Monday, February 27, 2012

Almost Everything You Need to Know About Wikispaces

If there is such a thing as an "old reliable" resource in the world of ed tech, Wikispaces qualifies. I've been using Wikispaces for various purposes and recommending it to others since I started this blog. Over the years I've created screencast videos about how to use it, created slideshows about how to use it, and linked to other educators' tutorials on it. But until very recently, Wikispaces didn't have its own YouTube Channel dedicated to showing you how to use the features they offer.

The Wikispaces YouTube channel contains 25 screencast videos created by Wikispaces to show you how to utilize some of their useful features. Below I've embedded their introductory video and their video on creating an educational wiki.

Learn more about the new Wikispaces YouTube channel on the Wikispaces Blog.

Testing The Pinvolve App for Facebook

This has nothing to do with teaching, but it does have a little to do with Free Technology for Teachers. If you have "liked" Free Technology for Teachers on Facebook or if you haven't but do so now, you should see a new layout for the posts that I put there. I'm testing an app called Pinvolve that is designed to make it easier to pin items from Facebook to Pinterest. Basically, the app turns your wall posts into a Pinterest-like layout. When you place your mouse pointer over the story a Pin It button should appear so that you can quickly send the link to Pinterest. Please take a look and let me know what you think.

H/T to GO2WEB20 for the info about Pinvolve.

Explain It To Me Explains Concussions

When I was playing sports in school I don't think anyone ever mentioned the word concussion to us. Subsequently, I'm sure that one or more of my classmates had undiagnosed concussions. Fortunately, that is not the case for today's student-athletes. Today, we hear about concussions in professional and amateur athletes quite frequently. But what is a concussion and how do they happen? Dr. Sanjay Gupta explains the answers to those questions and more in the episode of CNN's Explain It To Me series embedded below.

Kwiqpoll - Simple Web Polls

Kwiqpoll is a simple tool for quickly creating and posting polls. To create a poll with Kwiqpoll just visit the site, type a question, type your answer choices, and go. Your poll can stay online for three or seven days. Kwiqpoll assigns a unique url to each of your polls. Give that url to the audience that you want to participate in your poll. Here's the link to a simple poll that I made.

Applications for Education
Kwiqpoll could be a good tool for quickly gathering anonymous feedback from students on things like how long it took them to complete a homework assignment or how prepared they feel for an upcoming assessment.

H/T to Larry Ferlazzo.

iNaturalist - Record and Share Observations of Nature

iNaturalist is a community website for sharing pictures and observations of plants and animals. To enable easy sharing of observations, iNaturalist offers a free Android app and a free iOS app. Using the apps you can take a picture, geo-locate it, write your observations, and upload to the iNaturalist community. If your observation is incomplete, for example if you're not sure of a scientific name, you can ask the community to add comments to improve the recording of your observation.

If you don't want to join the iNaturalist community, you can simply explore members' observations through the iNaturalist Google Map.

Applications for Education
I learned about iNaturalist through an excellent post on the Google Lat Long Blog that outlined the efforts of a group to compile a large collection of observations about the Pepperwood Preserve in California. Pick a woodlot or nature preserve in your area and have your school build a record of observations about that area.

CNN Student News - Elections in Syria and Russia

Today's episode of CNN Student News leads-off with a couple of segment about elections in Syria and Russia. The segment about elections in Russia include interviews with people on the street. Today's episode also includes a couple of good discussion questions for your students. The first, at the conclusion of a story about a "shoe frenzy," asks students if there is anything they would camp-out to buy. The second discussion question asks students for their thoughts about the idea of paying students to attend school.

Today's episode of CNN Student News is embedded below.

SyncSpace - A Whiteboard App for iPads and Android Tablets

SyncSpace is a collaborative whiteboard app that I recently featured on my other blog Android 4 Schools. Since writing that post, I've had a couple of people ask if SyncSpace is available for iPads. The answer is yes. You can get the SyncSpace app for iPad here and the Android app here.

You can use SyncSpace to create drawings and documents on your tablet. You can create using free-hand drawing tools, using typing tools, or a combination of the two tool sets. Your drawings and documents can be sent to and synced with other users so that they can comment and edit your drawings and documents. Learn more about SyncSpace in the video below.

Applications for Education
SyncSpace could be a great app for collaborative brainstorming sessions across multiple devices.

How Twitter Helps Overcome Inequity With Rural Internet Access

Last week was guest post week here, but I messed up on the scheduling of one post by Tanis Thiessen. Therefore, I'm starting the week with one last guest post.

While it seems like “all the world” is accessing the internet freely and quickly these days, the truth is that there are still areas in Canada where high speed internet is unavailable. In our rural K-12 school in southern Manitoba, approximately 20% of our community has access to the internet only through dial-up, with the rest having access through high-speed connections. So how can we communicate in a timely fashion, using technology to reach ALL of our community, when dial-up is an obstacle? The answer--tweet!

Set up your school with a twitter account, and all your stakeholders--parents, students, board members, the community--can easily get up-to-date information on their handheld devices. We regularly use our Twitter account to send out calendar updates, school assembly information, articles on current topics in education, and “what’s happening in class now” pictures.

           Sports events, dramas, concerts, in-class projects, new equipment, guest speakers, monthly themes are all highlighted. Through short tweets and quick pix, community members stay connected to the pulse of the school.

We try to make our account easy to find, adding a “Follow Us On Twitter” button to our wiki page ( This is an easy way to guide people to our Twitter account, and bonus is that these buttons are free from many sources on the ‘net. (Ours came from Twitter Buttons,

Realizing that Twitter limits our interactions by the brevity of the posts, we try to make our communications with the community as multi-faceted as possible. We send email attachments of our newsletter and monthly calendar to parents who request it, while posting it on our wiki makes it accessible to those who prefer that venue. Teachers use Edmodo, Moodle, Google Docs, and the school’s wiki to provide various methods for students to stay up-to-date on classwork and utilize their tech skills to meet educational outcomes.

Twitter is a great way to keep stakeholders informed of your school activities. Parents appreciate the calendar updates; students appreciate the pictures and links to cool websites; businesses supporting our students through apprenticeship appreciate the free advertising given through mentions in tweets throughout the year. In an area where dial-up could prevent timely communication, Twitter helps overcome this rural inequity.

Elm Creek School, part of Prairie Rose School Division in south-central Manitoba, is a K-12 school of approximately 200 students and 16 teachers. Our building is nestled in the small but robust community of Elm Creek, 40 kilometres southwest of Winnipeg, capital of Manitoba. Our school provides a wide variety of programming for students, utilizing interactive TV connections for some classes, online coursework for others, technical-vocational opportunities through Carman Collegiate just 15 minutes south of us, and in-house teacher-led coursework. We have three Smartboards, 1:3 computer-to-student ratio, a high school science lab with university-grade equipment, two computer labs, a gymnasium with mezzanine for weight training, and a canteen that serves homemade lunch specials daily.

Elm Creek School has a thriving daycare and preschool program run by a community group that uses our building, and we offer some adult coursework in the evenings. We have an elementary music program, a high school band and choir program, technology courses, career and technology studies with apprenticeships available through community partnerships, and an incredibly supportive Parent Advisory Council that has upgraded our outdoor play spaces and will soon be upgrading one of our two computer labs in the building.

About the Guest Blogger
Tanis Thiessen is a school administrator in Elm Creek, Manitoba. You can follow the Elm Creek School Twitter feed here