Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Hack the News With Mozilla's X-ray Goggles

Mozilla offers some great tools that can help students understand how webpages are created. Thimble is one of those tools that I have featured in the past. It offers many great activities for students to complete to learn how to build webpages including webpages with animations.

X-ray Goggles is another great tool that Mozilla makes to help students learn the code that powers much of what they see on the Web. X-ray Goggles is a free tool that lets you remix any page that you find on the Internet. (Note, it doesn't change the way others see the page, it only changes the way that you see it). To use X-ray Goggles you need to install it in your Chrome or Firefox bookmarks bar. Then you can launch it on any webpage. When you launch X-ray Goggles you will be able to select images and text on a page and then shown the code behind your selection. X-ray Goggles will let you then alter the code to display new things on that page.

Applications for Education
Mozilla offers a free lesson plan called Hack the News that introduces students to the features of X-ray Goggles. In the lesson students will remix a news story by putting their favorite fictional characters into the page on which the story is published.

Read2Me - Free Text to Audio Conversion

Read2Me is a free service that will convert a webpage or an uploaded document into an audio file that you can listen to on the Read2Me website.

To use Read2Me you simply have to paste a link to an article or upload a file and then be patient while it converts to audio. When the conversion is complete you can hit the play button on Read2Me and listen to the text of the article spoken aloud. You can adjust the speed at which the narrator speaks. 60 seconds of audio can be produced for you without having to create an account on Read2Me. If you do create an account, you can have five minutes of audio produced per day. As a frame of reference, a typical article from a news website yields less than five minutes of audio.

Applications for Education
Read2Me could be a useful resource as a support to students while reading a news article. In the past I have used similar tools to play the audio of an article while my students were reading a printed copy of the same. This helped some of my students be able to participate in group discussions about a current events story.

Announcify is a similar tool that you might want to try for converting text to audio. I created a demonstration video and published it here.

The Practical Ed Tech Handbook for 2017-18

For the last couple of years I have published a free PDF titled The Practical Ed Tech Handbook. Over the weekend I updated it to include some new resources, remove some older ones, and edited it to reflect recent updates to some favorite tools. Subscribers to the Practical Ed Tech newsletter received a copy on Sunday evening. Now I'm making it available to everyone reading Free Technology for Teachers. You can access the handbook as embedded below via Box.com.

Applications for Education
If you're a tech coach/ tech integrator, consider using the Practical Ed Tech Handbook as a starting place for your next training session. Print a few copies then have folks look through it and circle the tools that they want to learn more about during your next workshop. I've done this at my own workshops quite successfully. And, of course, I would be happy to do this at your school too.

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