Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Something I Don't Say Enough

Thank you! Thank you for reading this blog. Thank you for sharing my blog posts with your colleagues and friends. Thank you for your emails of support. Thank you for your emails with constructive criticism. Without all you, this blog wouldn't have accidentally turned into a small business. I realize that the Internet is full of places where you can get information about educational technology, thank you for choosing to read my blog.

3D Toad - 3D 360 Degree Educational Images

3D Toad is a nice site that hosts images that viewers can zoom-in on and rotate 360 degrees. The site is designed to provide educators and students with images that are useful for instruction. In the galleries of images include history, geology, chemistry, skeletons, fossils, and more. Click and hold on any image to rotate it. Double click to zoom-in on it. Each image is accompanied by a short caption. The video below offers a short introduction to 3D Toad.

Applications for Education
3D Toad offers a couple of video examples of how teachers might use the images. I've embedded one of those videos below.

Facebook (Re)Introduces Groups for Schools and File Sharing

Remember when Facebook was just a network for college students? Well they're not reverting back to those days, but today they did introduce Groups for Schools that do require members to have a .edu email from the college or university whose group they wish to join. The new Groups for Schools option is for colleges and universities who wish to create groups in which to post lectures, notes, and files. Groups for Schools includes a file sharing option that members of each group can use.

TechCrunch has a good piece about Facebook's new Group's for Schools that I recommend reading.

Applications for Education
Groups for Schools can't be used by K-12 schools, but it seems like it could be a great way for colleges to connect with students. For K-12 schools creating Facebook Pages and Private Groups is still an option. I created a Facebook page that was nothing more than updates from my course blog. I did that just to provide another place where students and their parents could get information related to my courses.

Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Faulkner - A New Yale Open Course

Last week I shared a video animation of Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea. I found that video on Open Culture. This morning on Open Culture I learned about a new open course from Yale titled Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Faulkner.

Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Faulkner is a 25 lecture course in American Studies. The course can be found on Yale's website, on YouTube, and on iTunes.

Hemingway, Fitzergerald, and Faulkner is one of six new courses recently added to Yale's Open Course catalog. In all there are now 42 full courses in Yale's Open Course catalog.

Applications for Education
As the summer break gets closer (at least in the Northern Hemisphere) it's time to start thinking about personal professional development. Working through an open course from Yale could be a good way to brush-up on things that you're teaching next fall. Or just go through the course materials to find some new nuggets of information to add to your existing courses.

Weather and the Titanic

The 100 year anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic is just a few days away. National Geographic made it the cover story this month and put out some nice online resources about it too. I published a list of resources about the Titanic last week. But Larry Ferlazzo probably has the best list of Titanic resources going. One of the items that he recently added to his list is Setting the Stage for the Titanic Tragedy.

Setting the Stage for the Titanic Tragedy is a New York Times feature that examines the tide and weather conditions that contributed to the Titanic striking an iceberg and contributed to delaying the rescue of survivors. Setting the Stage for the Titanic Tragedy includes a map of the Titanic's voyage route and the typical routes of icebergs calving off of Greenland.

Applications for Education
Setting the Stage for the Titanic Tragedy is the companion to The Iceberg Was Only Part of It. The article outlines a new look at nature's role in the sinking of the Titanic. Because the article is from The New York Times it may be challenging for younger readers. For older students Setting the Stage for the Titanic Tragedy and The Iceberg Was Only Part of It could challenge them to rethink what they already know about the Titanic.

Google+ Updates and a Hangout Just for Educators

This morning Google announced some nice updates to the Google+ interface. There two immediately useful updates from my perspective. There is an option to rearrange the order in which your favorite apps appear on your homepage. The other useful feature is the conversation cards on the right side of your screen. The conversation cards allow you to quickly scan the conversations happening in your Google+ Circles.

Through Alice Barr's post in the Google Certified Teachers group I learned about a Google+ Hangout for educators. Titled Education on Air this live Google+ Hangout will happen on May 2nd. Education on Air is a day of hangouts hosted by teachers for teachers. Throughout the day there will be presentations centered around the following themes; Hot Topics in Educational Technology, Communication, Google Apps, Harnessing the Power of the Web, Instruction and Assessment, and Productivity. You can find the list of sessions here. Based on the list of presenters and the list of sessions, this promises to be a great opportunity to learn about some great uses of Google Apps in education.

11 Free Tools for Creating Websites and Simple Webpages

Last week I wrote about Codecademy's new programs for teaching basic HTML, CSS, and other fundamentals for building websites. But if you don't have the time or desire to build webpages from scratch  there are plenty of free online tools that will do the heavy lifting for you so that you can concentrate on just adding useful content to your course webpages. Here are eleven free services for creating websites and simple webpages.

Wix is a free service for creating and hosting beautiful websites. Wix recently announced that their templates and the websites you build with them are now available in HTML5. That means that sites created in Wix are visible on all devices including iPads. In the video below you can see some of the neat things you can do with Wix.

Whatfolio is a free service for creating online displays of your digital works.   Whatfolio is essentially a homepage to show off what you have created or what you can do. Whatfolio pages are highly customizable for a variety of purposes. When you create your Whatfolio pages you can choose from thirty templates. You'll find templates for photographers, designers, personal websites, business websites, student work samples, and many other showcase purposes. You can watch an overview of the Whatfolio creation process in the video below.

Weebly was one of the first website building tools that I played around with when I got started on my technology integration journey. It's a very intuitive and feature rich platform for creating a free website. For those reasons, it's always on my list of recommendations to teachers who want to build a classroom website. If you're looking for a tool for students to use to create websites of their own, Weebly for Education is a good resource. Weebly for Education includes all of the intuitive website-building and blogging tools found on Weebly plus features built specifically for education. Weebly for Education offers bulk creation of student accounts which teachers can manage and moderate. Students can create their own websites and blogs using the accounts that you create for them.

Webs is another service that I have first-hand experience with in a school setting because a couple of my colleagues have used it for their classes. Webs has all of the characteristics that you would expect to find in a free website platform. Websites built using Webs can include videos, calendars, polls, and a wide variety of third party widgets. Webs offers a wide variety templates and layouts to select from. For people with a higher level of comfort with technology, Webs might be a little too basic for your needs.

Yola is the tool that I used a few years ago to build websites for my department at school. Yola offers a great selection of templates and customizations. After setting up the basics of the site, my department handed it off to a student assistant who did a great job of updating it throughout the year. Yola provides good tutorials and forums for first time users. I also learned first-hand that their responses to help requests are very quick.

If you already have a Google Account, Google Sites is already available to you. Just select it from the menu of services that you're not using. Google offers a wide variety of templates that you can use and customize on your site. Should you decide at a later date that you want to add other contributors to your site, you can do so with just a couple of clicks in the sharing menu.

School Rack offers a free service for teachers to build and host their own classroom websites. Unlike other free website solutions that are targeted toward a general audience, School Rack has features designed specifically for teachers. For example, on your School Rack website you can post assignments with full descriptions, expectations, and deadlines. This is an integrated feature, not an add-on page that you have to create yourself. School Rack offers students and parents free accounts to communicate with teachers. Once your students and parents have activated their accounts, you can directly message individuals or send messages to groups that you have created.

Web Node is a simple way to build a website. The easy to use, drag and drop, interface makes it easy to change the look and feel of your website. For two reasons Web Node is a good tool for students to use to present and share their work with a wider audience. First, Web Node does not put any advertising on your website. And second, the user interface is intuitive enough for first-time users to navigate on their own. 

Smore is a service for quickly creating great-looking webpages. Smore markets itself as a service for creating online flyers, but it's a little bit more than that. To me "flyer" implies that you're creating a single-use PDF and posting it online. Smore's flyers are dynamic and changeable, they're not single-use PDFs. Your Smore flyers can include many types of media including videos. Deleting or adding elements to your Smore flyer is as simple as dragging and dropping them on or off your page. Watch the one minute video below for an overview of Smore in action.

A Cupcake Story from Smore on Vimeo.

Check This is a service for quickly building and publishing webpages. Check This falls somewhere between having nothing on the web and a blog. Check This isn't designed to replace your favorite blog or website creation platform, rather it is designed to fill the niche for people who desire to publish a simple announcement page. Without registering you can add text, images, and videos to your Check This page in a matter of seconds. And after you have published your page you can go back and edit it by using the unique edit link sent to the email address you provide in the step between creation and publishing.

In the video below I provide a short walk-through on creating a webpage with Check This.

Page O Rama is a free service for quickly creating stand alone webpages. Creating a webpage with Page O Rama is very simple. Just visit the Page O Rama homepage, select a web address, title your page, and start typing. Page O Rama offers a good selection of text editing tools including page breaks. If you want to, you can add images to your Page O Rama pages too. If you think your page is something that you're going to want to edit and update occasionally, you can enter your email address to create an administrative log-in.

Going to ISTE? Check Out Social EdCon

The ISTE 2012 conference is just a couple of months away. If you're thinking about attending or you are planning to attend, take note of Social EdCon. Social EdCon, formerly known as EduBloggerCon and organized by Steve Hargadon, is a day of conversations lead by educators for educators about a wide array of topics. Social EdCon, like EdCamps, is an unconference. That means that anyone who has a topic that they want to talk about can propose a session and if there is interest, that session happens. In the past I've joined in on conversations about iPads, Blogging, Wikis, and what education reform should look like.

This year's Social EdCon will be held on June 23 which is the day before the ISTE 2012 conference starts. Social EdCon costs nothing to attend. In fact, you don't even have to be registered for ISTE 2012 to attend.

On a related note, I'm only going to be able to attend the first two days of ISTE 2012. I hope to reconnect with old acquaintances and meet as many new people as possible. If you want to connect, I'll be the dork in the Blogger's Cafe at ISTE.