+ Safety Center offers resources from Common Sense Media about anti-bullying practices and digital reputation management.

A Parents' Guide to Facebook is a soup-to-nuts guide to Facebook privacy settings, profile settings, group settings, and more. For parents who "just don't get Facebook" the guide offers great explanations of the appeal of Facebook for teenagers and what teenagers do on Facebook.  The guide provides a run down of recommended settings for teenagers and explanations of what those settings mean.

Microsoft's Safety and Security Center contains many videosPDFs, and PowerPoint presentations for learning about and teaching computer and web safety. The PDFs in are intended to printed as brochures for distribution. The videos can be embedded into your blog or website. The video section is organized into three sections; family safety, data protection, and computer protection.

AT&T's Safety Land is a nice game through which kids learn and practice recognizing danger on the Internet. The game is set in the city of "Safety Land." As students navigate from building to building in Safety Land they are confronted with a series of scenarios and questions to respond to. If they respond correctly to each scenario they will capture the cyber criminal and send him to the Safety Land jail. Students who send the cyber criminal to Safety Land jail receive a certificate that they can print out.

Own Your Space is a free, sixteen chapter ebook designed to educate tweens and teens about protecting themselves and their stuff online. This ebook isn't a fluffy, general overview book. Each chapter goes into great detail explaining the technical threats that students' computers face online as well as the personal threats to data that students can face online. For example, in the first chapter students learn about different types of malware and the importance of installing security patches to prevent malware infections. The fourteenth chapter explains the differences between secured and unsecured wireless networks, the potential dangers of an unsecured network, and how to lock-down a network. Download the whole book or individual chapters here.

Common Craft offers four good videos designed to educate viewers about safe online practices. 

Secure Passwords Explained by Common Craft.

Secure Websites in Plain English.

Phishing Scams in Plain English.

Protecting Reputations Online in Plain English.

Creating and using strong passwords is a fundamental part of protecting your digital footprint. It's not always easy to create a strong password, but fortunately there are some tools that will help you with that.

Password Bird is a simple website that asks you three questions then generates a password for you based on your responses. Every password it generated for me included numbers and letters. If you don't like the password it generates for you, simply click the link for a new password.

PassCreator is a free service that helps you create a strong password. To use PassCreator just select the attributes you want your password to have (number of characters, character type, etc.) then press "create." If you don't like the password created for you, just press "create" again to generate another password.

ScholarPRO Helps Students Find Scholarships

There are a lot of services on the web that promise to help students choose and apply to colleges (I reviewed seven of them here), but there doesn't seem to be as many that will help students pay for college. That's the niche that ScholarPRO wants to fill.

ScholarPRO is a service that helps students locate and apply for scholarships that match their qualifications. To find the scholarships that they're most likely to have a chance of receiving, students complete a profile on ScholarPRO. The more information a student supplies in his or her profile the more accurate the search results are going to be. Students can apply for the scholarships on their own or use the ScholarPRO service to apply. The way that ScholarPRO makes money is through subscriptions to its "easy apply" service. But just to be clear, students can search for scholarships without a subscription.

Applications for Education
For high school students and current college students searching for new ways to fund their educations, ScholarPRO could be a very useful service. The College Board also has a scholarship search service that current high school students should try.

Try Spool to Save Web Content for Offline Viewing

Spool is a new service (still in an invite-only beta phase) that aims to help you save web content, including videos and articles, to read or watch at your leisure even if you don't have an Internet connection. Spool syncs your content and makes it available to you across all of the devices that you use. Spool can be used as a Google Chrome extension, as an Android app, and as an iOS app.

To use Spool install the Spool apps or Chrome extension on your devices. Then whenever you're viewing a webpage that you want to be able to access at a later time, just click the Spool icon to save that content. Spool can also be used to send content to your Dropbox account.

Here is a video introduction to Spool.

I learned about Spool through Read Write Web. If you go to their article about Spool you can get a beta invite to Spool (this info is current as of 9am EST).

Applications for Education
Last winter my friend Steven Anderson suggested that teachers should try Read It Later to organize and read web content when they have the time to do so. Spool could be used for the same purpose, but it has the added benefit of saving video content for you too.

Alphabetimals - A Fun Way to Learn the Alphabet

Alphabetimals is a nice website on which you will find some nice resources for helping young children learn the alphabet. The main feature of Alphabetimals is an interactive flipbook featuring animal sounds and the pronunciations of animal names.
The Alphabetimals characters can spell out any word that you would like. Just type in the word and it will be printed for you. You can then print out the Alphabetimaltized (yes, I just made up that term) version of the word. Alphabetimals also offers free printable flashcards, an alphabet poster, and alphabet coloring pages.
Alphabetimals is funded by sales of Alphabetimals products like posters and tee shirts. For every product purchased they donate a book to Books for Africa.

Applications for Education
Alphabetimals offers some nice little resources to help you help children learn the alphabet. For folks like me who are not artistically inclined, the option to type a word and print it in an alphabetimalized version could be a nice way to print and display vocabulary words in your elementary school classroom.

Interesting Ways to Use QR Codes

I was recently asked to write a magazine article about how I've used QR codes in my classroom. While I can't share that article yet (the magazine publisher has rights to it first) I do want to share another good resource on the topic of using QR codes in the classroom. Tom Barrett's Interesting Ways series includes a slidedeck about using QR codes. I just made a contribution to the slidedeck so now it is up to 45 Interesting Ways to Use QR Codes in the Classroom.