Friday, June 1, 2012

The Artist's Toolkit - Lessons on Visual Elements

The Artist's Toolkit is a good place for students to learn about visual elements and principles used in art. The toolkit provides students with animated explanations of each design element and principle. After viewing an animated explanation students can test their skills in recognizing design elements in some short, self-paced activities.

In addition to the animated explanations, The Artist's Toolkit has a small encyclopedia of design elements and principles. The encyclopedia does not have animations. Rather it just has pictures with captions.

Applications for Education
The animated explanations found in The Artist's Toolkit aren't replacements for good classroom instruction, but they're not bad as a review or supplementary resource for students.

H/T to Howie DiBlasi for sharing this on Twitter a few weeks back.

Create Heat Maps from a CSV File

Heat Map Tool is a tool for easily creating heat maps or incident maps from a CSV file. To create a heat map all you need to do is upload a CSV file then specify your desired display attributes like scale, colors, and opacity. You can edit the display attributes of your map whenever you like. If you're wondering how to create a CSV file you can do so by exporting from a spreadsheet in Google Documents or exporting from an Excel file. Click here for directions on exporting from Excel. The free version of Heat Map Tool allows you to have up to 100 data points on your map and up to 500 hits per day on your map.

Applications for Education
Like Map a List and Spreadsheet Mapper, Heat Map Tool could be a good tool for students to use to create visualizations of geography-related data that they collect. Students could gather and display data about people's habit in their community or throughout the world. For example, you could have students gather data about dialects and display that information on a map.

Clipboard - A Nice Tool for Visual Bookmarking

Clipboard is a new entry into the visual bookmarking game. Clipboard reminds me a lot of Pinterest and Learnist. TechCrunch described it as a combination of Pinterest and Evernote although it's nearly as feature-rich as Evernote yet.

Clipboard's basic structure is similar to Pinterest in that users create private and public boards to which they can save content from the web by using the Clipboard browser extensions and bookmarklets. Clipboard does have one feature that makes it slightly better than Pinterest. That feature is the option to save Flash-based games and apps on your clipboards and using them as fully-functioning games and apps within your clipboards.

Here's a short video overview of Clipboard.

Here's a long demonstration and interview with Clipboard's founder.

Applications for Education
One aspect of Clipboard that has potential for teachers and students is the ability to create multiple boards of visual bookmarks. Having images and videos attached to bookmarks can be helpful in quickly recalling the part(s) of a website that made you save it in the first place. Another aspect of Clipboard that has potential for teachers is that you can quickly switch your boards from private to public view and back again. If you had a clipboard of resources that you wanted to make public for students to see for just one class meeting, you could do that with Clipboard.

ReadCube - A Desktop Tool for Organizing Research

ReadCube is a desktop application for Windows and Mac that aims to help you organize your research literature better. I initially tried it out last fall and found it to be a powerful tool even if it wasn't the most intuitive tool I've ever tried. This morning I received an email announcing that ReadCube is now available to anyone that wants to try it out. Therefore, I thought I would reintroduce it to you today.

ReadCube provides a place for students to save and annotate scholarly documents. Through ReadCube students can search Google Scholar and Pub Med. Students can also import to ReadCube PDFs that they find elsewhere. The video below offers a short overview of what ReadCube can do.

ReadCube Intro from R3 on Vimeo.

Applications for Education
When you download ReadCube, it will ask you for your university email. Don't be discouraged by that, I was able to register using my K-12 school email account. But the fact they ask for your university email account is an indication that Read Cube is clearly targeted to a higher ed audience. Still, Read Cube could be useful for some high school students working on long-term research assignments. You might also consider using it yourself for your next continuing education course.

CNN Student News - A Soda Pop Ban?

This morning's episode of CNN Student News has a story about a proposed New York City law that would limit the size of soda pop drinks that can be sold to students. This could be a great conversation prompt for a health class or civics class.

10 Activities to Help Your Students Prepare for Spelling Bees

Last night the National Spelling Bee champion was named. The champion speller for 2012 is Snigdha Nadipati. Watch her spell the winning word in the video below. If you're looking for some spelling practice activities that can help your students become better spellers, take a look at the list I have below the video.

Spelling Match is a spelling game developed by Houghton Mifflin. As the name Spelling Match implies, students have to complete matching activities based on the sounds and or meanings of words. Spelling Match offers different levels of difficulty for students in grades 1 through 8. The games can be played as timed or untimed activities.

Building Language for Literacy offers three nice little language activities from Scholastic. The activities are designed for pre-K and Kindergarten students. Leo Loves to Spell asks students to help a lobster named Leo identify the first letter of a series of spelling words arranged in a dozen categories. Reggie Loves to Rhyme features a rhinoceros that needs help identifying the words that rhyme with objects found in places like the home, the garden, and the supermarket. Nina the Naming Newt needs help identifying the objects that belong in places like the home, the store, and the firehouse. has six word games for your edutaining pleasure. For spelling activities take a look at Miss Spell's Class. In Miss Spell's Class students are presented with twenty commonly misspelled words and quickly decide if the spelling they're looking at is correct or incorrect. Miss Spell's Class is available as a free Android App too.

Vocabulary Spelling City offers a database of more than 42,000 spelling words and sentences. The words and sentences can be customized for your students. This means that Vocabulary Spelling City supports US and UK spellings of words like "favorite" and "favourite," "color" and "colour." Teachers can use Vocabulary Spelling City to create custom lists of words for their students to practice spelling and to study the definitions of those words. To help students learn the proper pronunciation of the words on their practice lists Vocabulary Spelling City provides clear, spoken recordings of every word. Students can play games, study words, and quiz themselves on the spellings of the words on their lists. Vocabulary Spelling City allows teachers to print activities for use in their classrooms when their students don't have access to computers.
Disclosure: Vocabulary Spelling City is an advertiser on Free Technology for Teachers.

Creating vocabulary quizzes is one of the necessary, yet tedious tasks that most teachers have to do. Fortunately, Scholastic has created a free program that will make creating vocabulary quizzes quicker and easier. The Scholastic Word Wizard Vocab Quiz Maker does everything for you except select the words for your quiz. To use the word wizard simply enter into the quiz maker a list of up to twenty-five words. The quiz maker will then, if necessary, ask you to specify the form of the word(s) you've entered. After that the quiz maker generates a vocabulary quiz for you complete with a word bank on one side of the page and questions on the other side.

Read Write Think has an online activity for young (K-2) students based on four childrens' books. Read Write Think's Word Wizard asks students to select one of four books that they have read or have had read to them. After selecting a book the Word Wizard creates a simple online spelling exercise based on the words in the book chosen by the child.

Spell Bee was developed at Brandeis University with funding from the National Science Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Spell Bee allows students to play spelling games in a head-to-head format. Spell Bee allows teachers to create accounts for students so that teachers can track student progress.

Spelling Bee The Game is an online spelling bee in which students select an avatar (game persona), hear words read to them, and have to type the correct spelling in the fields provided. If a student spells a word correctly, they move on to the next level. If a student does not spell a word correctly, they are given an easier word to try. If students need help spelling a word, they can hear the definition read as well as hear the word used in a sentence.

Catch the Spelling offers more than two dozen categories of spelling games. Each game has the same format; as words fall from the top of the screen, players have to "catch" the appropriate letters in the correct sequence to spell the word displayed at the top of the game. Players "catch" letters by moving a cursor at the bottom of the page. In some ways it reminded me of a cross between Tetris and Frogger.

Kids Spell provides free games that help students learn to spell more than 6,000 words. Kids Spell is a part of the Kids Know It Network. The Kids Know It Network provides educational games for all content areas taught in grades K-6.