Friday, November 1, 2013

Free Webinar - A Teacher's Guide to Backchannels and Informal Assessments

Earlier this year I created and published A Teacher's Guide to Backchannels and Informal Assessment. That free guide explains what a backchannel is, why you might want to use a backchannel in your classroom, and provides directions for using three backchannel tools in your classroom. This coming Tuesday, November 5th at 4pm EST I am going to conduct a free webinar about backchannels and informal assessment in the classroom.

A Teacher's Guide to Backchannels and Informal Assessment is open to the first 25 people that register. I cannot open more seats because I have only licensed 25 seats through GoToTraining. Please only register if you know that you can attend the live session. The webinar will be recorded and published here on Free Technology for Teachers for those who cannot attend the live session. Click here to register for the webinar.

The Month in Review - October's Most Popular Posts

Good evening from the new Free Technology for Teachers world headquarters in Woodstock, Maine. This month I moved from my old house on Alcohol Mary Road in Greenwood to Yawkey Way in Woodstock. I didn't pick either home for the interesting name of the road it was on, that's just a happy coincidence. (I'm very easy to find in either town).

Besides moving this month was a busy month of travel as I spoke at events in North Dakota, Washington, and Alberta. I also wrapped up another sold-out session of my Practical Ed Tech webinar series How To Use Google Drive In School. A big thank you to everyone that came to one of my workshops, keynotes, or participated in an online course. And thank you to everyone who helps to make these things possible for me by subscribing to this blog, reTweeting posts, and sharing Free Technology for Teachers with your friends and colleagues. I couldn't do this without you.

Here are this month's most popular posts:
1. 7 Free iPad Apps for Science Lessons
2. Animated Math Lessons for Kids
3. Create Flashcards from Google Spreadsheets
4. Five Mathematics Glossaries for Kids
5. Try Word Hippo for Definitions, Antonyms, Translations, and More
6. 5 Free Apps and Sites for Creating Short Animations
7. A Search Engine for SMART Notebook Files
8. Create and Locate Standards-aligned Video Playlists on Open Ed
9. Create Virtual Chemical Reactions on Your iPad or Android Tablet
10. 5 Online Tools That Help You Align Lessons to Common Core Standards

Would you like to have me visit your school this year?
Click here to learn more 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.
Remind 101 offers a free tool for sending text message reminders to students.
IXL offers a huge assortment of mathematics lesson activities.
Typing Club offers free typing lessons for students.
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.
The University of Maryland Baltimore County offers graduate programs for teachers.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology.
EdTechTeacher is organizing two iPad summits this school year.
Metta is a great tool for creating multimedia presentations and quizzes.

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iGoogle Is Gone - Here Are Some Other Options

If you tried to visit your iGoogle page today and couldn't that's because Google has closed the service (to be fair they've been warning us for a year that it would be closing). I never used it much, but I know a lot of people that did. If you're one of those people who are searching for an iGoogle replacement, take a look at the following seven options.

My Link Cloud allows you to create start pages with your favorite links.Within your account you can create multiple start pages. Each start page can have a different color scheme. Organizing the links on your pages is a simple drag and drop process. To delete a link just right click on it then confirm that you want to delete it from your start page. My Link Cloud allows you to add sticky notes to your start pages. You can add frames to your My Link Cloud pages too. The frames allow you to group items on your pages.

Wibki is a free service for creating personalized start pages. To create your start page with Wibki register with an email address or Facebook account. Wibki's three step tutorial will quickly guide you through the process of add your email service and social media profiles to your Wibki start page. After adding your email and social media profiles to your Wibki page you can add sections of recommended content to your page. Wibki offers a browser bookmarklet that you can also use to add any website to your Wibki page.

Start Me is a free start page / home page service that puts all of your most-used bookmarks and most-read RSS feeds on one clean page. Start Me even offers an option to import all of your bookmarks and RSS feeds from iGoogle. Click here for the directions on how to migrate from iGoogle to Start Me.

Symbaloo is probably the most recognized alternative to iGoogle. Symbaloo allows you to bookmark your favorite websites and arrange them into tile boards that you can share or keep private. Symbaloo calls the tile boards webmixes. You can create multiple webmixes arranged according to topics of your choosing. Symbaloo offers a free iPhone app and a free Android app that you can use to access your webmixes whenever and wherever you connect to the web. Symbaloo does offer an education version, but the education version is not free except for individual use which doesn't make it different than signing up for a regular Symbaloo account.

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. is a service that allows you to organize and display information from your favorite websites and services. Your start page can be constructed of information from's suggested sites or from RSS feeds that you specify. I created a simple start page of information from TechCrunch, CNN, my Twitter feed, and Free Technology for Teachers. offers a browser bookmarklet that allows you to quickly add content to your startpage. allows you to create multiple pages according to your interests.

Proto Page is a service that Colleen Terrill recommended to me. Proto Page is probably the service that is most similar to iGoogle in terms of features. Proto Page allows you to add all kinds of widgets, RSS feeds, and search tools to one page. You can add widgets for weather, news, bookmarks, and productivity. Proto Page has lots of recommended content, but you can also add your own favorite RSS feeds to your pages.

Six Web Adventures In Science

I've featured Rice University's CSI Web Adventures in the past. Recently, my friend Alicia Roberts sent me a note about the other web adventures in science that Rice University has produced. There are six adventures in the series including the CSI adventure. Each of the adventures is appropriate for middle school or high school use. In each adventure students take on the role of scientist to solve a crime, conduct experiments, and learn about scientific methods and processes.

In Cool Science Careers students explore five STEM-based career areas. The adventure begins with a 21 question interest survey. How students progress through the activity is based in part on how they respond to the interest survey.

In Med Myst students learn about microbiology through a series of interactive lessons and games. Med Myst focuses on infectious diseases and how to prevent the spread of those diseases.

Reconstructors includes three games in which students need to gather evidence and date to solve drug-related cases.

Virtual Clinical Trials puts students into the role of research scientists who are working toward developing treatments for spinal cord injuries, depression, and brain injuries.

In N-Squad students investigate the effects of alcohol on the digestive, circulatory, and nervous systems.

The CSI Web Adventures are designed to teach students the process of forensic investigation and problem solving. There are four cases of increasing difficulty in the CSI web adventures. The web adventures are available in English and Spanish.

17th Century London in 3D

Google Earth's Street View, 3D imagery, and historical imagery is good for showing students what London looked like in the 20th Century and today. But if you want to show students what London looked like in the 17th Century you're going to have to go looking for some historical maps and drawings. Or you could show them this award-winning animated tour of 17th Century London. Pudding Lane Productions created the three and one half minute video tour to show viewers what London may have looked like prior to the Great Fire. The tour is based upon historical drawings and maps that the Pudding Lane Productions team researched. The video is embedded below.

H/T to Open Culture