Sunday, March 31, 2013

A Short Guide to Finding and Using Media on Your Blog - Part 3

In part one of this series I shared some resources for creating a gallery of media to use in your classroom blog. In part two I shared some places where you can find public domain media to use in your blog posts. In this third and final post in the series we'll take a look at Creative Commons and Fair Use of media in blog posts.

Creative Commons Works
Creative Commons is a voluntary licensing system that photographers, videographers, writers, and musicians can use to give permission to re-use their works under certain conditions. There are six different Creative Commons licenses. The least restrictive of which allows you to distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon another person’s work, even commercially, as long as you credit that person for their original creation. The most restrictive Creative Commons license allows you only to download a person’s work and share it with others as long as you credit the original creator, but you cannot change them in any way or use them commercially. You can find the list of Creative Commons licenses at

Places to Find Creative Commons media: offers a search page that links to thirteen sources of Creative Commons licensed media. Those sources are Flickr, YouTube, Google Images, Google, Jamendo, Open Clip Art Library, Fotopedia, SpinXpress, Pixabay, SoundCloud, Europeana, ccMixter, and Wikimedia Commons.

The Free Music Archive provides free, high-quality, music in a wide range of genres. The content on Free Music Archive is used under various creative commons licenses. The New York State Music Fund provided initial funding for FMA. FMA seeks to maintain a high-quality resource through the use of selected curators who approve or deny all submissions to the collection. Anyone can download music from FMA for use in podcasts, videos, and other digital presentation formats. The music collections can be searched by genre or by curator.

Morgue File provides free photos with license to remix. The Morgue File photo collection contains thousands of images that anyone can use for free in academic or commercial presentations. The image collection can be searched by subject category, image size, color, or rating. Morgue File is more than just a source for free images. The Morgue File also features a "classroom" where visitors can learn photography techniques and get tips about image editing.

Wylio is an image search engine designed to help bloggers and others quickly find, cite, and use Creative Commons licensed images. Wylio results only return images that are listed with a Creative Commons license. Wylio makes it easy to give proper attribution to the creator of the image by providing you with html code that includes attribution. All you have to do is copy the code and paste it into your blog post or webpage.

The Vimeo Music Store offers more than 45,000 music tracks. Not all of the tracks are free or Creative Commons licensed, but roughly one-third or more of them are. In the Vimeo Music Store you can search for music by genre, license type, price, and length.

Fair Use
The U.S. Copyright Office sets out four factors for determining fair use of copyrighted works. Those four factors are:
  • The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes.
  • The nature of the copyrighted work.
  • The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole.
  • The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work.
In my experience in working with teachers and students all over the U.S. the most misunderstood of these four points is the last. Everyone understands that you cannot sell someone else’s works, but they don’t understand that making copies of a work whether physical or digital can devalue the original work.

There are many myths about Fair Use that state there is a percentage of a work that can be copied without permission under the rules of Fair Use. Unfortunately, all of those myths are just that, myths. The U.S. Copyright office states, The distinction between what is fair use and what is infringement in a particular case will not always be clear or easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission. Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission (

A Short Guide to Finding and Using Media on Your Blog - Part 2

In part one of this series I shared some ideas for creating a gallery of media to use in your classroom blog posts. If you don't have the time or opportunity to create your own media for blog posts then you should look for media that is in the public domain.

Public Domain works are images, writings, videos, and sounds whose copyright has expired or never had a copyright attached to them. Public Domain Sherpa offers a handy little calculator that helps you determine if a work is in the public domain.

Places to find public domain media:
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.

The Internet Archive is a great place to find images, videos, audio recordings, and texts that are in the Public Domain. While most of the works are in the Public Domain not all of them are so make sure you check the license attached to each artifact.

The Commons on Flickr is a good resource for students in need of images for multimedia projects for history, literature, and other content areas. A requirement of contributors to The Commons is that all images are made available without copyright restrictions.

The Digital Comic Museum is a crowd-sourced collection of hundreds of classic comic books that are now in the public domain. Register users can download these comics from the site. You can browse the galleries to find comics to download. If know the name of a comic or comic publisher you can search for it by name.

The National Jukebox is an archive of more than 10,000 recordings made by the Victor Talking Machine Company between 1901 and 1925. These are recordings that were made using an acoustical recording process that captured sounds on wax cylinders. The recordings in the archive can be searched and listened to on your computer. You can search the archives by recording date, recording type, language, and target audience. The National Jukebox has also arranged playlists that you can listen to in a continuous stream. You can also embed the recordings player into your blog or website.

Sound Bible is a resource for finding and downloading free sound clips, sound effects, and sound bites. Nearly all of the sounds on Sound Bible are either public domain or labeled with a Creative Commons license. On Sound Bible you will find sounds for use in blog posts, podcasts, videos, slideshows, or other multimedia creations.

Click here for part three

A Short Guide to Finding and Using Media on Your Blog - Part 1

A blog can get boring after a while if paragraphs of text is all that ever gets posted to it. More importantly, your students will get bored posting to a blog if all they’re ever asked to do is write on it. To draw more attention to blog posts, to make them more interesting, to get students excited about posting to a blog, and to spark students into discussion use interesting pictures, videos, and audio files.

Before looking at sources of media to use in your blog posts it’s important to have some understanding of copyright, Creative Commons, and Fair Use. (Disclaimer: this is not to be construed as legal advice and is based on my understanding from a U.S.-based perspective). The best way to avoid any copyright infringement is to use your own media. If you don’t have media of your own to use in your blog posts then search for works that are in the Public Domain and works that have been labeled with Creative Commons licenses. After exhausting your search for Public Domain and Creative Commons works then you might make an argument for Fair Use of copyrighted works.

Using Your Own Media - Building a gallery of media
The best way to ensure that you don’t infringe on someone’s copyright rights is to use your own media in your blog posts. Commit to a 365 project to build up a gallery of media that you can access when you need it. A 365 project is just a way of committing to taking one picture per day. The concept can be applied to recording video and audio clips too.

Aviary's mobile image editor is a free app for iOS and Android devices. The Aviary mobile app allows you to quickly crop images and add effects to your images. What I like about Aviary's mobile app is that unlike Instagram you don't have to register or join any social networks.

To capture quick audio recordings try AudioBoo for Android and iOS devices. SoundCloud is another excellent tool for quickly creating short audio recordings. SoundCloud can be used online, on Android devices, and on iOS devices.

To organize your gallery of B-roll media try using DropItToMe to have students contribute to a DropBox folder. If you're working in a Google Apps for Education environment use shared folders in Google Drive.

Click here for part two. Click here for part three. 

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Mission Map Quest - Create Your Own Geography Games

Russel Tarr is on a roll this month. Earlier this month he released a great tool for creating fake text message exchanges between historical and literary characters. This week he released another tool that I think teachers will like. Russel's latest tool is Mission Map Quest. Mission Map Quest is a map-based tool for creating virtual treasure hunts. The concept is simple, you create a series of clues that your students need to follow to identify places around the world. You can add as few or as many clues to your Map Quest as you like. When you're ready to have students try your Quest just give them the web address of the challenge or have them scan the QR code assigned to your Quest. 

The QR code in this post will take you to Russel's demonstration of Mission Map Quest. You can also click this link to try it from the student perspective. The demonstration has a WWI theme. 

Applications for Education
Mission Map Quest could be a great tool for creating your own geography and history review activities. Your clues could be based on political events or geographic features. For example, you could create a clue that asks students to identify where the American Civil War began. You could also include a clue like "the longest river in Africa empties into this body of water." Of course, you don't have to be the only one making the Map Quests. Have your students create Map Quests that they share with each other.

The Week in Review - It's Mud Season!

Good morning from muddy Greenwood, Maine. The spring thaw has started and that means it is mud season. Along with the mud we have the return of lots of birds and awakening of black bears from their winter slumber.

This week I spent two days at Discovery's Beyond the Textbook forum. It was a good experience that I'll share more of in an forthcoming post. One of the posts I wrote at the beginning of the forum is in this week's list of the most popular posts listed below.

Here are the week's most popular posts:
1. A Short Guide to Terms Commonly Used In Blogging
2. A Simple Yet Powerful Student Blogging Activity
3. What Is Beyond Textbooks?
4. Readium - Read ePub Documents In Your Browser
5. Quizdini - Create Online Quizzes That Give Students Instant Feedback

Would you like to have me to visit your school this year? 
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Friday, March 29, 2013

The NanoSpace Molecularium - A Virtual Amusement Park About Molecules

The NanoSpace Molecularium is a nice web resource produced by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The purpose of the site is to provide elementary school and middle school students with an introduction to the properties of atoms and molecules. The NanoSpace Molecularium is a virtual amusement park that students can click through to find videos, games, and other short lessons about atoms and molecules.

Students enter the NanoSpace Molecularium through the "Hall of Atoms & Molecules." From there students can choose which of the four parts of the amusement park they want to explore first. The four sections that students can explore are DNA Land, H20 Park, Sizes of Molecules, and Molecular Materials. One of the videos from the Materials section is embedded below.

Applications for Education
The NanoSpace Molecularium can be used by students with or without creating an account on the site. The benefit of creating an account is that students can keep track of where they left off during their previous visit.

Conservation Connection - A Game for Learning About Conservation

Nature Works Everywhere is an excellent site presented by The Nature Conservancy. One of the features Nature Works Everywhere designed for students is Conservation Connection. Conservation Connection is a simple game in which students try to identify connections between common consumer items like ice cream and the conservation issues connected to it.

Applications for Education
On Nature Works Everywhere students can watch short videos about nature and conservation. Each video is connected to a free lesson plan that teachers can download.

A Good Collection of 13 Digital Citizenship Resources

Jen Deyenberg at Northern Gateway Public Schools has created a nice collection of digital citizenship resources for teachers and parents. The collection is organized into sections for elementary school, middle school, and high school. There is a separate tab for parent resources. One of the things that I like about the collection is that understanding copyright has been included as part of digital citizenship.

Applications for Education
Bookmark the Northern Gateway Digital Citizenship Resources collection and refer to it when you're planning digital citizenship lessons for your students.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Google Maps Engine Lite - Create Advanced Custom Google Maps

For years Google Maps had the option for creating custom placemarks and basic shapes in the "my maps" option in your account. But if you want to further customize your maps you really had to do that work in Google Earth. Yesterday, Google introduced Maps Engine Lite which bridges the gap between creating basic custom maps in Google Maps and creating custom layers in Google Earth.

Maps Engine Lite allows you to go beyond manually adding placemarks to your Google Maps by uploading a spreadsheet of locations that will be displayed on your map. You can import up to three spreadsheets per map. You can also draw custom lines and shapes on your maps. Like any other Google Map you can invite others to collaborate with you. You can share your map by embedding it into a website. Google Earth Outreach offers a detailed tutorial on how to use the new Maps Engine Lite. I'm looking forward to going through the tutorial and creating some new maps this weekend.

Applications for Education
Maps Engine Lite could be a great tool to use to introduce students to using GIS to interpret data and make decisions based on that data. Here's one way that I might use Maps Engine Lite with students in my area. I could create data sets about ice thickness on a set of area ponds, create a data set about average weekly high temperatures in those areas, import that data into the map and ask students to make predictions as to when the ponds will be ice-free.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Short Guide to Mobile Blogging Apps for Students and Teachers

One of the blogging activities that I often suggest in my workshops is having students record and share on-the-spot observations during field trips. To do this your students should have a mobile blogging application on their iOS and Android devices. If your students don't have iOS or Android devices, but they have some other mobile devices that has a web browser or email client they can post via email to Blogger. Here's a short run-down of mobile blogging options on the blog platforms that I usually recommend to teachers.

Blogger: Google offers mobile apps for Android and for iOS. The apps can be found here You can also post to Blogger via email if you have enabled that feature in your Blogger settings. You can find directions for activating post via email here With post via email activated you and your students can blog through any email app that you have installed on your phone or tablet.

WordPress: If you are using either or a self-hosted WordPress blog you can post to it through the free iOS app or through the free Android app learn more about the Android app in the video below.

EduBlogs: You can find the Edublogs iOS app here The Edublogs Android app is available here

Kidblog: Kidblog doesn’t currently offer their own Android or iOS apps, but you can enable mobile publishing and use the WordPress iOS and Android apps to publish to your Kidblog. You can find directions for enabling mobile publishing on Kidblog here

Three Mobile Blogging Activities for Students
1. One-take and or quick-cut videos. Have your students interview each other in front of a landmark to talk about what they're learning on a field trip. The YouTube apps for iOS and Android are made for that type of activity.

If your students have been taking a lot pictures on a field trip, have them organize a short audio slideshow video through the Animoto Android or iOS apps.

2. Podcasts and audio notes. Have your students use Audioboo or Sound Cloud (both are available for iOS and Android) to create simple audio recordings in which they describe what they're seeing on a field trip. They can also use the apps to record informal interviews with folks like museum tour guides or park rangers.

3. Enhance pictures. Your students can use ThingLink (iOS or web browser) or PicCollage (available for iOS and Android) to add some information to pictures that they take on field trips. In the case of ThingLink they can add interactive elements to their pictures. Those elements can include links, notes, video clips, MP3 recordings, and other images. In the case of PicCollage students can put together a simple collage of field trip highlights.

What Is Beyond Textbooks?

For the next two days I’ll be at Discovery Education’s Beyond the Textbook forum. The purpose of the forum is to bring together a couple of dozen educators to discuss the next generation of textbooks or whatever is beyond textbooks. The forum is set to begin in just a few minutes from now. These are my thoughts heading into the forum. I’ll update these notes over the next couple of days.

When I hear “beyond textbooks” this is what I think of:

  • Using augmented reality applications to enhance images and diagrams and make them interactive. 
  • Embedding video and audio into digital textbooks. Granted, this can be done in webpages. 
  • Building interactive, choose-own-adventure pages into digital textbooks. Including checks for understanding that provide students with immediate feedback before moving on to a new section of the textbook. 
  • Providing a base digital textbook that teachers can quickly and easily customize the content of those textbooks to match their curricula.
What do you think of when you hear "beyond textbooks?"

Full disclosure: Discovery is paying my expenses for the trip and I am speaking at a Discovery Education event in Vermont this summer. 

Quizdini - Create Online Quizzes That Give Students Instant Feedback

Quizdini is a free tool for creating online quizzes. The best feature of Quizdini is that you can create explanations of the correct answer for your students to view immediately after trying each question in your quiz. Your explanation can include text and or links to online resources like videos and images. Quizdini quizzes can be created in a traditional linear format or in a matching format that asks students to pair answers to terms.

Learn how to create a Quizdini quiz by watching the video below.

Applications for Education
Quizdini could be an excellent tool for creating review activities for your students. Your students don't have register in order to try the practice quizzes that you share with them.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

ThingLink Remix - Share One Image and Let Your Whole Class Make It Interactive

ThingLink is my favorite tool for making images interactive. I've written about it many times in the past including this post that has 26 ways to use ThingLink in the classroom. Today, ThingLink added a new option called ThingLink Remix. Remix is an optional service that allows you let other people use the images that you upload. You retain ownership of the original image and your original image isn't changed, but others can use your uploaded image to create their own interactive images.

Here's how Remix works. I can upload a picture and activate the Remix option for it. Then when you find my image you can click the "Remix" button to add the image to your account and start adding interactive pinmarks to it.

If you've never used ThingLink before, check out my short video about it below.

Applications for Education
In the post announcing the new Remix feature ThingLink suggests the following that a teacher compose a set of questions on a ThingLink image of a garden with various plants. Student can then click the Remix button, and answer the questions on his or her own version of the image.

ClassBadges Partners With Edublogs to Recognize Students' Blogging Achievements

ClassBadges and Edublogs have announced a partnership designed to recognize your students' blogging achievements. ClassBadges is a free service for tracking and recognizing students' educational achievements. EduBlogs is a popular blogging platform designed for classroom use. The new partnership between the two services allows you to award blog badges to students for things like quality comments, post quality, and completion of blogging challenges. Click here for the new blog badges.

Applications for Education
ClassBadges offers some suggestions for use in the videos below.

Monday, March 25, 2013

myHistro Offers New Ways to Share Mapped Timelines

myHistro is a timeline builder and map creation tool rolled into one nice package. On myHistro you can build a personal timeline or build a timeline about a theme or event in history. Each event that you place on your timeline can be geolocated using Google Maps. myHistro timelines can be created online or you can use the free iPad app to create events on your timeline. Today, myHistro released a some new ways to share your projects. You can now export your timelines as PDFs, KML files (Google Earth format), or as a CSV file.

The slides below show you how to create timelines in myHistro.

Applications for Education
myHistro has a collaborative aspect as you can invite people to work with you on events or entire stories. To work with you your collaborators will need to register on myHistro. For students over age 13 myHistro has great potential for create digital historical stories.

Get Students Thinking About Programming - Create Entries for the Blockly Turtle Graphics Contest

Blockly is Google's web-based, graphical programming tool. Blockly is designed to get people developing small programs by dragging and dropping elements into sequence. Block can be used without knowledge of a programming language and without even touch your keyboard. Google Blockly's interface reminds me a lot of the MIT App Inventor which is based on code originally released by Google. Google Blockly, like the MIT App Inventor, uses jigsaw pieces containing commands that you can snap together to create an application. The blocks can be dragged, dropped, and rearranged as many times as you like.

The Blockly Turtle Graphics Contest invites you to "draw something cool" with the Blockly Turtle app. Submit your drawing and you could win $100 credit for the Google Play store. Entries will be accepted until midnight PST on April 1, 2013.

Applications for Education
Creating drawings for the Blockly Turtle Graphics Contest could be a good way to get students interested in using logic commands to create simple applications. Blockly is relatively easy to understand environment. Blockly doesn't require any typing, just clicking, dragging, and dropping with a mouse or on a touch screen.

Students Will Enjoy Creating Fiction Stories With These Story Starters

Scholastic Story Starters is a great tool that students will enjoy using to create short, creative fiction stories. Scholastic Story Starters offers four story themes; fantasy, adventure, sci-fi, and scrambler. To create a story on Story Starters a students picks a theme, enter his or her name, chooses his or her grade, and spins the big wheels of prompts. The student can spin the wheels until he or she finds a prompt he or she likes. After the prompt is selected the student can write his or her story using the letter, postcard, notebook, or newspaper format provided by Scholastic Story Starters. When the story is finished it can be printed. Story Starters will work on your students' iPads.

Applications for Education
Scholastic offers an extensive teacher's guide to Story Starters. Scholastic suggests addressing some of the following story elements through the use of Story Starters.

  • How does the main character look and act? 
  • What happens in the beginning, middle, and end of this story? 
  • What words or phrases describe where the story takes place?
Thanks to Rich Kiker for sharing Story Starters on Google+. 

An Interactive History of NASA Space Suits

This afternoon I stumbled upon a neat NASA resource that elementary school and middle school students might like. This interactive display gives students the opportunity to learn about six generations of the NASA space suits. Clicking on one of the space suits gives students a short history of why that suit was developed, its unique parts, and how it functions. The introductory animation to the display explains to students why astronauts need to wear space suits and what would happen if they didn't wear a space suit.

Applications for Education
In exploring the history of the space suits students can learn a bit about atmospheric pressure, friction, and this history of the U.S. space program.

Readium - Read ePub Documents in Your Browser

Readium is a free Chrome extension that enables you to view ePub files in your browser. To read an ePub in Readium you can import the file from your computer or insert the web address of an ePub file that is hosted online. You can store the files in Readium to build a library. To make reading online as easy as possible Readium provides options for changing font size, altering font and background colors, and changing the page format.

Applications for Education
Readium could be a good good tool to have installed on your school's library computers or computer lab computers. When students are conducting research and encounter an ePub document, they will be able to access it without the need to send it to an ereader device.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

A Short Guide to Terms Commonly Used in Blogging

I'm currently in the process of developing new digital handouts for my blogging workshops. One of the items that I'm adding to my handouts is a list of terminology and definitions for terms that I frequently use while talking about building blogs. My preliminary list is posted below. Are there terms that you think should be added to the list?

Theme: WordPress and many other blogging platforms use “themes” to describe the look of a blog. The theme can include the color scheme and the layout of elements on the blog. Changing the theme does not change the content of your blog posts.

Template: Blogger and some other blogging platforms use the term “template” to describe the look of a blog. The template can include the color scheme and the layout of elements on the blog. Changing your template does not change the content of your blog posts.

Tag: Tags are applied to WordPress (Kidblog, Edublogs) blog posts to identify the key ideas or purpose of a post. Tags make it easier for people to search and find older posts on your blog. For example, if you write a post about your Revolutionary War lesson, tag it with “revolution” or “revolutionary war” so that at the end of the school year when you have 150 posts on your blog your students can quickly click on the “revolution” tag and jump to the post that have that label. It’s a lot easier to locate older posts by tag than it is to click through archives by date.

Label: Labels are applied to Blogger blog posts to identify the key ideas or purpose of a post. For example, if you write a blog post about your Revolutionary War lesson plan, label it with “revolution” or “revolutionary war” so that at the end of the school year when you have 150 posts on your blog your students can quickly click on the “revolution” label and jump to the posts that have that label. It’s a lot easier to locate older posts by label than it is to click through archives by date.

Tag Cloud and Label Cloud: Tag and Label clouds can be added to your blog’s homepage to make it easy for visitors to see the tags or labels that you use, click on one of them, and jump to a list of all of the posts that have that particular label.

Categories: In WordPress-powered blogs you can use categories for broad descriptions of posts in addition to using tags. For example, on I use the categories “pre-K,” “elementary school,” “middle school,” and “high school.” I assign each post to a category and use tags for describing the academic topic of the post. This way if someone visits my blog looking for math apps appropriate for elementary school he or she can click on the “math” tag then click on the “elementary school” category to find all of my posts meeting that search criteria.

Embed: To display a video, slideshow, audio recording, Google Calendar, Google Map, game, and many other multimedia elements in a blog post you will use an embed code provided by service hosting that media. Embedding media into a blog post does not make you the owner of it and as long as you follow the guidelines set forth by the hosting service you are not violating copyright by embedding something you didn’t create. For example, when you find a video on YouTube that you want your students to watch you can embed it into a blog post and ask students to comment on the blog post. If the owner of that video decides to take it offline the video will no longer play through your blog post.

Embed Codes: An embed code is a piece of code, often HTML, that media hosting services like YouTube provide so that you can easily display the media that they host in your own blog posts. On some services like an embed code will be clearly labeled as such next to the media you’re viewing. On other services the embed code will be one of the options that appears when you click on the “share” option. YouTube, for example, currently requires you to open the “share” menu before you see the embed code option.

Widget: A widget is a small application that you can include in the posts and or pages of your blog. A widget could be a game, a display of Tweets, a display of RSS feeds, a tag cloud, a calendar, or any other application that offers an embed code.

Gadget: Gadget is the term that Blogger uses for a widget. A gadget and a widget do the same things.

Plug-in: A plug-in (sometimes plugin) is a small application that you can add to the software that powers your blog. Unlike widgets and gadgets plug-ins operate in the background and visitors to your blog will not see them working. A plug-in can add functions to your blog such as suggesting related posts to your visitors or detecting the type of device a visitor is using to view your blog then automatically displaying the mobile or desktop version of your blog’s layout.

Post: “Post” can refer to an entry on your blog as in “a blog post.” “Post” can also be used as a verb as in “I am going to post a new entry on my blog.”

Page: A page on a blog is different than a post because a page is designed for static content. Pages are good for posting information that you want visitors to your blog to be able to quickly access. For example, my classroom blog had pages for curriculum outlines and review guides.

Permalink: Each blog post is assigned its own separate URL this is known as a permalink (permanent link). This URL is the one that you would share if you wanted someone to directly access a post rather than going to your blog’s homepage then searching for the post.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

One Week Until EdCamp Maine - And a Big List of Other EdCamps

Next Saturday I'll be attending EdCamp Maine for the second year in a row. It's a great day of informal presentations and conversations around all things education. Last year I gave a short talk about blogging and this year I may do the same or I might just sit back and enjoy what everyone else has to share. It will be a game time decision because that's how things roll at EdCamps.

If you've never attended an EdCamp, I highly recommend finding one in your area. There is a big list of EdCamps available here. That list is regularly updated as new EdCamps are created.

Want to learn more about EdCamp, how it got started, and what makes it great? Watch Dr. Kristen Swanson explain it in the TEDx talk below.

A Simple Yet Powerful Student Blogging Activity

One of the questions that often comes up in my workshops about blogging is, "what should I have the students write about?" There are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of possible answers to this question. The suggestion that I often make is to start with a simple reflection activity.

Set aside time in your Friday schedule to have your students sit down and write a short reflection on what they learned during the week. These reflections don’t have to be long, a few sentences will do in elementary school. Simply ask your students to share one thing they learned and one thing they still have questions about. To extend the activity have each student comment on at least one other student’s post. Students’ comments could be the answer to a question or a simple “thanks for reminding me about that.” The point is to get students in the habit of reflecting on what they learned. You should do the same.

The Week In Review - Time To Go Fishing...Almost

Good morning from Greenwood, Maine USA where winter doesn't want to quit. There's some light snow falling this morning as I get ready to head out to a fly fishing conclave. Nothing tells me that it's getting close to spring like spending the day with some friends tying flies and telling lies (actually, fishermen don't lie, but we might stretch the truth about the size of a fish). Before fishing completely dominates my thoughts for the day, I'd like to share an update about the week at Free Technology for Teachers.

This week was the second week for two of my Practical Ed Tech webinars. I've received some really nice feedback about these so I will probably offer more in the future. This week I dove into a search for academic research about the use of iPads in education. I shared some of what I found and I will continue to do so as my research progresses.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. 20 Chrome Apps & Extensions for Teachers and Students
2. Ideas for Managing Academic Blogs
3. Soo Meta - A Nice, New Way to Create Multimedia Presentations
4. Street View of Everest Base Camp - And Other Resources for Learning About Mount Everest
5. Picking the Best Platform for Your Classroom Blog
6. 5 Free Tools for Providing Remote Tech Help
7. Studies of iPad Use in Education

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

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
Fresno Pacific University offers online courses for teachers.
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 workshops in Atlanta, Chicago, and Boston this summer.

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Friday, March 22, 2013

Moonberri - Quickly and Privately Transfer Files

Have a file that you need to send to colleague or to a student, but is too big to attach to an email? If so, give Moonberri a try. Moonberri is a free service for  privately transferring files. To transfer a file upload it to your Moonberri account then set a password for accessing it. Give the link to the file and password to the person that you want to be able to download the file. Moonberri will store your files online for up to 30 days. 

Applications for Education
If you have students creating videos or large audio files often those files are too large to attach to a school-issued email account. In those situations a service like Moonberri could be a good tool for students to use to send their files to you. 

MapStory - Create a Story With Mapped Data

MapStory is a free tool for creating mapped displays of data sets. Data sets that are time based, the travels of Genghis Khan for example, can be set to play out in a timeline style on your map.

Creating a MapStory might look complicated at first glance, but it's actually quite easy to create a map. To get started select a data set or sets that you want to display on your map. You can choose data sets from the MapStory gallery or upload your own. After choosing your data set(s) select a base map. After that you can customize the look of the data points on your map and or manually add more data points to your map. The notes option in MapStory lets you create individual events to add to your map and timeline. Lines and polygons can also be added to your projects through the notes feature in MapStory.

Applications for Education
MapStory could be a good tool for students to use to visualize and analyze data. I like the idea of having students add multiple data sets to a map to make comparisons between them. For example, I created a simple map of the campaign stops of Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich during the G.O.P. primaries. I might ask students to look at this map and see if they can make any connections between the number of stops in a region and the primary vote tally for each candidate in that region.

Friday Afternoon Fun Facts

If you've had a long week the following fun video from Buzz Feed will put a little smile on your face. The Happiest Facts To Make You Smile.

Monosnap - A Screen Capture Tool for Mac, Windows, iOS and Chrome

Last summer I started using a new, free screen capture tool called Monosnap. At that time Monosnap was only available for Mac users. Monosnap is now available for Windows, iOS, and Chrome.

To get started using Monosnap download the version that is appropriate for your device. Once installed you can use Monosnap to capture a portion or all of your screen. Like other screen capture tools you can write on your captured images, draw arrows, and obscure parts of the image. One neat option in Monosnap is capturing your screen after a ten second delay. The delayed capture option gives you time to get everything into place for the image. That's particularly handy when you're trying to capture a pop-up box or drop-down menu that otherwise would disappear when you click away from it. You can save your screen captures on your computer or upload them to a free Monosnap account.

Applications for Education
Monosnap, like other screen capture tools, could be used for creating directions on how to use a new program or application. The option to obscure parts of an image is useful if you want to hide contact information that was accidentally captured in your screen capture.

Acceleration and Skydiving

Untamed Science is a neat, educational YouTube channel that I just learned about through the Pearson OLE blog. One of the videos that I watched this morning was Acceleration & Skydiving. The video explains the answer to the question, "when is acceleration the greatest in skydiving?" Watch the video below to find out the answer to that question.

Applications for Education
Before showing this video to your students ask them to use their knowledge of physics to formulate answer choices.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Findery - Share A Story on Google Maps

Findery is a community site on which anyone can share a short story about any location on the globe. Findery uses Google Maps as its base so in a way it is really just a public, collaborative Google Map. To make a contribution to Findery just sign-in, pick a location, and start typing your story. Your story can also include pictures and video clips. You can make your stories public or private on Findery.

Applications for Education
Findery could be a good place to find stories about the places that your students are studying in a geography lesson. Findery is a public site and while there are some content quality requirements I would be hesitant to let younger students explore it on their own. Therefore, I would select stories ahead of time to use in my classroom.

H/T to Google Maps Mania.

Edcanvas Now Supports Audio Comments

Edcanvas is a free service that makes it easy for teachers to organize and share educational materials in a visually pleasing format. I've covered Edcanvas a couple of times since they launched. Today, Edcanvas launched a new feature that allows you to add audio comments to your canvases. Teachers can insert audio comments and students can insert audio comments.

In addition to the new audio comments feature Edcanvas launched an improved text editor today too. The improved text editor includes the option for tables and hyperlinks.

Applications for Education
In the blog post announcing the new audio commentary option the Edcanvas team suggests using the feature to have students read translations to practice their skills in a new language. You could also use the audio comment option to have students ask questions about shared materials and response to those questions online. 

Studies of iPad Use in Education

Cross posted from iPad Apps for School

This week I got the itch to go beyond anecdotal stories about iPads in the classroom and look for some more substantial research and writing on the topic. Below are some of the reports that I’ve been reading through this week.

The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development for Victoria, Australia iPads for Learning – In Their Hands field trial studied the use of iPads in nine schools. One of the observations to note here is that greater success was reported at primary and special schools than in secondary schools.

The iPad as a Tool for Education is a study based on iPad use at Longfield Academy, Kent, England . There is strong emphasis on interpreting the data generated by surveying students and faculty. It’s interesting to note the differences in how students perceived the impact of iPad use on their achievement and how teachers perceived the impact of students use of iPads on student achievement.

Reading With iPads – The Difference Makes a Difference studied the impact on the reading comprehension, knowledge of content, and analysis skills of boys aged 11 to 13 who read using iPads.

Promoting Student Engagement by Integrating New Technology into Tertiary Education: The Role of the iPad studied the use of iPads by teachers and students in distance learning and in-person learning environments. The report includes some quotes from students who seem to have benefitted from the use of iPads. I would like to see the rest of the survey data that was used in the formation of this report.

The Impact of the iPad and iPhone on Education was published in 2010 and is speculative in nature as the students surveyed had not yet been given iPads. The study was gauging student and instructor interest in iPads and potential uses. I would like to see the follow up report if there is one available.

Now You Can Export Padlet (Wallwisher) Walls as PDFs and Images

For the last couple of months Padlet (formerly known as Wallwisher) has been steadily adding new features. First, the moderation options were improved. Then the name was changed. Two weeks ago a new group blog option was added. And now Padlet offers an option to download the contents of your walls as PDFs, images, Excel, or CSV files. Once downloaded you can print the contents of your walls. I also just noticed that Padlet has a Chrome app too.

Applications for Education
If you ever need to create a physical record of activity on your Padlet walls to discuss comments with your students, the new export options will be just what you need. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Google Launches "Keep" For Note Taking on Android and in Drive

After accidentally leaking the news yesterday, Google officially launched the new note taking app Keep today. Keep is an Android app (available for devices using Android 4.0 or higher) that you can use to type notes, dictate notes, take pictures, and bookmark websites. Notes can be written in a free form format or in a checklist format. All of the notes that you take with the Android app are synchronized with your Google Drive account. In your Google Drive account ( you can add new notes and edit notes.

Applications for Education
Google Keep could be a good note taking tool for students that use Android devices. As a stand alone part of Google Drive, Keep isn't ready to compete with Evernote or even just opening a Google Document. As TechCrunch's Drew Olanoff suggested, when Keep gets social sharing functions or any sharing functions it will be a good rival to Evernote and similar services.

Develop Math Skills With Beluga Learning for iPads

Beluga Learning is a free iPad app that my friend Rod Berger recommended to me a couple of weeks ago. Beluga Learning provides a game based environment in which students practice mathematics skills. The games range from basic number line activities to some basic Algebra activities. Students create Beluga Learning accounts without using an email address. Beluga Learning keeps track of which skills students have mastered and which ones they need to spend more time practicing.

Learn more about Beluga Learning in the video below.

Explain It Like I'm Five - Cute Explanatory Videos from Reddit and Donors Choose

Reddit has started to produce a new series of cute explanatory videos sponsored by Donors Choose. The videos feature two adults trying to explain complex topics to five year old children. So far three videos have been added to the series. Those videos cover the stock market, Syria, and Existentialism. I've embedded the stock market video below.

Applications for Education
While watching these videos I was reminded of a project that one of my colleagues used to do with his ninth grade social studies students. He had his students create simple picture books to explain things like supply and demand to fourth grade students. That same idea is used in the Reddit videos and you could have high school students create similar videos to explain topics to elementary school students.

If you need a video production tool, give WeVideo or Pixorial a try.

H/T to TechCrunch.

National Geographic Explains Fracking

Last fall I drove across North Dakota and I'm going back next month to deliver a keynote for NDATL's annual conference. Because North Dakota is on my mind National Geographic grabbed my attention with a headline this month about shale oil and fracking in North Dakota. Even though it is a bit robotic, the National Geographic video below does a good job of illustrating the process without putting too much bias into the explanation.

Three Quick Resources About How Maple Syrup Is Made

Today is the first day of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere. That means that here in Maine Maple Syrup Sunday isn't too far away (March 24 for those of you in the area). As I walked my dogs down the road on Sunday I noticed that one of my neighbors has his maple syrup collection equipment in place. I love maple syrup and I bet that many of your students do too. But do they know how it's made? Learning about the process of creating maple syrup can make for a nice elementary school science lesson. Here are a few resources that you might incorporate into a lesson on making maple syrup.

Maple Syrup the Modern Way is a three minute video about the process commercial producers use to make syrup.

Pure Canada Maple has a nice little graphic illustrating the maple syrup production process.

And Visit Maine has a little promo video about Maple Syrup Sunday. The video includes some information about the process.

Kodu Imagine Cup - Create Games and Win Prizes

Microsoft's Kodu is a free, Windows-based program that anyone can use to create video games without writing code. The drag and drop interface relies on users being able to manage "if/ then" scenarios to design a rich gaming experience. Kodu users create the setting (trees, mountains, rivers, etc), specify roles for characters, and place characters in their games. Finally, students program what players can and cannot do in their games.

To encourage game development through Kodu, Microsoft is hosting a new Imagine Cup. This Imagine Cup is a contest for kids between the ages of nine and eighteen. The contest asks entrants to design games that explore the relationship between water and people. The contest has a category for 9-12 year old students and a category for 13-18 year old students. First prize in both categories is $3,000. The submissions will be accepted until May 17, 2013. Get the complete contest details here.

Applications for Education
Microsoft offers a classroom kit for teachers who are interested in using Kodu in school. That kit will help you get started using Kodu with your students. Designing games for this particular contest could be a good activity to use as part of a lesson on environmental science. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Picking the Best Platform for Your Classroom Blog

A couple of days ago I shared ideas for managing academic blogs. If you haven't started a blog yet, choosing the right blogging platform can help you manage your classroom blog in the long run.

Before we answer the question of which blog platform to use we need to understand some terminology commonly used when talking about blogs. Understanding the terminology will help you make an informed decision about which platform is best for your situation. I wish I had known some of this when I started blogging.

Hosted Blog: A hosted blog is one whose software is maintained by a company for its users. Services like Blogger,, and Tumblr are examples of services on which you can create hosted blogs. The advantage of using a hosted service is that you don’t have to worry about installing software, software updates, server maintenance, or bandwidth capacity. The disadvantage of using a hosted service is that you don’t have access to the servers hosting your blog, the service may limit some customization options ( in particular does this), and if the service closes you will be looking for a new place to blog (see the panic that ensued when Posterous announced its shutdown).

Self-hosted Blog: A self-hosted blog is one for which you own the blogging software, you install it on a server or shared server, and you are responsible for all technical maintenance and updates. The advantage of having a self-hosted blog is that you can customize it to your heart’s content, you have access to the server(s) hosting your blog, and you can move your content from one hosting service to another if you choose. The disadvantage of a self-hosted blog is that you do have to feel somewhat comfortable installing the software on a server. Fortunately, most hosting companies have good tutorials on installing popular blogging software. Another disadvantage of self-hosting is that you are responsible for performing all updates and other maintenance tasks. This can be time consuming for new bloggers. Finally, to have a self-hosted blog you will have to buy a domain and pay a monthly or annual hosting fee for your blog. I pay roughly $200 annually to for hosting and I have eight domains on my plan. If you decided to go the self-hosted route, Media Temple is my recommendation for a hosting service. They offer excellent 24/7 customer service and I’ve never experienced any downtime since I started using them in April of 2012.

The best blog platforms for teachers.
Blogger: This is Google’s free blogging service. It takes just a minute to start a blog through Blogger. Blogger offers a nice selection of colorful themes and templates to choose from. Customizing the layout of your blog is as easy as dragging and dropping elements into place. You can add additional authors to your blogs. There are mobile apps for Blogger and you can post to your blog via email. If you have a Gmail account you already have a Blogger account. Just sign into your Gmail account and in the top menu select Blogger from the “more” drop-down menu. Google Apps for Education users can have Blogger added to their domains too. The drawback to Blogger is that the only customer support that you’ll find for it comes in the form of Blogger product discussion boards and some YouTube videos.

KidBlog: KidBlog is a free hosted blogging service designed for teachers to use with students. Teachers can create accounts for their students to use to write blog posts and to write comments on blog posts. Students do not have to have email addresses in order to use KidBlog. And a great feature for those times when students forget their passwords is teachers can reset their students’ passwords. KidBlog blogs are run using WordPress software, but it’s a limited version of WordPress so you won’t have the full customization options that you would have if you used the WordPress software on your own on your own paid hosting service.

Edublogs: Edublogs has been around for quite a while and is well known in the educational technology community for offering good customer support. The free version of Edublogs is rather limited in that you cannot include videos, use custom HTML to embed items into posts, or manage your students’ accounts. You really need to purchase the “Pro” version of Edublogs for $39.95/year in order get the features that most teachers want.

Self-hosting a blog with WordPress: WordPress is free blogging software that you can install on a server. You can get the software at As mentioned in the “self-hosted” section above, you will have to purchase a domain and a hosting plan to create and maintain your blog. Once you have your blog set-up you can do whatever you like with it including creating and administering accounts for your students to use to write blog entries and comments on your blog.

Just as a point of clarification, people sometimes confuse the WordPress software available to download at with is a free hosted blogging service that uses the WordPress software, but like KidBlog and Edublogs it limits your customization options because you don’t actually control the software. will also insert advertising on your blog unless you upgrade to a paid account for $30 annually.