Thursday, September 11, 2014

Three Easy Ways to Visually Compare the Sizes of States and Countries

One of the ways that I like to help students understand the size of a country or state is by showing them comparisons to states and countries with which they are familiar. For example, if I want my students to get a better sense of how big Utah is, I compare it Maine. The following three websites all make it easy for students to quickly compare the size of countries, states, and provinces. offers a simple way to compare the size of countries, states, provinces, and cities. To make a comparison just choose two places from the drop-down menus on the right hand side of the screen. Along with the visuals your students can find links to World Factbook and Wikipedia entries about their chosen places.

MapFight. MapFight lets you select two U.S. states or two countries to quickly see which one is bigger and by how much. The select states or countries are put into overlays to help you see the size difference.

OverlapMaps is probably the most robust of the three sites on this list. Overlap Maps is a free service that can be used to quickly compare the size of countries, states, provinces, and some bodies of water. To create a visual comparison of two countries select one country from the "overlap this" menu and select one country from the "onto this" menu. The comparisons you make are displayed on a map. You can make comparisons from different categories.

Wideo Offers Nice Templates for Creating Animated Videos

Wideo is a neat video creation service that I've shared a few times since I started using it 18 months ago. Wideo is a service that allows anyone to create animated videos and Common Craft-style videos online through a simple drag-and-drop process. Recently, I learned that Wideo is now offering templates to help users start their video projects.

Wideo templates provide a basic framework for a video's theme. A couple of the templates that might be of interest to teachers are the slideshow template and the curriculum template. A demonstration of the curriculum template is embedded below.

Applications for Education
Wideo can be a great tool for students to use to bring their creative short stories to life. Wideo could also be used by students to create animated explanations of historical events, to animate biographies, or to teach other short lessons.

The free version of Wideo limits video length to 45 seconds. 45 seconds is long enough for a lot of video projects.

Fasten Seat Belts 2 - Videos for Learning About Cultural Norms

Nearly four years ago I wrote about a neat set of videos about cultural norms. That set of videos was called Fasten Seat Belts. Fasten Seat Belts has been updated. The second version of Fasten Seat Belts, funded by the European Commission’s Life Long Learning Programme, picks up where the previous series left off.

Fasten Seat Belts is a neat website designed to help travelers learn the cultural norms of the places they plan to visit. Fasten Seat Belts offers videos for travelers going to countries in Europe and Asia. You can search for videos by country or by theme (table manners, bar customs, etc).

Applications for Education
I know of a few school's whose world language programs require students to learn about the cultural practices of the countries in which their language of study is spoken. These videos could be helpful for introducing or reminding students of some of those lessons. These videos could also be very valuable if you are taking students on a trip outside of their native countries.

Common Core Quest – Practice Quizzes and Video Lessons on ELA & Math Standards

Cross-posted from one of my other blogs,

Common Core Quest is a new and free Android app from The free app gives students access to hundreds of practice quizzes aligned to Common Core standards in math and language arts. Before and after taking a quiz students can watch short video lessons that address the skills needed to master the standards contained in the quizzes.

To use Common Core Quest a student selects his or her grade then selects the math or language arts standards he or she is working toward mastering. (Teachers will probably have to provide directions to students and their parents as to which standards they should be working toward). The student will earn digital badges when he or she shows mastery of a standard through quiz scores.

Applications for Education
Common Core Quest currently offers activities for every middle school and high school Common Core math and language arts standard. Coverage of elementary school standards is being added (currently about half of the standards are included). A student can invite his or her teacher to view the progress that he or she is making toward each goal in Common Core Quest. Students can invite teacher either by email or by class code if the teacher has created a class account on

How to Use WordWriter to Create and Distribute Vocabulary Assignments

Disclosure: BoomWriter is an advertiser on Free Technology for Teachers. 

WordWriter is a neat writing tool from BoomWriter. WordWriter allows teachers to create vocabulary lists that they want students to incorporate into a writing assignment. Assignments are distributed directly to students through the class lists that teachers create in their BoomWriter accounts. Students do not need email addresses to receive the assignments. Teachers can log-in at any time to see if and when a student has completed an assignment.

In the videos below I demonstrate how to use WordWriter to create and distribute writing assignments to students. The first video shows just the perspective of the teacher. The second video shows the perspective of a student receiving an assignment.