Thursday, February 28, 2013

Month in Review - February's Most Popular Posts

The first two months of the year have zipped along here in Maine and the year has been off to a good start for Free Technology for Teachers. I hope that the year is off to a good start for all of you too. For those you who live in the north and have had enough snow, don't worry because spring isn't too far away now. 

As I do every month, I've put together a list of the most popular posts of the month and here they are:

1. A Short Guide to Using Google Drive on Your iPad
2. A Teacher's Guide to Classroom Backchannels and Informal Assessment
3. 5 Uses of Augmented Reality in Education
4. A New Collaboration Option in Google Forms
5. 5 Good Task Management Services for Teachers and Students
6. Teaching Tree - Video Explanations of Computer Science Concepts
7. Wallwisher is Now Padlet
8. A New Crash Course in U.S. History
9. A Simple Tool for Cleaning Up Your YouTube Viewing Experience
10. - Video Timelines for Students

Would you like me to visit your school this year? 
Click here for information about my professional development services.

Please visit the official advertisers and marketing partners that help keep this blog going.
ThingLink is a great tool for collaboratively creating interactive images.
Discovery Education & Wilkes University offer online courses for earning Master's degrees in Instructional Media.
Vocabulary Spelling City offers spelling practice activities that you can customize.
MasteryConnect provides a network for teachers to share and discover Common Core assessments. is a provider of free educational games for K-5.
Lesley University offers quality online graduate programs for teachers.
The University of Maryland Baltimore County offers graduate programs for teachers.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology. is hosting iPad Summit USA in Atlanta this spring.

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Take Your Students On a Virtual Field Trip of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History

Next week, on March 5 at 1pm ET, Scholastic is hosting a virtual field trip through the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. During the field trip David Baldacci will guide students through the museum to investigate important and fascinating moments in American history. The field trip is part of Scholastic's 39 Clues Reading Club's Decoding History activities. Scholastic has a 13 page PDF of pre-activity vocabulary and reading to get students ready for the field trip.

Watch Physics Demonstrations and More on MIT Tech TV

MIT Tech TV is a collection of thousands videos produced by students and faculty at MIT. The videos are arranged into more than 600 collections covering topics in engineering, education, science, the humanities, and more. You can view the videos online and most of them are available to download.

Roughly 300 of the MIT Tech TV videos are also available on a YouTube channel of the same name. There are a couple of playlists within the channel that could be of interest to high school and middle school science teachers. MIT Engineering K-12 is a set of twenty-six videos in which MIT students explain and demonstrate things like gas pressure, gravity, Boyle's Law, and the shape of sound waves.

MIT Physics Demonstrations is a playlist of 44 short demonstrations. The videos don't have narration, just the demonstration. The explanation of the principle demonstrated is found in the description below each video. 

Applications for Education
The MIT Physics Demonstrations videos could be helpful if you don't have access to the materials necessary to do the demonstration in your classroom. The videos could prompt your students' questions or you could ask students to research the answers to questions based on the demonstrations.

Resources for Lessons About the Iditarod and Dogs In General

This weekend the Iditarod sled dog race begins. If you're looking for some materials to use to teach about the Iditarod or dogs in general, take a look at some of the resources below.

The best place to start your search for Iditarod-related lesson plans in on the Iditarod Education Portal. There you will find lesson plans arranged by subject area. The Iditarod Education Portal includes lessons for math, science, social studies, and language arts. Take a look at this lesson (link opens a PDF) about friction to get a sense of the kind of lesson plans that you will find through the Iditarod Education Portal.

Scholastic offers a nice collection of materials about the Iditarod. Included in those materials is an interview with author Gary Paulsen in which he answers questions based on his experience in the race. The Scholastic Iditarod resources also include some history of the race and history of Alaska in general.

The Discovery Channel offers 37 video clips related to the Iditarod race. The clips cover information about the dogs, the mushers, the sleds, and the history of the race.

For your students who are interested in learning about the dogs used to pull the sleds over the 1100 mile Iditarod course, the American Kennel Club is a good place to find information about Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian Huskies. I should note that most of the dogs that run in the race aren't pure-bred dogs. I've met many mushers and one of my former colleagues is a musher (not in the Iditarod) whose teams that aren't what you might expect to see when you think of sled dogs. To learn about genetics and breeding of dogs I recommend National Geographic's article How to Build a Dog.

The From Alaska Educational Program has five pre-made units of study about mushing (dog sledding). Each unit has articles, images, and quizzes about mushing. Three of the units also include video and audio clips.

Snag Films hosts a couple of videos that may fit with your lessons on dogs too. The Nature of Things: Man and Dog is a 45 minute video about the relationship between humans and dogs and how that relationship has evolved over time. Dog Bless You is a five minute video about the first no-kill homeless dog shelter in Idaho. As someone who has two rescued dogs at home, I have a special affinity for Dog Bless You.

A special note about this post.
I write a post about the Iditarod every year and every year I receive critical comments about my decision to do so. As mentioned above I have worked with a musher and met many others over the last few years. I've seen how well those dogs are cared for and how much money those mushers spend on the care of their teams. I am very comfortable in saying that sled dog racing is not cruel to the animals. If I didn't believe that, I wouldn't post about the race. I also volunteer at a no-kill animal shelter and have rescued dogs myself, I wouldn't promote something that I thought endangered dogs

Flashcard Stash - Create Online Vocabulary Flashcards to Share With Your Students

Flashcard Stash is a free vocabulary flashcard service for teachers and students. The service makes it easy to quickly create flashcards and sets of flashcards. As a registered user of Flashcard Stash when you type a word into a blank flashcard suggested definitions and sample context sentences are provided to you. You can then choose to add one or all of those definitions and sentences to your flashcard or you can write your own definitions and sentences. When making your own flashcards you can include images. If you don't have time to create your own flashcards you can choose to work with some of the pre-made lists of flashcards.

Teachers registered on Flashcard Stash can create flashcard sets to share with their students. Teachers can create and manage multiple class lists within their accounts. Sharing class lists can be done by inviting students to view the flashcards via email or by posting a password-protected link to the lists on a class blog. The second method requires students to remember the password that you have created to access the list. Word lists can also be embedded into blogs or websites.

Students who are registered on Flashcard Stash can create as many sets of flashcards as they like. Students can also study pre-made lists like "100 words you need to know." When students are reviewing their flashcards they have a few ways to look at their cards. They can simply flip through cards in a "learning mode." The "learning mode" shows student their words on the left of the screen and the definition on the right of the screen. Clicking on the "stash this flashcard" tab on the card in "learning mode" reveals sentences that use the word. In "practice mode" students are shown a word from their lists and a set of definitions, they have to match the correct definition to the word they're seeing. "Match Game" is a faster paced version of "practice mode." 

Applications for Education
While it is not the fanciest looking flashcard service on the web, Flashcard Stash does provide some good options to students and teachers. I particularly like the option to create my own set of flashcards to share with my classes. 

Flashcard Stash does require students to have email addresses in order to create their own accounts. That's the only complaint that I have about the service. But as you can see above, you can embed the flashcards into your blog so that your students could see the words there.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013 - Sync Your Presentations To Your Audience's Laptops and iPads is a new service that is designed to help your audience follow along with your presentations. does this by allowing the members of your audience to see your slides on their laptops, iPads, and Android tablets and watch them change when you advance your slides. This ensures that everyone is on the same slide at the same time. includes a backchannel that allows your audience to comment on and ask questions about your slides.

To start using upload a PPT or PDF to your free account. then gives you a URL to distribute to your audience. When the members of your audience open that URL they will be able to see and follow along with your presentation. When you're done with your presentation just click "stop presenting" and the synchronization stops.'s free service allows you to share your presentations for 48 hours then you'll have to upload them again.

Applications for Education could be a great little service for teachers to use in a 1:1 environment to make sure that their students are all following along with the presentation. You may also want to use the service to have your students share their presentations with you and their classmates when they're presenting to the class.

Create an Interactive Image for a Chance to Win an iPad Mini

ThingLink and Rosen Digital have teamed up to run an interactive image contest for K-12 students. The ThingLink Interactive Image Contest for K-12 is giving away ten iPad minis, one to each category winner. All K-12 students are eligible to enter in one or all ten of the categories. Entries are now being accepted through this form.

The contest categories are as follows:
My Favorite Books or Authors
Science — Think Like a Scientist!
Health & Well-being — You, Your Family, Your Friends
Environment — The World Around Us
Community — Volunteering & Making a Difference
Money Smarts — Earning, Saving, Spending
Art & Music — Express Yourself!
Sports — Game On!
History & Social Studies — From Yesterday to Today
Animals — Furry, Friendly, & Fierce

Voting: Friends and family can vote on their favorite images by using “touch” icon on a ThingLink image. The most “touches” counts for a portion of the score. A team of educational advisors will review entries and determine winners.

Prizes: One iPad mini will be awarded to the top winner in each category. The winning school in each category will also receive one Rosen Database subscription for a year (Teen Health and Wellness, Digital Literacy, Financial Literacy or the Power Knowledge Science Suite). Certificates will be awarded to second and third place winners in each category.

Applications for Education
Even if your students don't or can't enter the contest the list of categories is worth looking at for some ideas for using interactive images in your classroom. I like the idea of having students create interactive images about their favorite books. Students could create story maps then upload them to ThingLink to make the map interactive with pinmarks that contain additional images, video clips, audio clips, or links to additional reviews of their favorite books.

Disclosure: ThingLink is currently an advertiser on Free Technology for Teachers. 

Using Google Drive for Online Discussions of Primary Sources

This same information is included at the end of my slideshow on Teaching With Technology and Primary Sources, but I wanted to share it as a separate post as well just in case people had trouble accessing the linked document at the end of the slideshow.

One of my favorite ways to use the commenting feature in Google Documents is to host online discussions around a shared article. Doing this isn’t a radical departure from having a classroom discussion about an article that you’ve printed and distributed to your students, but there are some advantages to hosting your discussion in Google Documents. The first advantage is that your students can participate in the discussion from anywhere at any time they are connected to the Internet. Students absent from your classroom can still participate and can read others’ comments. The second advantage is that your students can have a digital archive of the ideas shared by you and their classmates.

Here’s the process that I use for hosting an online discussion about a primary source.
1. Find a digital copy, preferably in the Public Domain, of the primary source document that I want all of my students to read.

2. Copy and paste the primary source document into a Google Document.

3. Share the document with my students and allow them to comment on the document. I usually use the sharing setting of “anyone with the link” and then post the link on my blog. Alternatively, you could share by entering your students’ email addresses. See the screen captures below for directions on sharing.
Click for full size view.

Click for full size view.
4. I will highlight sections of the primary source document and insert a comment directly attached to the highlighted section. In my comments I will enter discussion prompts for students. They can then reply directly to my comments and each others' comments.

Using this process in a classroom that is not 1:1
If you teach in a classroom that is not 1:1 you can still take advantage of some of this process. Consider having one or two students play the role of note-taker in the Google Document while you are hosting your classroom discussion with all of your students reading the printed version of the article. Have your note-takers tie comments to specific parts of the article. When the activity is over, posted the final set of notes on your classroom blog by selecting “public on the web” in the sharing setting of the Google Document and then post the link on your classroom blog.

Shameless plug: More about this activity and many other uses of Google Drive in the classroom is included in my Practical Ed Tech webinar How To Use Google Drive in School

Teaching With Technology and Primary Sources

This morning I had the pleasure of giving a virtual presentation to teachers in the Christian Teacher Collaborative based in Frisco, Texas. The topic of my presentation was teaching with technology and primary sources. In the presentation I talked about some of the collections that I've used over the years and how I've used them to teach high school social studies lessons in honors level classes as well as special education classes. I've embedded the slides below. With the exception of the first two slides, all of the images in the slides are linked to the sources so just click on the image in the slide to jump to the collection of primary sources featured on that slide.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Why Visuals Matter In Storytelling

I've had the pleasure of seeing Ken Shelton present on a number of occasions. Each time he has had superbly designed slidedecks. I've used many of Ken's presentation design tips in my own presentations over the last year and I think they've helped make my slides better. Recently, Ken shared with me a slidedeck that he made about the use of visuals in storytelling. He made the presentation on Haiku Deck and you can view it here or view it below.

Created with Haiku Deck, the free presentation app for iPad

Applications for Education
One of the things that I love about Haiku Deck is that it intentionally limits students ability to add lots of text to their slides. This in turn makes them focus on the use of visuals. Ken's Haiku Deck presentation can be an instructive model for your students.  

Shmoop Now Offers History, Math, and Literature Videos

This evening I looked at Shmoop for the first time in quite a while and learned that they now offer videos. The videos are short summaries of topics in U.S. History, classic literature, and mathematics. The videos are a mix of animated and green screen productions. I watched nine of the videos this evening and give them mixed reviews. A couple of the U.S. History videos were a bit too glib or cheeky in their handling of some serious topics while other videos were just fine.

Applications for Education
The Shmoop videos are a bit too short and lack the depth that I hope to find in review materials. The literature videos are more like book trailers than analysis of the books.  In that regard you might find the Shmoop videos could be models for having your students create book trailers of their own.

Join This Hangout to Learn More About PBL

I've just learned from Steve Dembo that on March 14th Discovery Education's Wilkes University Instructional Media Program is hosting a Google+ Hangout to talk about PBL. The Hangout's featured guests include Kathy Schrock, Ginger Lewman, and Cynthia Treichler. Some of the questions to be discussed during the Hangout include:
  • What types of project based learning is there and how does one decide which to use? 
  • What is authentic learning? 
  • What kinds of resources are available to support teachers who want to teach using PBL? 
  • Are there any projects that can serve as models for people getting started?
To join the Hangout on March 14 just head over to or you can sign up for reminder emails here.

Disclosure: Discovery Education's Wilkes University Instructional Media Program is an advertiser on Free Technology for Teachers.

Core of Education - Episode #5 - Collaboration

It had been a few weeks since our last recording so yesterday Rod Berger and I sat down to record another short episode for the Core of Education. This time we talked about collaboration and the Common Core standards. The video is embedded below.

By Popular Request - Another Section of How To Use Google Drive in School

When I first decided to offer some webinars on my own I was a bit nervous about how they would be received. After all, it was the first time that I actually tried to sell my instructional time directly. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Thank you to the first one hundred folks who joined me in the December and January webinars.

One request that I have had from quite a few people is to offer How To Use Google Drive in School at a later time to accommodate people outside of the Eastern and Central timezones of the U.S. Therefore, I'm happy to announce that I have schedule a new section that will meet at 10pm EST (7pm PST) on March 13, 20, and 27. You can register here.

How To Use Google Drive In School is a three hour interactive course for educators who want to learn how to use Google Drive (Google Docs, Presentations, Forms, Spreadsheets). This course covers everything from the basics of document creation to using scripts to automate workflow in Google Drive.

This course is taught by Richard Byrne who is a Google Certified Teacher and the author of multiple publications on using Google Apps in the classroom.

Registration is limited to 25 people per course. For only $87 all participants receive digital how-to guides, access to three hours of live webinar training, access to all webinar recordings, and access to a dedicated course discussion forum.

The cost of this course is $87.00 USD. The next section is scheduled to meet on March 13, 20, and 27 at 10pm EST. Registration is limited to 25 seats per section. Click here to register today!

Course Highlights
*Creating and sharing documents, presentations, and spreadsheets.
*Using Google Documents and Presentations for collaborative writing and reading exercises.
*Using Google Forms and Spreadsheets for collecting and analyzing data. 
*Using Google Documents as a publishing platform.
*Managing the flow of files in your Google Drive.
Registration is limited to 25 students per course.

This course is designed for educators who: 
*Are new to using Google Drive/ Documents.
*Have previously used Google Drive/ Documents but would like a refresher course.
*Would like to learn how Google Drive/ Documents can be used to help their students meet ELA Common Core Standards.

Registration Information 
Click here to register today!
Payments can be made with a personal credit card, with a school district credit card, or with PayPal.
Checks and purchase orders can be accepted however the cost of registration is $15.00 USD higher to cover additional processing associated with those payments. International orders can only be accepted via credit card or PayPal.
Please contact me directly at richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers (dot) com with questions about course registration and or payment processing.

Important: Registrations are not guaranteed until a payment or a purchase order has been received.

Monday, February 25, 2013

5 Ways to Add Interactive Elements to Your Videos

Over the last few days I've featured a couple of free tools for adding interactive elements to your videos. In the last year I've reviewed a few other services and methods for doing the same thing. This is a round-up of the ways that you can add interactive elements to your videos. The first four tools could be used by students to create a series of choose your own adventure videos. These tools could be used by teachers to enhance the short videos that they create for flipped lessons.

YouTube has annotation tools built right into the editor that you can use when you upload your own content to the site. The combination of the annotation and spotlight options can be used to create a series of linked videos or choose your own adventure series. You can only annotate the videos that you own using these tools. Some of the other tools in this list allow you to annotate videos that you do not own. I've embedded directions for using YouTube annotations below.

The Mad Video is a new service for creating interactive videos. The service is kind of like ThingLink for videos. Using The Mad Video you can take a video that is hosted on YouTube and insert interactive tags. The tags can link to websites, images, or other video clips. People can see your tags when they place their cursors over your video. You can add multiple tags to each video in your The Mad Video account.

Embed Plus is a handy tool for editing and annotating videos that you find on YouTube. Embed Plus allows you to start a video at any point you specify. You can also use Embed Plus to skip scenes in a video, play it in slow motion, zoom into an area of a video, and annotate a video.The annotation feature of Embed Plus is a nice complement to the real-time reactions feature offered by Embed Plus. Real-time reactions pulls in Twitter and YouTube comments about your chosen video. The annotation feature lets you comment on specific parts of a video. Your annotations can include links that you insert.

wireWax is a new service that takes the concept of YouTube annotations and makes it much better. On wireWax you can build interactive tags into your videos. Each tag that you add to your video have another video from YouTube or Vimeo or an image from Facebook, Flickr, or Instagram. A tag can also include an audio track from SoundCloud or a reference article from Qwiki. What makes using wireWax different from using the YouTube annotations tool is that clicking on your tags (what YouTube calls annotations) does not send you outside of the video you're currently watching. This means that you can watch a video within a video or view a picture or listen to a different audio track within the original video. When you click a tag in the original video the video pauses and the tagged item is displayed.

Blubbr is a neat quiz creation service that you can use to create video-based quizzes. Using Blubbr you can create interactive quizzes that are based on YouTube clips. Your quizzes can be about anything of your choosing. The structure of the quizzes has a viewer watch a short clip then answer a multiple choice question about the clip. Viewers know right away if they chose the correct answer or not. To create a quiz on Blubbr start by entering a topic for your quiz. After entering your topic enter a search for a video about that topic. Blubbr will generate a list of videos that you can select from to use in your quiz. When you find a video that works for you, trim the clip to a length that you like then write out your question and answer choices. Repeat the process for as many video clips as you like. Click here to try a short Blubbr quiz about the human heart.

The land of the free apps...and the home of the confused? - Guest Post

So many apps, so little time to go through them and see if they’re useful. We’re busy writing lesson plans that connect to and support the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the upcoming Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Our time is precious when we go home (and it’s not at 3 pm) and want to spend time with our families (in my case my bird and four cats). So how do we determine what free apps are useful in the classroom without doing an immense amount of research?

Many organizations have already done the work for you. This part take a bit of time to research, but organizations like CAST (Center for Applied Special Technology) recommend various free apps to cut down your “Hey, let’s play around with this app” time.

As a mathematics instructor for middle schoolers, I need apps that cover core concepts like algebra, geometry, and statistics. CAST recommends puzzles like iSolveIt’s MathScaled and MathSquared to keep students practicing their skills while (dare I write it) having fun. One of my favorite games (and yes, it’s truly an addictive game, even for me as a math teacher) is Glow Burst Lite, which is perfect for the 6th grade community learning about negative numbers on the number line.

For Science middle school instructors, the new NGSS coming out this spring brings with it plenty of engineering requirements rather than content regurgitation. So apps with puzzles, (and I would suggest getting the Apple USB cable that works with a projector), are perfect! Engineering calls for solving problems, so anything with puzzles is fantastic. An app that’s free from Autodesk called Tinkerbox is a great one for the little ones AND middle-school kids. Micro-Empowering Inc. is on Obama’s trail with STEM education with CuriositySchool, another app focused on solving engineering problems, including Biology, Chemistry, and Physics all in one, simple to use app. Again, I would suggest showing this on the “big screen”.

Are you in the Fine Arts and think that the App Store locked its doors on you? Oh, dear no! The app Music Notes is a great tool for the MacBook Pro and iPad for learning where the notes are on the keyboard. There is both training mode as well as a play mode with a timer as the note names come up and you need to click (or tap) on the correct black or white key. For art there are, of course, many sketching apps such as SketchBook MobileX (designed for the iPhone and iPod Touch) which let you get your Stylus on. I have to admit, although we’re talking about free apps, for art history there is a fab app for $9.99 (I know, I know, kinda pricey), called Art Authority. Definitely worth the green.

I hope this gives you a bit of an idea of what’s out there that’s free (minus the last one above) that will get your students excited about your class, your content -- as well as getting you just as thrilled!! Cheers all!

About the guest blogger, Susan Elizabeth D’Auria:
Currently I am the STEM Director and Head of the Mathematics Department at an all-girls private school in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, NY. I spearheaded the Advanced Mathematics Program in 2004 in which our 8th Grade students take a 9th Grade mathematics course. A graduate of Brooklyn College, CUNY, I was accepted as a PhD candidate at Teachers College, Columbia University in Mathematics Education (2010). Since January 2012, I have been working as part of Cohort 4 of the Endeavor Science Program which only accepted 51 teachers across the United States. In May 2013, I will receive a STEM Teaching Certificate from NASA and Teachers College, Columbia University.

5 Good Services to Help Students Learn New Vocabulary Words

This morning I received an email from a reader who was looking for some recommendations for websites that her students can use to learn and practice new vocabulary words. I have made a couple of lists on this topic in the past but it's been a while since I updated them and a couple of the items in those lists have gone offline. Therefore, I put together a new list of the websites that I recommend.

Professor Word is a service that can help students learn new SAT and ACT vocabulary words. Professor Word operates as a browser bookmarklet in Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Safari. When you're reading a webpage click on the Professor Word bookmarklet to quickly identify SAT and ACT vocabulary words on that page. You can also use Professor Word to get definitions for any unfamiliar word on a webpage. To get a definition just highlight the word a small dialogue box containing the definition will appear.

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.

Wordia is a service that offers features videos of people (students and teachers) explaining and demonstrating the meaning of words. Wordia offers games based on the words in the word lists developed by Wordia staff and the lists developed by teachers and students. Students and teachers have the option to create their own word lists and create their own games based on those lists.

Knoword is a fun and challenging game that tests your ability to match definitions to words. Knoword is played like this; you're presented with the first letter of a word, its part of speech, and the definition. You then have to fill in the correct spelling of the word. If you enter the correct word, you earn points. If you don't get it right, you lose points. You don't have to register to play Knoword, but you can register if you want. Registering for Knoword gives you the option to keep track of your game statistics. Registered users can also earn badges based on their performances.

Vocab Ahead offers online study rooms in which students can take practice vocabulary quizzes. The quizzes provide instant feedback on each question as well as summary information at the end of the quiz. While taking the quiz if a student is stuck on an item he or she can click on the hint tab. Vocab Ahead also offers video demonstrations of SAT vocabulary words. Teachers can create their own custom video playlists and place them into playlist widgets.

Disclosure: VocabularySpelling City is an advertiser on Free Technology for Teachers.

CK-12's "Get Real" Contest Gives Students a Chance to Win iPads and More for Their Classrooms

Last week I received an email from CK-12 that announced their new Get Real competition. The Get Real contest asks students to create presentations (videos, PowerPoint, Keynote, and Prezi are all acceptable) that demonstrates how a STEM concept included in CK-12 materials applies to the real world. CK-12 gives the example of using the concept of congruent triangles to build pyramids. Students can work individually or in groups. The winners of the contest will receive their choice of 25 iPads, Chromebooks, Nooks, or Kindles for their classroom. Read all of the contest rules and details here.

One of CK-12's core features is Flexbooks. Flexbooks are multimedia digital books that teachers can assemble to exactly match what they teach. The video below, produced by Gladys Scott, demonstrates how to create a CK-12 Flexbook for mathematics.

76 Examples of Using Haiku Deck in School

Last weekend Kristen Swanson shared some ideas for using Haiku Deck to promote visual literacy. This morning I noticed that the Haiku Deck blog has a post containing five examples of using Haiku Deck in school. That post contains a link to Haiku Deck's Education Case Studies Pinterest board. That board currently contains 76 examples of Haiku Deck being used by students and teachers.

If you're not familiar with it or haven't tried Haiku Deck, here's what you need to know. It's a free iPad app for creating slideshow presentations. There are two features of Haiku Deck that stand out. First, Haiku Deck intentionally limits how much text that you can put on each of your slides. Second, Haiku Deck helps you find Creative Commons licensed images for your presentations. When you type a word or words on your slides you can have Haiku Deck search for images for you. The images that Haiku Deck serves up are large enough to completely fill your slide. You can also upload your own images from your iPad or import images from Instagram and Facebook.

Applications for Education
Here's an example of Haiku Deck being used by first and second grade students.

Created with Haiku Deck, the free presentation app for iPad

Here's an another Haiku Deck that I like.
Created with Haiku Deck, the free presentation app for iPad

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Baby Tigers and Other Wonders on BBC Earth

This evening while some people were watching the Oscars I was watching baby tigers. Thanks to this post on The Adventure Blog I rediscovered the BBC Earth YouTube channel. After watching the baby tigers I found myself sucked into lots of short, educational clips on the BBC Earth channel.

wireWax - Create Interactive Videos and Play Videos Within Videos

wireWax is a new service that takes the concept of YouTube annotations and makes it much better. On wireWax you can build interactive tags into your videos. Each tag that you add to your video have another video from YouTube or Vimeo or an image from Facebook, Flickr, or Instagram. A tag can also include an audio track from SoundCloud or a reference article from Qwiki.

What makes using wireWax different from using the YouTube annotations tool is that clicking on your tags (what YouTube calls annotations) does not send you outside of the video you're currently watching. This means that you can watch a video within a video or view a picture or listen to a different audio track within the original video. When you click a tag in the original video the video pauses and the tagged item is displayed.

wireWax allows you to add tags to any YouTube video that is publicly viewable and has not had embedding disabled. I tried wireWax with this five minute video. It took a while (15-20 minutes) for the video to process for tagging, but once it was processed it was easy to create a tag. To create my tag I just advanced the video to the spot I wanted to tag, drew a box around the person I was tagging, then selected the wireWax YouTube app to put a video within the original video. Check it out below by advancing to about the 1.5 minute mark.

Applications for Education
wireWax could be a great tool for adding new layers of information to educational videos. If you're creating videos for your students or your students are creating videos to share with others consider tagging key points at which viewers might have questions. At those points insert tags that reveal clarifying information in the form of a video, an image, or an audio recording. 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Why Word Order Matters in Google Searches

Google's Search Anthropologist Daniel Russell recently shared a short video demonstrating why word order matters when formulating your search terms. In the two minute video we learn how and why reversing word order can affect the outcome of your search. The video is embedded below.

Applications for Education
Add the information from the video above to this list of 10 Google search tips and you will have the basis for a nice lesson on how to search.

The Week in Review - Thank You Guest Bloggers

Good morning from Greenwood, Maine where it is snowing again! This week started out with some excellent guest posts from folks who filled in for me while I was off on my annual ice fishing and snowmobiling trip on Moosehead Lake. Judging by the comments and the traffic, the guest posts were well received. Thank you to my guest bloggers.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. How Many Minimum Wage Hours Does It Take to Survive?
2. Using Class DoJo to Motivate Students
3. Programming Is Not Just for Programmers
4. Use Strikingly to Create Beautiful Webpages
5. Create Animated Videos With Wideo
6. It's Official, Posterous Is Shutting Down - Get Your Data Now
7. You Can Never Be the Expert In Your Own Backyard

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Friday, February 22, 2013

5 Tips for Writing DBQ Essays

Keith Hughes, history teacher extraordinaire and producer of the excellent Hip Hughes History videos, recently published a new video for students who need to write document based question (DBQ) essays. In DBQ Essays for Dummies Keith offers five helpful essay writing tips for students.

Google Drive Videos Now Available in HTML5

Yesterday, Google announced that HTML5 support is now included for videos within Google Drive. What this means is that Flash is not needed to play your videos back in your browser. While this isn't a ground-breaking announcement it is notable for people using iPads and tablets using Android 4.0+. Give it a try today.

If you're wondering how to get videos into your Google Drive account, use the red "upload" icon next to the "create" button in your Google Drive account. Then upload your video. To play the video back just select it in your Google Drive account and press the play button.
Click to view full size.

C.G.P. Grey Explains How a Pope is Chosen

C.G.P. Grey is back again with a new explanatory video. This time he explains, in his visual and fast-talking style, how a new Pope will be chosen. If you or your students have been wondering how the next Pope will be selected and how a person becomes Pope, watch the five minute video below.

Spark Your Students' Imaginations With Wonderopolis

Wonderopolis is a fantastic site that I learned about through Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano's current series of blog posts about embedding visuals into teaching and learning. Wonderopolis currently offers nearly 900 "wonder" prompts. The prompts cover topics in science, social studies, mathematics, and language arts. Each of the prompts includes a short article, a video, an image or two, and links to additional readings. Learn more about Wonderopolis in the video below.

Wonderopolis from NCFL on Vimeo.

Applications for Education
Wonderopolis could be a great resource to prompt a research lesson or discussion in your classroom. You could include Wonderopolis in a lesson on web research by asking students to pick one of the "wonders" to research in more depth.

Wonderopolis offers an option for teachers and students to submit a "wonder" of their own. You could have your students work together to create a wonder to submit to Wonderopolis. Ask them to create a wonder about something unique to where they live. Perhaps a unique plant, historical landmark, or geographic feature could be the focus of their wonders.

You can put Wonderopolis on your school or classroom blog by using the Wonderopolis daily wonder widget.

Type Rocket - A Quick Game for Typing Practice

Type Rocket is a free typing game from ABCya that Joanne Villis reminded me of in one of her recent posts. Type Rocket is a sixty second game in which students make fireworks explode by typing the letters that appear on the rockets in the games. In the sixty second span of the game students try to correctly type as many letters as they possibly can. The rockets speed up as the game progresses.

Applications for Education
Students can play Type Rocket as many times as they like without registering on the site. In fact, there is not even an option to register on the site. You could have your entire class playing the game in a matter of a minute. Type Rocket could be a great little game to have bookmarked for the end of the class period when you want students to do something fun and constructive at the same time.

Disclosure: ABCya has been an advertiser on Free Technology for Teachers for years.

Questions About Changing School

This morning on Twitter I shared some questions that I have asked students in the past when trying to gather their feedback about what they think schools should do for them. Those Tweets started some good conversations so I thought that I should share the questions here too for folks who are not on Twitter. I hope that some of you decide to use them to spark conversations with your students and your colleagues.

The first question I asked was, "if you could change only one thing about school, what would it be?" The follow-up question that I asked my students was, "what is your favorite memory of school?"

Ken Templeton added some important questions to the conversation too. His questions were, "what would you never change about school?" and "what do you love about school?" Ken also added this prompt, "describe a powerful learning experience, how can we make school like that?"

A Quick Guide to Using Interactive Whiteboards

Danny Nicholson runs The Whiteboard Blog where he has just posted another helpful guide for new interactive whiteboard users. Getter Started With Your Interactive Whiteboard offers some suggestions for activities to to familiarize yourself with the process of using an IWB regardless of which brand of IWB you have in your classroom. Danny has also included links to download the software for six brands of interactive whiteboards. After you have gotten familiar with the basics of using your new interactive whiteboard, you might want to move on to Danny's Interactive Whiteboard 101.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Create Animated Videos With Wideo

Wideo is a service that allows anyone to create animated videos and Common Craft-style videos online. You can create an animated video on Wideo by dragging and dropping elements into place in the Wideo editor then setting the sequence of animations. Each element can be re-used as many times as you like and the timing of the animation of each image can individually adjusted. Wideo's stock elements include text, cartoons, and drawings. You can also upload your own images to use in your videos. Wideo's promo video is embedded below.

WIDEOO REEL ENG NEW LOGO from Agustin Esperon on Vimeo.

Applications for Education
Wideo has the potential to be a great tool for students to use to bring their creative short stories to life. Wideo could also be used by students to create animated explanations of historical events, to animate biographies, or to teach other short lessons.

Thanks to Debbie Biddle for sharing Wideo with me in an email earlier this month. 

Create Interactive Videos on The Mad Video

The Mad Video is a new service for creating interactive videos. The service is kind of like ThingLink for videos. Using The Mad Video you can take a video that is hosted on YouTube and insert interactive tags. The tags can link to websites, images, or other video clips. People can see your tags when they place their cursors over your video. You can add multiple tags to each video in your The Mad Video account. When I tested The Mad Video this evening it worked for some, but not all videos that I tried. It did work with all of the videos that I own. Take a look at The Mad Video sample below.

To create your own interactive videos on The Mad Video you do have to create an account. After creating your account paste in the URL of the video that you want to make interactive. The Mad Video will provide you with a timeline editor for placing each of your interactive tags. Publish your video after placing all of your tags.

Applications for Education
The Mad Video could be a great tool for students to use to enhance videos that they create and or find on YouTube. You might have students create short videos about a topic and include interactive tags to direct viewers to the sources of their information, to additional video clips, or to additional reading about the subject of their videos.

Find Great Public Domain Images on Pixabay

Pixabay is a good place to find and download quality public domain images. You can search on Pixabay by using keywords or you can simply browse through the library of images. When you find an image you can download it in the size that suits your needs. Registered users do not have to enter a captcha code to download images. Users who do not register can download images, but they do have to enter a captcha code before downloading each picture. 

Applications for Education
Whenever I lead a workshop on video production in the classroom I recommend that students use their own images whenever possible. When using their own images is not an option then I recommend using public domain images. Pixabay is a good place to find public domain images that students can use in their multimedia presentations.

H/T to Dianne Krause.

A Free Dictionary of Historical Terms, People, and Events

History Today offers a nice resource for quickly looking up definitions of terms frequently used in history texts, mini-biographies, and short summaries of historical events. The Historical Dictionary contains hundreds of concise entries. You can search for explanations of terms and events or search for mini-biographies by entering your query into the Historical Dictionary search engine. You can also browse the dictionary in alphabetical order. Each entry includes links to related entries and further reading suggestions.

Applications for Education
History Today's Historical Dictionary could be a good resource to include on class blog or website so that your students can quickly find it when they need a brief explanation a historical term. The concise entries could provide the mental jump-start that students sometimes need in order to recall other information that they already knew about the topic.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Use Strikingly to Create Beautiful Webpages is a service that can be used to create one page websites to show off your best digital work or to advertise an event. provides a variety of templates for digital portfolios and digital flyers. Each template can be customized by hovering your mouse on any element of the template and selecting the edit button. Free pages are assigned subdomains. Premium accounts can have custom domains.

Applications for Education
Creating a page could be a good way for students to showcase examples of their best images and videos. Students can also use pages to feature examples of their best writings.

Create Image-based Quizzes with ImageQuiz

ImageQuiz is a new service that allows you to create quizzes based on any images that you own or find online. When people take your quizzes on ImageQuiz they answer your questions by clicking on the part of the picture that answers each question. For example, if you uploaded a picture of a map you could write questions that ask users to click on states, cities, or countries.

Creating a quiz on ImageQuiz is an easy process. First, give your quiz a title and then upload a picture or copy and paste the URL of an online image into ImageQuiz. Then draw outlines around the parts of the picture that will be the answers to your questions. Finally, write your questions and try your quiz. To share your quiz just give people the URL of your quiz. You can try my sample quiz here.

Applications for Education
ImageQuiz could be a good tool for teachers to use to create geography quizzes or any quiz in which students need to be able to visually identify specific items.

H/T to Larry Ferlazzo. - Host and Join Webinars on Any Device is a service that allows you to host webinars that can be accessed from any laptop, desktop, or tablet (including iPad) that has a web browser. does not require you to install any special software nor does it use Flash or Java. When you create your account on you can pick a name and URL for your room. That name and URL can be yours for as long as you like and as many times as you like within the limitations of your account's time limitations. In your meetings you can share your desktop, your webcam, and transfer files to attendees. Watch the video below to see how works.

Applications for Education has a free plan that allows you to have three people join each of your meetings. And you have 500 minutes of meeting time in that free account. The free plan could be good for hosting small online tutoring sessions.