Saturday, June 2, 2012

Google Blockly - A Visual Programming Language

Thanks to Tweets by Doug Peterson and Jen Deyenberg, this morning I learned about a visual programming tool called Google Blockly. Google Blockly is a graphical tool for designing and testing simple web applications.

Google Blockly's interface reminds me a lot of the MIT App Inventor which is based on code originally released by Google. Google Blockly, like the MIT App Inventor, uses jigsaw pieces containing commands that you can snap together to create an application. The blocks can be dragged, dropped, and rearranged as many times as you like. Google has three working demonstrations of Blockly that you can try right now. There are not any instructions that go along with the demonstrations. One thing that I quickly figured out is that in the demonstrations you need to click on "maze," "control," and "logic" in order to find the jigsaw pieces that you need.
My incomplete maze on Google Blockly. 

Applications for Education
Google Blockly could be a good tool for students to use to play with logic commands in a relatively easy to understand environment. Blockly doesn't require any typing, just clicking, dragging, and dropping with a mouse or on a touch screen.

Blockly is not nearly as robust as something like Scratch or LOGO, but it could be a good introduction to using if-then logic to develop and solve problems.

If you're ambitious and you have the skills, you can grab the open source Blockly code and create your own demonstrations to use with students. Or better yet, have students use the code to develop demonstrations for each other.

Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good morning from rainy Maine. It's still graduation season and while I've often mentioned graduation in the context of high school and undergraduate graduations,  I also need to say congratulations to all of you who have completed advanced degrees this year. Well done!

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Dozens of Physics Games for Your Blog
2. Week in Review - Happy Memorial Day!
3. ScienceFix - Videos of Middle School Science Lessons
4. 10 Things You Can Do To Make Yourself an Ed Tech Star
5. Go On a Virtual Journey with Charles Darwin
6. Who Pooped? Identify Animals by Scat/ Dung
7. 26+ Ways to Use Thinglink in the Classroom

Please visit the official advertisers and marketing partners that help keep this blog going.
LearnBoost provides a free online gradebook service for teachers.
Vocabulary Spelling City offers spelling practice activities that you can customize.
Teachers Printables offers 243 free printable charts and forms for teachers.
Fresno Pacific University is offering some exciting new courses for educators.
MasteryConnect provides a network for teachers to share and discover Common Core assessments. is a provider of free educational games for K-5.
Lesley University offers quality online graduate programs for teachers.
The University of Maryland Baltimore County offers graduate programs for teachers.
Ed Tech Teacher offers professional development services for schools. I will be conducting a series of workshops with them this summer. Please visit their site for the schedule.

How to Subscribe to Free Technology for Teachers
If you aren't subscribed you can join 46,000 others who do subscribe via these links.
Subscribe via RSSSubscribe via Email.
Like Free Technology for Teachers on  Facebook.
Find me on Twitter or on Google+

Are you looking for a keynote speaker or workshop facilitator?
Click here for information on what I can do for you.

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Artist's Toolkit - Lessons on Visual Elements

The Artist's Toolkit is a good place for students to learn about visual elements and principles used in art. The toolkit provides students with animated explanations of each design element and principle. After viewing an animated explanation students can test their skills in recognizing design elements in some short, self-paced activities.

In addition to the animated explanations, The Artist's Toolkit has a small encyclopedia of design elements and principles. The encyclopedia does not have animations. Rather it just has pictures with captions.

Applications for Education
The animated explanations found in The Artist's Toolkit aren't replacements for good classroom instruction, but they're not bad as a review or supplementary resource for students.

H/T to Howie DiBlasi for sharing this on Twitter a few weeks back.

Create Heat Maps from a CSV File

Heat Map Tool is a tool for easily creating heat maps or incident maps from a CSV file. To create a heat map all you need to do is upload a CSV file then specify your desired display attributes like scale, colors, and opacity. You can edit the display attributes of your map whenever you like. If you're wondering how to create a CSV file you can do so by exporting from a spreadsheet in Google Documents or exporting from an Excel file. Click here for directions on exporting from Excel. The free version of Heat Map Tool allows you to have up to 100 data points on your map and up to 500 hits per day on your map.

Applications for Education
Like Map a List and Spreadsheet Mapper, Heat Map Tool could be a good tool for students to use to create visualizations of geography-related data that they collect. Students could gather and display data about people's habit in their community or throughout the world. For example, you could have students gather data about dialects and display that information on a map.

Clipboard - A Nice Tool for Visual Bookmarking

Clipboard is a new entry into the visual bookmarking game. Clipboard reminds me a lot of Pinterest and Learnist. TechCrunch described it as a combination of Pinterest and Evernote although it's nearly as feature-rich as Evernote yet.

Clipboard's basic structure is similar to Pinterest in that users create private and public boards to which they can save content from the web by using the Clipboard browser extensions and bookmarklets. Clipboard does have one feature that makes it slightly better than Pinterest. That feature is the option to save Flash-based games and apps on your clipboards and using them as fully-functioning games and apps within your clipboards.

Here's a short video overview of Clipboard.

Here's a long demonstration and interview with Clipboard's founder.

Applications for Education
One aspect of Clipboard that has potential for teachers and students is the ability to create multiple boards of visual bookmarks. Having images and videos attached to bookmarks can be helpful in quickly recalling the part(s) of a website that made you save it in the first place. Another aspect of Clipboard that has potential for teachers is that you can quickly switch your boards from private to public view and back again. If you had a clipboard of resources that you wanted to make public for students to see for just one class meeting, you could do that with Clipboard.