Thursday, January 5, 2012

Swabr - Create a Private Microblogging Network

Swabr is a new service providing organizations with a platform for creating their own private microblogging networks. Members of your Swabr microblogging network can share and respond to short messages in the style of Twitter or Edmodo.

To create your private microblogging network on Swabr sign-up using the email address of your organization. Then invite people to join your network. To join your network other users will have to an email address from your organization's domain. For example, I created a network that only people with a @freetech4teachers.com email address can join.

Applications for Education
If you're looking to create a closed online environment in which the faculty or students can share short messages on school-related issues, Swabr could be a good tool for that.

Video Game Design and Stop Motion Movies

Image credit: bochalla
Kevin Hodgson, whose website about student stop-motion movie projects I have featured in the past, has launched a new website all about video game design projects for students.

Video Game Design for the Classroom is based on the science-based video game design project his 6th grade students have worked on this year. The website offers a download of the whole project outline as one PDF. You can also browse the site by section to learn about and see examples of things like storyboarding, assessment, and connections to standards. It's Kevin's website so I encourage you to read his blog post announcing the website's launch. And while you're reading the blog post, subscribe to Kevin's blog too.

5 Google Chrome Extensions to Help Your School Save Ink & Paper

Yesterday, I published Ten Useful Google Chrome Web Apps and Extensions for Teachers and Students. The first item on that list was Printliminator. Printliminator is a Chrome extension that allows you to strip sidebar content from blog posts before printing them. Here are five more Chrome extensions that do the same. To maximize your school's ink and paper budget, install any of these extensions on your school's computers then teach students to use them before they print from the web.

Joliprint converts online articles into a printer-friendly, reader-friendly format. Once installed just click the Joliprint icon whenever you're reading an article that you want to print and Joliprint will generate a PDF of that article without the sidebar content from that blog or website. Joliprint is not designed to work with search engine results list or homepages of sites and blogs. Joliprint only works with specific article urls. For example it won't work if you try it on freetech4teachers.com but will work with http://www.freetech4teachers.com/2011/04/its-april-15th-lets-learn-about-taxes.html.

Like all of the extensions in this post, Printee will allow you to strip the sidebar content from blog posts and websites before printing. Printee offers the added bonus of syncing with your Google Docs account.

Print Friendly offers the option for you to specify whether or not you want to include images in the articles from which you remove the sidebar content. Print Friendly also gives you the option to share the cleaned-up version of an article via email or Twitter.

Print Plus offers the option to highlight exactly what you want to print and remove everything else. Just as with the extensions listed above, you can save the cleaned-up version of an article as a PDF.

Clearly comes to us from the producers of Evernote. Clearly wasn't specifically designed for saving ink when printing, but that is one of the benefits of using it. Clearly strips the sidebar content of a webpage. You can send the cleaned-up version directly to your Evernote account for easy reading whenever you open your Evernote account. You can print the cleaned-up article from your Evernote account. Watch the forty second video below to learn more about Clearly.

EasyBib Comes to Android Devices

Last May the popular bibliography creation tool EasyBib launched a free iPad and iPhone app for students. This week EasyBib launched an equivalent app for Android devices.

The EasyBib Android app performs the same great functions as the EasyBib iOS app. One of those excellent features is scanning a book's or magazine's ISBN barcode to record the information necessary to create a proper citation. Users can add citations on the app and email those citations to themselves from the app. Just as if you were using the EasyBib website to create properly formatted citations, the app will generate MLA format citations for free. If you want to generate citations in APA or Chicago style you will have to pay for a subscription to the service.

The video below is an overview of the iOS app, but the Android app offers the same functions.



Applications for Education
I like the promise of the barcode scanning aspect of the app. If it works as promised, it could be a great tool for students to use to make sure they've gotten all the information they need about a they've borrowed from a library before returning it.

The EasyBib website offers some good writing guides for students and Google Apps integration. You can read my post about those services here.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

10 Useful Chrome Web Apps and Extensions for Teachers and Students

As was reported by numerous news outlets, at the end of 2011 Google's Chrome surpassed Mozilla's Firefox to become the second most-used web browser. If you're one of the people that made the switch to Chrome in 2011, here are some extensions and Chrome web apps that you and your students should find handy.

Printliminator is a handy little bookmarklet for Firefox, Chrome, and Safari. Printliminator allows you to highlight a webpage and select only the elements which you wish to print. You can install Printliminator in seconds by just clicking and dragging it into your browser's toolbar. Watch the video below to learn more about Printliminator.


Speech recognition software can be very pricey, but adding a speech recognition option to your computer doesn't have to be expensive. The Speech Recognizer, available through the Chrome Web Store, is free and easy to use. To use the Chrome Speech Recognizer just install it from the Chrome Web Store, launch it, then click the microphone to start taking and recording your voice. The Speech Recognizer will type out your text when you finish recording. You can then copy and paste your text to the paragraph box below the Speech Recognizer or to a document you have open in Google Docs.

A Cleaner YouTube is a browser extension for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari. Once installed A Cleaner YouTube allows you to display YouTube videos without any of the "related videos," comments, or display advertising. There are other tools that do the same thing, but what makes A Cleaner YouTube different is that not only can you display videos without the related materials, but you can also search YouTube without viewing any of the "related videos," comments, suggested videos, or advertisements.


Graph.tk is a free online graphing utility that I found in the Google Chrome Web Store. Graph.tk allows you to plot multiple functions through its dynamically resizing grid. To graph an equation on Graph.tk just click the "+" symbol to enter a new equation. Click here to watch a short video of Graph.tk in use. One thing that the video doesn't show and isn't clear the first time you use Graph.tk is that you need to delete the existing default equations before you start.


Google Related is a new extension for the Google Chrome Browser that will display related links on the webpage that you're currently viewing. Here's how it works; conduct a Google search as you normally would then when you open a webpage Google Related will display some suggested items at the bottom of the page. Watch the video below to see it in action.

Google Related is also available as part of the Google browser toolbar.

Snapify is a free Google Chrome extension that allows you to highlight a word or phrase on any webpage and quickly find more information about that word or phrase. Here's how it works; with Snapify installed you simply highlight a word then click "Snap It." When you click "Snap It" a dialogue box appears with information from Wikipedia, Google Search results, YouTube Videos, Tweets mentioning your highlighted word, and a Google Map.


Speak It is a Google Chrome extension that enables you to have the text on most webpages read to you. With Speak It installed just highlight the text on a the page you're viewing then right-click to activate Speak It. Then click the play button to have the text read to you. The voice is very digitized, but it is clear. Installing Speak It takes just a few seconds. To install it go to Speak It's page in the Chrome Web Store and click the install button. Restarting your browser is not required in order to activate Speak It. If you decide that you don't want to use Speak It any longer you can uninstall it by right-clicking on the Speak It icon in your browser and selecting uninstall. A video demonstration of Speak It is embedded below.


If you're like me, you're probably guilty of occasionally wasting time on Facebook and other social sites when you should be doing something more important. Stay Focused is a Chrome extension designed to help you stop wasting time on those sites and get your work done. With Stay Focused installed you can set a time limit for yourself on the sites that you tend to waste time on. Once you've used up your self-allotted time on those sites you won't be able to revisit them in that browser until the next day (or other time you select).


ChromeVis is a Google Chrome extension designed to make it easier for people with vision impairments to read the content of webpages. When installed ChromeVis allows you to highlight the text on any webpage and have it enlarged and placed on an easy-to-read background. Your highlighted text appears in a pop-up box over the original page so that you can quickly go back to the original source if you want to. ChromeVis can be adjusted to meet your text size and text color preferences.

Google Dictionary provides an easy and quick way to find definitions for any word you find online. With Google Dictionary installed in Chrome you can highlight and click on any word to reveal its definition and hear it pronounced. In video below Tekzilla provides an overview of Google Dictionary.