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.