Monday, July 29, 2013

Lucid Chart Now Works Offline - Create Mind Maps Offline

Lucidchart is a nice tool for creating flowcharts, mindmaps, and graphic organizers. Lucidchart offers a simple drag and drop interface for creating flow charts, organizational charts, mind maps, and other types of diagrams. Google Chrome users can now use Lucidchart offline through the Lucidchart Chrome app.

Applications for Education
Lucidchart charges business customers, but makes all of their tools free for teachers and students. Watch the video below for an example of Lucidchart educational templates.

Create a Custom Start Page With OneFeed for Chrome

Google is closing iGoogle on November 1st. Some readers have already migrated to Symbaloo or MyLinkCloud as their new browser start pages. OneFeed is a new option for filling the void that will be left by the closure of iGoogle. OneFeed is a Chrome extension that uses Chrome's "new tab" page as your start page. With OneFeed installed when you open a new tab you will see a page of feeds from your favorite blogs and social networks. You can also have your Gmail inbox displayed on the start page. Learn more in the video below.

Applications for Education
OneFeed could be a good extension for students in a current events course to use to keep up with news from reliable news outlets that you and they have selected together.

H/T to Life Hacker.  

The Old Reader Announces Shut Down for All Except a Select Few

The Old Reader was one of the many Google Reader alternatives that I tested earlier this year. I liked it enough to name it one of my five favorite Google Reader alternatives. I was prompted to try it after meeting a few readers at a conference this past spring so I know that at least a few of you out there like The Old Reader too. Unfortunately, today the creators of The Old Reader announced that they are closing the service next month. They have stopped taking new registrations and next month with close the service to all except for a select group of private users (they'll notify you if you're selected). In the announcement they stated that they'd rather provide "an awesome service for 10,000 than a crappy one for 420,000."

Current users of The Old Reader can export their subscriptions as an OPML file to import and use in another RSS reader service. According to the announcement on The Old Reader blog, you will have two weeks to export your OPML file. The OPML export link is located at the bottom of the Settings page — use the top-right menu to get there.

If the closure of The Old Reader leaves you looking for a new RSS reader, take a look at this list of alternatives

H/T to The Next Web

engVid - 500+ Free English Video Lessons

engVid is a free service that has produced more than 500 video lessons to help viewers learn to speak and write English. Eight instructors are featured on engVid. The instructors use a whiteboard to explain things like when to use "everyday" or "every day" and when to use "good" or "well." Students learning to speak English can benefit from lessons on pronunciation, English slang, and common English expressions.

engVid videos are hosted on YouTube. Visit the engVid site to search for videos by topic. A sample engVid video is embedded below.

Applications for Education
My initial thought about engVid was that it would be a good resource for ELL students. As I sampled more of engVid's videos I realized that it could be a good reference site for anyone in need of a little clarity on some of the trickier aspects of writing English (myself included at times).

The Difficulty With "Best" and "Must Use" in Professional Development

We've all been in a professional development workshop in which we had to learn to use a specific instructional method or a specific website/ app/ software. The trouble with this is that despite what some education reformer activists and politicians tell us, teaching and learning can't be put into a one-size-fits-all program. This is why I enjoy trying to see as many presentations as possible when I go to a conference. When I'm at a conference I want see how other people teach the things that I sometimes teach.

If you're planning PD workshops try to include a couple of alternative tools for each activity. The tool that you love may not be loved by everyone in your workshop. The reason the tool you love may not be loved by others could be as simple as visual appeal. For example, last week at the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp we spent 30-40 minutes on EduClipper. Many people liked it and ran with it quickly. There were also a few people who didn't care for EduClipper because the interface was too busy for them. So instead of trying to persist in getting those people to use EduClipper, I showed them Diigo. Diigo offered the same kind of social bookmarking experience as EduClipper, but in a format that was more visually pleasing to those who were turned off by EduClipper's layout. The "best" bookmarking service for one group of my students wasn't the same as the "best" bookmarking service for the other group.

Every week a new round of blog posts appears on the web with titles like "The Best Apps for X in School" or "10 Sites Every Teacher Must See." The problem with those posts is the same problem as trying to force everyone to use the exact same tool and method when there are other options that work just as well. It's because of that that I try to avoid using titles like that in my posts. I am guilty of writing list posts, but I do try to keep "best" and "must" out of my posts because what's best for me is not necessarily best for you. That said, a topical list can be good for discovering the best app/ site/ tool for you and your students.

Of course, there are occasions when the "everyone has to do this" PD session cannot be avoided. If you have to lead a refresher on first aid you probably don't want people improvising. Or if your school has just spent thousands of dollars for a new student data management system, you probably cannot say, "this doesn't work for me, can I use something else?"