Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Faculty Project - Free Courses from University Professors

Udemy, an online course hosting service that I've previously written about, recently launched a new project called The Faculty Project. The Faculty Project is a series of free online courses developed by professors from top-notch universities including Northwestern, Dartmouth, and Vassar. The courses will be conducted through Udemy's platform of video, slides, and PDFs. While it's not clear if the professors will or will not be checking-in on the courses, there are discussion boards for students in each course to correspond with each other.

The current course offerings are:
Modern China
The Economics of Energy and the Environment
Ancient Greek Religion
Perspectives on Contemporary American Democracy
Foundations of Business Strategy
The United States Constitution
Operations Management
Cognitive Neuroscience of Mindfulness
A History of Water and Humans
Foundations of Public Health

Applications for Education
One of the things that I love about the growth of open, online courses is that high school students with an interest in a topic that isn't taught in their schools, can pursue and investigate that interest on their own while getting a little sense of materials they might encounter in college.

Week in Review - The New Desk Edition

Good morning from Maine where I'm using the new workspace that I set up this week. The "some assembly required" aspect of the new desk confirmed that although I enjoy watching This Old House, I will never be mistaken for Norm Abram. I do, however, find my posture while typing to be much improved now that I'm not working from a coffee table, my kitchen table, or my lap. Perhaps my improved posture will increase my blogging productivity too.

As I do every Saturday morning, I've compiled a list of the week's most-read posts. Before I jump to the list I just want to say thank you for your continued support of Free Technology for Teachers. Because of all of the sharing of the content here that so many of you do, Free Technology for Teachers now has nearly 43,000 subscribers.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Video - Create a Collaborative Digital Writing Portfolio
2. A Pearltree of Free Technology for Teachers
3. Free Download - Ten Digital Storytelling Projects
4. Get Out the Crayons! It's Time to Doodle for Google Again
5. gText - Free Group Text Messaging
6. Videos - Primary Elections and Gerrymandering Explained
7. Five Tools to Help You Schedule Meetings


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The University of Maryland Baltimore County offers graduate programs for teachers. In February I will be holding a free public webinar through UMBC.
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Friday, January 27, 2012

Oolone - A Visual Search Engine That I Can Now Recommend

Earlier this week a few ed tech bloggers reported on a new visual search engine called Oolone. I, of course, had to check it out for myself. I liked what I saw on Oolone except there was one thing that kept me from writing about it. That one thing was a button in the upper-left corner of the homepage that said "adult filter." Yes, Google, Bing, and Yahoo also have adult content filters, but they don't make it so prominent that it screams out to an adolescent "click me! click me! turn me off!" Therefore, I didn't want to share Oolone with you.

Fast forward a few days to this morning when I received an email from one of the founders of Oolone asking me for my feedback. I shared with him, what you just read in the previous paragraph. He wrote back a few minutes later asking for my suggestion on changing the filter setting and location. I replied with a suggestion and not thirty minutes later he wrote back telling me that the changes had been implemented. I'm told you all of that to tell you this, I now think that Oolone is a suitable visual search engine for student use.

Oolone is a search engine that displays results in a four square grid of webpage previews. Rather than getting a list of results that have just a link and a few line summary, Oolone gives you the entire webpage to preview before you click through. Oolone can be used for standard website search, for image search, or news search. If you're the type that likes to use browser plug-ins, Oolone offers a Chrome plug-in.

Applications for Education
Oolone's display could help students sort through search results a bit quicker. Without having to leave the search results page students can view the previews and determine the likelihood that a webpage will be of use to them. This might not be an issue is a 1:1 setting in which students always have access to computers or tablets, but in a school in which students only get to use computers in a lab or library saving a little time on search could be helpful in maximizing their computer use times.

Learn How to Build a Search Engine

Udacity is offering a new, free seven week Computer Science 101 course. The course promises to teach you everything you need to know to build a search engine like Google or Yahoo even if you don't have any prior programming knowledge. The course is open for enrollment right now and starts on February 20, 2012. You can view the syllabus now and watch the promotional video featuring the instructors below.

Alien Buddies - An iPad App for Learning Shapes, Numbers, Letters

Alien Buddies is an iPad and iPhone app designed for pre-k students to practice recognizing shapes, letters, and numbers. The app provides leveled games in which students practice recognizing patterns and sequences. The activities for recognizing letters and numbers have audio and visual prompting modes. Alien Buddies normally costs $1.99 but I received an email from the app's publisher informing me that it is available for free today, January 27th.