Monday, February 16, 2009


With extreme gratitude to Mr. Byrne and Free Tech 4 Teachers, the playground has moved for one day. Over the weekend, we loaded up the Mayflower moving truck, used the dolley, and hauled all of the equipment from Wisconsin to Maine...digitally! It's time for RecessDuty to be a guest blogger!

Description: A zooming digital presentation editor. It’s Powerpoint on steroids! What did he say? STEROIDS! There'll be mandatory testing in the future. Type text, embed pictures, and insert video are all features that Prezi puts forth to creators. Unlike Powerpoint, Prezi is free and extremely portable. Because it's web based, Prezi can be created and shown on any computer with web access. If there is no web access available during your presentation, a downloadable version can be obtained to show offline anywhere. No other software needed, not even flash! Prezi also performs quite well in creating a visual organizer. As they claim on their site, "With the help of Prezi you can create maps of texts, images, videos, PDFs, drawings and present in a nonlinear way." As Prezi is in beta, when you apply, you'll be asked to explain how you will be using their site. I explained that I was a seventh grade math and social studies educator and could use it to inform students of social studies information. I was approved in less than a day!

My implementations are below, but this presentation is an incredible overview of how Prezi works. It's flat out awesome, or as the students on the playground say, "It's Wicked!"

Implementation: I have created multiple presentations for a seventh grade classroom on the History of Canada, History of United States, a chapter review, and the all important presentation to professional educators in our school district on a project that included the National Digital Vault, Animoto, and Edmodo.

As the RecessDuty supervisor always says...goPlay!

View Live Site Prezi

RecessDuty is about getting other educators the resources that are successful in my classroom and any educational setting. Technology is implemented, not for technology sake, but as Daniel Pink so vividly states, "to prepare kids for their future, not our past." I hope that my efforts in finding, describing, implementing, and distributing tech information that is successfully implemented into an educational setting to other educators will enable the students we teach to be the best in the world! Revisit your youth by entering the playground now for more great resources!

Digital Storytelling with Mixbook

Mixbook, possibly my favorite online digital storytelling application, just announced the release of their education version. If you are unfamiliar with Mixbook, it is a web2.0 tool that easily allows the creation of an online books. Simply start by selecting a theme or create your own. Upload images from your computer or from the web. Then arrange page layouts and add text. Another option is to invite other classrooms to collaborate as co-authors. Printed copies are available for purchase. Or, simply copy and paste the embed code into your web page or blog.

Silvia Tolisano, author of the Langwitches blog offers a nice step by step tutorial on how to create your first Mixbook.

Possible Classroom Uses:
-Diaries or Journals
-Comic Book
-Book Reports/Book Analysis
-Science Lab reports
-Retell History
-Yearbooks or student portfolios
-Field Trip Summaries
-Class notes
-Sequencing, character analysis, Text Features

Here is an example Mixbook that my primary students recently completed.

| View Sample Photo Books | Create your own Photo Book

When preparing to write this post, I emailed the Mixbook team for updates on their educational version. I received a coupon code to pass along to the readers of freetech4teachers. If you want to purchase a book use the following code, TECHT4MIX, to get 10% off your order.

Looking for a classroom or school to collaborate with?
Try one of the following websites.
Skype in Schools
Global School House

Post written by Becky Herl, Technology Integration Specialist and Elementary Computer Teacher for USD #369 in Kansas. Becky is sharing ways to integrate technology into elementary classrooms on her blog, Small Town Tech. She is looking to expand her blog by inviting other elementary educators to share what they are doing to integrate technology in their classrooms.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Guest Blogger-Technology and Future Teachers

Hello, my name is Cyndi Danner-Kuhn and I teach technology to pre-service teachers at Kansas State University in Manhattan, KS. I am so honored that Richard has asked me to submit to his absolutely amazing blog while he is ice fishing. Wow ice fishing, I grew up in Florida, so I totally don't get ice fishing. Anyway, first of all, he requested we provide a link to our own website It is a work in progress.

Everyone always thinks that the students in college are super tech savvy. Well, I hate to burst the bubble, but it just isn't true yet. They are experts with word processing and PowerPoint, playing on the internet and of course Facebook. But beyond that the vast majority are newbies. Every semester I am amazed that 98% of what I show them is completely new. I keep asking myself, how can that be!!

The first thing I do is have my students create a delicious account and then begin tagging everything we do. It is a good place to start because they can at least keep track to the resources. So, my first recommendation is start using delicious. Link to my delicious

The next thing I do weekly all semester is have them listen and reflect/blog about an educational Podcast. If you haven't gotten hooked on using and learning from eductional podcasts yet, a few of my favorites are below. All can be found on iTunes as well as their websites:

If you would like to see what I do in my class with these pre-service teachers, just click on the DED318 link off my website and you can see what we do each week. It is fast and furious to say the least. Another crazy thing is that most university folks think I am nuts for just putting my entire class on the web. Somebody might use it. My answer to is is GOOD, I hope so!! I would absolutely love to hear your suggestions about what you think pre-service teachers should be learning with regards to technology. Feel free to email me at

I'd like to thank Richard for the eNewsletter he sends each day with resources. I do a weekly newsletter for the College of Ed. Without Richard, it would be a much more time consuming task. I just do what Harry Wong says "steal, steal, steal." He just makes my life so much easier. I hope the school district Richard works for realizes what a million dollar man they have.

Ok in his tradition, one new resource.

ShareTabs - The easy way to share your links as tabs. Add a list of links to the form and submit it to get a single link to them all, conveniently displayed in tabs and images. Great for sharing in Email, IM, Twitter, or SMS. Of course it is FREE!!

Application for Education

Great wayto visually share a variety of links with your students. Here is an eample of one I did for my students.

How to let your students remember vocabulary and grammar in an effective way

Today's guestpost is written by Ramses, who has his own blog called about learning Spanish as a second language having fun and not worrying about grammar rules.

As a teacher in training (Spanish as a foreign language), I'm always looking for ways to help my students remember vocabulary and grammatical structures. Going to college myself, I had to Spanish from the very beginning, with just a little bit of help from my professors. Still, the advices they gave me to study grammar and vocabulary led to nothing: after three months I still wasn't speaking a word of Spanish, although I was already getting massive amounts of input. The problem? I couldn't remember all those weird words and phrases.

Many teachers (teaching a foreign language) give their students word lists to memorize and loose chunks of grammar. They make three big mistakes:
1) They give single words; without a context a word doesn't say much. A word like haber or que in Spanish can mean so much, that it's impossible to learn it out of context. Everything has to be learned in context, not only because it makes thing clearer, but also because it's generally easier to remember a sentence that means something for you than one loose word with many meanings that doesn't say you anything.
2) They don't tell their students how to memorize the words. This often results in rote memorization, which in turn results in a nice test outcome, but won't stay in the student's head for long. Even if a teacher gives attention to memorization techniques, these techniques often don't work well and include things like: learning the list back and forth, making groups of 5 to 7 words and learn them by heart before moving on, making thematical sets of words (verbs with verbs, nouns with nouns, etc.).
3) They let their students learn loose chunks of grammar. This is really dangerous! I know, many teacher swear by grammar instruction, but ask yourself a question: are my students even slightly fluent after they went to my classes? The answer is probably NO. Telling people how the language function in order to speak, is like telling someone how to build a car in order to learn how to drive. Theory is nice and all, but we should concentrate on meaningful input with as goal meaningful output.

So, when I began majoring Spanish in college, I started looking for alternatives to memorize, and, (more important) remember vocabulary. That's when I discovered Anki. Anki isn't the only program out there to remember things; software like SuperMemo and Mnemosyne does the same, but Anki is the most famous and most complete (in my opinion) out there. Still, I don't use it to memorize single words (see point 1), but "learn" (remember is a better word actually) whole sentences. It's not that amazing how I go over learning a new sentence (which contains at least one new vocabulary item and never more than 3, depending on the size of the sentence): I put the Spanish sentence in the question field and the (in my case) Dutch translation in the answer field. Nothing more, nothing less. Actually, I'm now at the point I only put the Spanish definitions of unknown words in the answer field.

Applications for Education
Spaced Repetition Systems can help your students, and how you can work with them in class. In the first place, the most ideal way for students to learn a sentence (and with that sentence the vocabulary and the grammar, but in an inductive way) is by simply learning (memorizing) the sentence and understanding all its components. After that, the student will add the sentence to Anki (or any other SRS) and the translation to the answer field. With Anki there's also an option to share sentences and decks, but it's important that the student knows the sentence upfront (before seeing it while doing the SRS repetitions).

Then there's still the case of testing. Personally, I don't like standarized tests, but most of us need to limit ourselves to a specific curriculum. So, to avoid losing your job but still using an SRS like Anki you could pick out sentences you gave students and test their knowledge. These tests could consist of translation from Spanish to English or to explain certain parts of the sentence. Never go from English to Spanish; there are too many ways to translate an English sentence into Spanish, it's just too error prone.
Guest Blogger - Kim Caise

Hello and thank you for reading my guest blogger post! Let me introduce myself to you with a brief bio. My name is Kim Caise and I have been an educator and instructional technologist for the past 20 years. In 2006, I achieved national board certification in Career and Technology with a specialty in Technology Education. Currently I am semi-retired as I am not working on a campus but am doing several things online. I write my own blog, "Kim's Ventures in Educational Technology" about educational technology issues and tech tools as well as co-host a weekly broadcast on Saturdays through Classroom 2.0 called "Classroom 2.0 LIVE!". Each broadcast we feature a newbie question and an ed tech topic pertaining to technology used in the classroom and is geared for tech users of all levels from newbies to experts. I am so honored to be a part of this project with Steve Hargadon, founder of Classroom 2.0 and Future of Education, Dr. Peggy George, author of "My Web 2.0 Adventures", and Lorna Costantini, author of "Classroom Blogging" and co-host of "Parents as Partners" on EdTechTalk. So enough about me and my crew, on with the show!

Speed Crunch Calculator

I recently came across the "Speed Crunch Calculator" that would be great for use in a 1-to-1 environment or class demonstration of solving math equations. It is much easier to use than the basic calculator in Windows Accessories or on a Mac. You type in any expression that you want to solve you can use an unlimited number of variables. Parentheses can be used as well numbers with a maximum of 50 decimal places. The Smart Correction feature can understand incomplete expressions and correct it automatically. The calculator can also use different colors to help distinguish between the numbers and variables in an expression. The free download is available for Windows, Mac and a variety of Linux operating systems.

Cue Prompter

My wonderful friend Peggy George shared this awesome podcast and digital storytelling tool with me called "Cue Prompter". At the CuePrompter site you can enter text and have it displayed just as a teleprompter would. You can choose between white and black text and background and large or small font and screen sizes. The speed can be changed once the text is displayed and the text can be forwarded and reversed. You may experience a bit of difficulty adjusting the settings on the cueprompter screen. This can be alleviated by clicking just below the desired instead of clicking on the options. If you do any type of audio or video recordings and need written scripts this tool would be a great complement to support those activities.

Kidstube is a fun site for students to upload videos or podcasts in a safe environment. Students of all ages can upload, share and discuss videos in a community that was created by a group of grandparents in Missouri. The site is very family oriented and works diligently to prevent inappropriate content from being uploaded.