Monday, April 13, 2015

Stay Focusd - A Chrome Extension That Helps You Eliminate Distractions

Last week I posted on Twitter that I had removed the Facebook app from my phone and that I was ignoring my personal Facebook account in my browser. My friend Gillian Duffy asked how I was doing it. My reply was to share with her the Chrome extension called Stay Focusd.

 Stay Focusd is a Chrome extension designed to help you stop wasting time on sites like Facebook and get your work done instead. With Stay Focusd installed you can set a time limit for yourself for how much cumulative time in a day that you spend on sites like Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Once you've used up your self-allotted time on those sites you won't be able to revisit them in that browser for 24 hours.

Applications for Education
While we might not be able to force students to use Stay Focusd on every computer they use, we can certainly recommend it to them and their parents. As the end of the school year approaches and students are getting down to crunch time on big projects, Stay Focusd could provide students with the gentle nudge they need to stay on track.

Parapara Animation - Create Stopmotion Animations in Your Browser

Parapara Animation is a free animation creation tool developed and hosted by Mozilla. The tool is easy to use and it does not require registration in order to use it. To get started simply visit the Parapara Animation website, select a digital crayon, then start drawing. Click the large "+" icon in the top of the screen to add a new frame to your animation. You can playback your frames at any time in the creation process. When you're done making your animation it will be assigned a unique URL that can be shared via email. A QR code for your animation will also be generated for you.

Applications for Education
I learned about Parapara Animation last week when Kevin Hodgson posted some of the creations that his students made. As you can see in those animations, students can use Parapara Animation to tell short stories through their drawings.

Inspire Young Writers With Write About

This is a guest post from Suzy Brooks (@SimplySuzy) of EdTechTeacher - an advertiser on this site.

Screen Shot 2015-04-11 at 5.56.41 PM

Over the years, I have witnessed the power of social media and the draw of compelling images in the classroom. My students love connecting with others globally, and they are inspired by interesting photographs. Having a broader audience and a topic to write about is oftentimes all I need to turn student writers into published authors. With Write About,I have found a free tool that puts the power of both social media and images into the hands of my students.

Write About is a new social publishing platform designed for students to share creative responses to engaging images. Building background knowledge is essential when it comes to student learning, and children of all ages learn more about the world around them when they see and discuss interesting photographs. That said, Write About is chock-full of over 500 visual writing ideas, and students and teachers have the option of adding more!

Once you sign up for an account, enter your students and get started! The folks at Write About have thoughtfully included features that teachers and students will love:

Protect Privacy

Students will be connecting with students and teachers worldwide on Write About. Though teachers can create closed groups, this is a great opportunity to teach students about protected participation in public groups - their identity is protected while their participation remains public. Teachers can monitor and moderate student posts as they become online authors.

Groups Galore

Whether your students are into Minecraft, origami, animals or sports, there are many public groups where kids can connect and write about their favorite topics. Teachers can also create public or private groups for students! Students can comment on each others’ posts, and teachers can leave feedback for students by posting annotation, voice recordings or private comments.

Customize Content

Because students are motivated to participate on Write About, be sure to create content customized to fit your curriculum. You’ll be impressed by their reflections, and your lesson ideas can be shared with teachers Hither and Yon. Everyone benefits!

Bridge the Gap

Helping students make the leap from paper to digital writing takes know-how. The folks at Write About have provided valuable tools to teachers and students to make this happen. There is a Digital Writing Starter Kit Teacher Guide which includes tutorials for teachers new to these digitally-based lessons. There are also writing tools available to authors in the Writing Center including help with word choice, vocabulary and figurative language.

Take some time to open an account and see what Write About has to offer your students. Connect with others and see where the digital writing process takes you!

Suzy Brooks will be teaching a Technology in the Elementary Classroom workshop this summer in Boston for EdTechTeacher. You can learn about all of their workshops at