Friday, May 31, 2013

Month In Review - The Most Popular Posts on Free Technology for Teachers

Good evening from hot and steamy Greenwood, Maine. Earlier this week I had the heat on in my house and this afternoon I was outside in shorts. I know that many of you are already out of school for the summer. I hope that your first days of summer have been great.

This summer I'll be visiting a number of schools as well as running the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp (two seats are left). I am looking forward to meeting many of you this summer. Thank you for inviting me to your schools.

I plan to keep blogging on my usual schedule throughout the summer. That schedule includes a week-in-review every Saturday and a month-in-review on the last day of each month. So if you're taking a break from the computer or iPad screen this summer and you miss a few days of posts, you can always check in on Saturday to quickly catch-up on the biggest stories of the week.

Here are the most popular posts from May 2013:
1. Every Stock Photo - A Search Engine for Free Images
2. eduClipper Is What Teachers Want Pinterest To Be
3. 5 Tools Students Can Use To Create Alternative Book Reports
4. 5 Good Lesson Plans for Teaching Copyright
5. Still The Best Presentation on Copyright for Educators
6. Life On Minimum Wage - A Hands-on Economics Lesson
7. Video - How to Insert Images Into Google Forms
8. Play Games or Create Your Own Through YoYo Games
9. Shakespeare Uncovered - Videos and Lesson Plans
10. Five Ways to Digitally Celebrate Your Students' Year

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Host and Document Collaborative Brainstorming Sessions With Realtime Board

Realtime Board is a nice tool for hosting online, collaborative brainstorming sessions. I've featured the service a couple of times since its launch last fall. The service allows to work with any information and visual content on one board individually or with the team. You can work with images, videos, PDF-files, write notes and comment everything, use colorful post-it stickers and work with files from your Google Drive. Recently, Realtime Board added a free education version. The education version provides schools with all of the features of the Pro version for free. That means you can create unlimited private and public boards, have an unlimited number of collaborators, and 3GB of storage space.

Applications for Education
If you're looking for a free tool that your students can use to plan projects and create multimedia media mindmaps, Realtime Board is definitely worth giving a try. You can try it without creating an account. 

Making Videos In the Common Craft Style - Rubric Included

A couple of years ago I had students in one of my classes create Common Craft-style videos to tell the story of Lewis and Clark. I was reminded of the project earlier this when Jeffery Shoemaker mentioned on Google+ that his students are doing a paper slide video project. A paper slide project is a low-tech way of recording a video story. It's the way that Common Craft started too. In fact, if you look at a couple of the early Common Craft videos you will see a little string moving paper cut-outs. 

A paper slide video project begins with a story that is drawn on individual pieces of paper. Students then work in pairs to record the video. With a camera mounted on a tripod one student narrates while the other moves the paper slides. I had my students alternate roles. Wes Fryer has written an extensive post about paper slide projects. Wes's post includes this PDF that contains a rubric and a storyboard template.

If you want to take a little higher-tech approach to making Common Craft-style videos, here are a few tools that your students can use.

Wideo - A tool for dragging and dropping digital cut-outs on a blank canvas. You can animate those cut-outs then add an audio track to your project.

Powtoon - Like Wideo this is a drag and drop tool for organizing digital cut-outs on a blank canvas. After organizing your cut-outs you can add a soundtrack to it. The free Powtoon account limits you to 45 second recordings.

The free Knowmia Teach iPad app allows you to create video slide-by-slide. Your slides can include drawings or pictures from your camera roll.

How to Screencast On a Chromebook

I've reviewed a lot of screencasting tools over the years (a list of seventeen can be found here). The problem with most screencasting tools is that they require Java. Java doesn't run on Chromebooks. So if you're a Chromebook user and you want to record a screencast the way to do it is to use Google+ Hangouts. A Google+ Hangout On Air allows you to broadcast your screen (you can do this even if no one else is in your Hangout). The broadcast is automatically recorded and saved to your YouTube account. Brian Bennett posted detailed directions on the process here. There is a video demonstration at the end of Brian's post.

Mark Jenkins also produced a short video on the process. That video is embedded below.

Flask - Quickly Create and Share To-do Lists

There is no shortage of to-do list tools available on the web today. Some are parts of larger services (see Gmail and Evernote) while others are stand-alone services (see Remember the Milk). One new stand-alone service that I tried this morning is called Flask. Flask is a simple tool for making to-do lists and sharing them with others.

To create a to-do list on Flask just go to the site and start writing your list. You don't have to create an account to use Flask. Unique URLs are assigned to each list that you create. To share your lists click the share button to send the link to your list to others. You can also embed the list into a blog post or webpage.

Applications for Education
To-do list services are only good if your students actually use them. Simple services like Flask are good because they're easy for students to use without having to remember a username and password. If you want to have your students contribute to a group to-do list, embed Flask into a blog post.