Monday, November 28, 2011

Four Years Ago Today...

Four years ago today I wrote my first blog post on Free Technology for Teachers. This is what I wrote on November 28, 2007. I really wasn't sure what I was doing and I certainly didn't expect to accidentally start a small business with my keyboard. Along the way I've written more than 5,200 blog posts and learned a lot through that process. Someone sent me a Tweet this evening and said that she was just starting a blog and hoped to have the same longevity I have had. I am flattered by that and have some advice for those just starting their own blogs. But really, I'm still very new at this compared to folks like Vicki Davis, David Warlick, Wes Fryer, Gary Stager, Larry Ferlazzo, Kevin Jarrett and many others that I've learned so much from since I started this little blogging habit.

I hope I can keep this blog going for another four years. What would you like to see me write more about during the next four years?

New Blogger Tutorial Videos

Earlier this evening I was Tweeting with a student who needed some help creating a new blog. In an effort to help her out I directed her to the Blogger Help channel on YouTube. When I went there, much to my surprise and delight I discovered that the Blogger team had just uploaded four new short tutorials. Two of those cover topics, comment moderation and viewing permissions, that I'm always asked about when I lead workshops on blogging for teachers and students. I've embedded both of those videos below and I will also add them to my page on creating blogs and websites.

Applications for Education
No matter which blogging platform you choose to use with your students, I always recommend turning on comment moderation. I make that recommendation because it's the best way to snag inappropriate comments before they appear on your class blog. It's also the best way to snag any spammy links that random visitors might leave on your blog. For further comment protection you can also require that visitors register before commenting.

A Nice Google Search Tips Poster

One of last week's most popular posts on Free Technology for Teachers was Ten Search Tools and Tactics Teachers and Students Need to Know. This morning on David Andrade's blog I found a nice poster to go along with my post on search tools and tactics.

Get More Out of Google is a poster displaying some useful reminders about searching the web. The poster could make a good addition to the walls of your classroom, computer lab, or school library. I've dropped the poster into to make it fit below, but you can view the full size image here as well.

If you don't have a printer that supports paper large enough for this poster, you could try GD Software's Easy Poster Printer 4.0 software. The software is not free, but it is cheap at $9.95.

Documentary Tube - A Good Place to Find Documentaries

Last month I published a short list of good places to find and watch documentaries online. Today, I learned about another good place to find and watch full-length documentaries online.

Documentary Tube, like similar services, is a catalog of full-length documentaries found on the web. Documentary Tube doesn't actually host the videos rather it catalogs them and displays them through embedding. Documentary Tube videos come from places like Daily Motion, YouTube, and Google Video. The catalog is arranged thematically. If you find a lot of documentaries on Documentary Tube you create and save playlists of your favorites.

Applications for Education
Snag Films and Snag Learning are still my go-to places for free documentaries, but Documentary Tube may have some documentaries that aren't available on those two sites. Even if you have a DVD or VHS copy of a documentary, you still might want to search online for a copy of it to embed in your course blog or website. By embedding the documentary into your course blog you enable students who are absent from your class on the day you show it to see the same content without lending out your DVD or VHS.

Stop and Watch This - Hard Times Generation

The leading segment on last night's edition of 60 Minutes was Hard Times Generation. The story features the children of homeless families, the choices they make, and what daily life is like when you live in a car or truck. I watched the story with three other people last night. The house was silent as everyone watched. This is a story that everyone should watch.

This segment made me think again about the need to balance school reform initiatives with the realities of teaching in many public schools. The next time you're wondering why a student hasn't completed an assignment, it just might be that she was more worried about making sure her family was safe than she was about completing a list of math problems or memorizing new vocabulary words.