Sunday, December 18, 2011

Picozu - A Nice Free Online Image Creation and Editing Tool

Picozu is a free online image editing tool. Using Picozu you can touch-up existing images or you can create new images from scratch. In the Picozu editor you will find tools for adjusting color saturation and clarity. The editor also includes tools for creating images containing multiple layers. And if you want to include text in your image Picozu has options for that too.

Picozu offers the option to register and join their community or you can use the editing tools without creating an account. If you do choose to create an account you can save your images on Picozu and add them to the community albums. If choose not to create a Picozu you can save your images to your computer, send them to your Facebook account, or send them to your Dropbox account.

Applications for Education
If you're looking for a nice tool for students to use to create images for their digital presentations, Picozu is worth giving a good look.

Arkive - Great Videos, Images, and Lesson Plans About Animals and Plants

This morning as I was browsing my favorite fly fishing message board, Fly Fishing in Maine, I came across a video from Arkive featuring an Osprey catching fish. That video prompted me to explore more of Arkive's content.

Arkive's main feature is the extensive collection of videos and images of plants and animals. The videos and images are cataloged according to animal, plant, eco-region, and geo-political region. You can navigate the galleries by selecting one of the broad categories then choosing a subject within that broad category. For example, choose the Antarctica eco-region and then you can explore all of the images and videos about plants and animals found in that eco-region. Videos on Arkive can be downloaded to for your classroom use.

Arkive offers a dozen online games for kids. The games collection is a mix of quiz games and problem solving games. One of the games that I tried out is Animal Survival that required me to keep a Sand Lizard alive by correctly answering questions about Sand Lizards' daily lives.
ARKive video - Osprey - overview


Applications for Education
Arkive has a nice collection of free lesson plans based upon the images, videos, and games found on Arkive. The lesson plans include PowerPoint files, instruction sheets, and links to online resources as needed. The lesson plans are arranged according to student age from 5 to 18. The bulk of the free lesson plans are targeted for 7 to 14 year old students. Here's a sample of some of the topics covered in the free lesson plans: classification, adaptation, and observation.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

About Accepting Advertising as an Ed Tech Blogger (or just as a blogger in general)

Warning: this post is a bit of an editorial rant with some advice for bloggers thrown in. 

In the last couple of months I've noticed a trend on ed tech blogs that is positive and potentially negative if it's not nipped in the bud soon. The positive is that ed tech start-ups (and some established companies) have realized that advertising on well-known ed tech blogs can be a good way to reach new markets. I know this because not only do companies approach me, but other bloggers have reached out to me for advice on this topic. I'm all for bloggers, especially teachers, making a little cash for their time spent writing. And at this point I should say I am very very thankful for my current and past advertisers on Free Technology for Teachers who help feed me and my dog every month. Check out my current advertisers here.

Now the negative part of this trend that I am seeing is that some of the ed tech bloggers who are accepting advertising are not making the appropriate disclosures as required by the FTC (link is a PDF). I'm not a lawyer, but my understanding is that if you have an advertising relationship of any kind (even my in-kind relationship with Common Craft counts) you have to disclose that when you blog about or Tweet about that company. There are two things that are wrong about not making the disclosure. First, there are potential legal ramifications which I won't pretend to be knowledgeable of. Second, there is the issue of transparency. Are you blogging or Tweeting about a company because you actually like their service or product? Or are you blogging and Tweeting about company's product because they paid you? Your readers and followers should know.

As I said in the first paragraph, I've been approached by a lot of companies wanting to advertise on my blog. With the exception of Lesley University, the only advertisers I have accepted are those whose services and products I personally reviewed and used before they became advertisers. I've had other companies approach me whose products or services I had not tried before I and I turned them down. Likewise, if I decide that I don't like a particular company's business practices, I'll say no to them. At this point I feel that I should tell you that I make a decent part-time income through advertising. If I said yes to every company that wanted to advertise in some form, I could probably make that a full-time revenue stream (of course my blog design would be even uglier if I did that). I choose not to accept all offers because I don't want to introduce readers to services or products that I wouldn't put in my own classroom if given the opportunity.

Since I'm asked about it quite a bit here's my two cents on Adsense. Adsense is Google's advertising network for web publishers. I've been using it for almost four years and learned a couple of things about it that you should consider if Adsense is in your monetization plan. First, if you decide to use Adsense bear in mind that it takes a lot of pageviews to earn any significant amount of money. Adsense policies don't allow me to say exactly how much I make from it, but I can tell you that I started using Adsense in January 2008 and it took until June 2009 to cross Google's minimum payment threshold of $100 (in that time I went from about 1,000 subscribers to 8,000 subscribers). Currently, Adsense revenue covers my truck payment. The second thing you should know if you decide to use Adsense is that you can and should turn on the ad filters to prevent displaying inappropriate ads for things like "pharmaceuticals" and "match making" services. Also bear in mind that Adsense displays are contextual based upon not only your content but also your readers' web surfing habits in general. Unless your readers clear their cookies daily, the ads they see will be based on those two factors.

Finally, I hope this post didn't come off too preachy sounding. For more information about disclosures and how to handle them as a blogger, I recommend reading Disclosure Always by Chris Brogan, Disclose Yourself by Steve Dembo, FTC Mandates Disclosure for Bloggers Receiving Freebies/ Payments by Wes Fryer, or this set of visuals that I found on Louis Gray's blog.

CNN Student News 2011 News Quiz

Yesterday, CNN Student News released their last episode for 2011. As you might expect, the episode included a review of some of the year's big stories and a look at 2012. One resource attached to yesterday's episode that you might want to look at is the 2011 End of Year Quiz. The 2011 End of Year Quiz is a ten question multiple choice quiz. Each quiz question has an attached image. Students get instant feedback after answering each question. If you don't have access to computers in your classroom you can download the quiz as a PDF and print it out.

Week in Review - It's Almost Vacation Time

Click for full size
Good morning from Greenwood, Maine (birthplace of LL Bean). We had a few light dustings of snow this week. Morrison (my dog) and I and are hoping for more snow this week so that we can snowshoe during vacation week. In reading Tweets yesterday, it appears that some of you started your winter vacation with the end of the school day yesterday, enjoy it. For those who have another week to go, I hope the week goes quickly and your students aren't too crazy with vacation anticipation.

As I do every week, I've compiled a list of this week's most popular posts. Before we get to the list I have to say thank you to everyone that voted for Free Technology for Teachers in the 2011 Edublog Awards. Because of your votes Free Technology for Teachers won the Best Ed Tech/ Best Resource Sharing Blog for the fourth year in a row. Thank you. And congratulations to all of the other winners and finalists.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. 15 Things Teachers & Students Can Do With Edmodo
2. Quick Screen Share - Quick & Free Screen Sharing
3. Bookboon - More than 500 Free eTextbooks
4. Use Your iPad as a Whiteboard and Record a Lesson
5. Hubii - Find the Latest News by Browsing a Map
6. Tekzilla Highlights My Favorite File Conversion Tool
7. Nobel Prize Games for Learning About Science and Literature

Please visit the official advertisers and marketing partners that help keep this blog going.
LearnBoost provides a free online gradebook service for teachers.
MasteryConnect provides a network for teachers to share and discover Common Core assessments.
TenMarks offers a free online mathematics program to supplement in-classroom instruction.
Edublogs provides blog hosting for teachers and students.
ABCya.com is a provider of free educational games for K-5.
Lesley University offers quality online graduate programs for teachers.
Intel offers the AppUp Center of educational PC games and more.

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Image Credit: Sarah Sutter
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